Discouraging Smile

This is Iri. She's been our friend since we arrived in PNG. Her family and our family have been closely intertwined for 12 years. She became a grandmother not quite two years ago, but she still plays soccer.  Look at her smile!

Iri and her family are Papua New Guineans with a strong faith in 'Papa God'. When they suffer hardships, we share in those with them, and to hear them declare their prayer lives, and how God will care for them, encourages us.

So why did I title this blog entry 'discouraging smile?'.

At times in our lives we all suffer discouragement. Don't read anything into that, we're not suffering any 'more than usual' discouragement right now, so maybe it's a good time to post this?

My personal life credo about discouragement has always been this:

-When in your head you're feeling discouraged, and down. The best cure, is to do something for someone else. This gives you a chance to step outside of your own head and apply God's Word by showing love and caring for someone else.

That's my cure, it's as simple as that.  I've found that 100% of the time, doing an action to serve someone else, to help them, always brings me out of a funk. Why?  I theorize its because I stop thinking about my own woes for a time.  But maybe it's more, maybe it's because we're behaving as God intended? Maybe we get blessed more than we bless? 

So I woke up this morning thinking 'hrm, coming up on 12 years in PNG. Some things have changed, some things haven't. Some cultural traditions haven't broken, others have.  My heart wants so badly for certain things for the people of this country, and yet, 12 years isn't long enough to see those things happen yet.'

This morning I stopped, and I thought  'did coming here accomplish anything?  And if so, was it enough?'.  Yeah I know, a totally Western thought. That question kept resonating in my head as we celebrated Bible Sunday and saw all the work our community has done in the past year.  'Was it enough?'  Like the end of Schindler's list.

As we're coming up on our 12th anniversary that question resonates in my head.

But then, I think about Iri. About her family. About where they'd be if we weren't here. About their kids and the impact we've had on their lives. Would that one family be enough? Would 1 person be enough?  Would seeing God sustain, transform, support and otherwise simply... you know without doubt that God put you in a place in a life, to be His outreaching hand of love to them... even for an instant, be worth everything?  Yeah it would.

And so I think of Iri's smile when I'm discouraged, and the encouragement it brings me. It doesn't remove the things about life here that discourage me, but it does help me see things with a little bit of how God must see this world.  Shining bits among the dark.  New shiny bits arriving daily.  Shiny bits shining brightly in the dark, is sort of what it's all about.  So today, I plan to be a shiny bit.  Filling my heart with the love of Christ so that others may know His love.

Galatians 6

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.


p.s. Here's the reality of ministry work. You may never know the impact you had on someone's life. You could drive yourself nutty trying to answer 'what is the best thing I've done?'  God works in ways we don't see or understand. We have no real way of knowing the impact we've had on people's lives. I think that's why God tells us not to tire of doing good. Because if you expect results, you may not get to see them.  But those rare times when you do see something, they are precious, and they keep you going.


life seems crazy

A turbulent life, can be a matter of perspective.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Control is an illusion.  I learned this the day my daughter was born.  See, I used to be a tad of a control freak.  I mean, okay maybe not freak, but if I didn't have control of something, a project, whatever, I could relinquish control, but it always caused me stress.

Letting someone else drive for a while, is hard.  Most of us strive for comfort, for stability.

Lately a few things seem so much 'in the air' that we're wondering 'okay God, what are you doing?'  We're in our mid 40's, shouldn't life be pretty much settled?

But as my wife and I were discussing how turbulent life seems these days, I stopped to think 'um, it's been turbulent for over 12 years.'  We just had a nice calm 2 year stretch there, so we forgot.

If life were settled and safe and all planned out, I think I'd one day be sitting on my recliner thinking 'so, no more surprises in life? hrm.... seems dull.'   Right now I could do with a little more 'dull'.

But I get it.  I understand that the most interesting, safe, exciting, turbulent place to be, is right where God wants me.

Anyone who thinks they know what the next 2 years will bring them, may be in for a surprise.  We can never truly know, but we can draw near to Him who does know.

I often say 'I just want to know what's going to happen!' but then I think that the cost of knowing may be too steep, and choose to be okay not knowing.  Still, it's a daily discipline to remember to let God drive.


One of those days

It was one of those days where so many little things went wrong, that I
can't even remember them all to make note of it.

Every single thing that could go wrong today did. But none of it was
huge, just annoying. I want to rant about it but I can't because I just
spent an hour trying to unblock my Credit Card via skype at 1am, and
kept calling the wrong number because my eyes are weary.

If you got an illegible text from me today, it's because my cell phone
is stupid.


Running Silent

My daughter texted me the other day and said "Dad your blog has been
silent lately. I like reading your thoughts."  Well there's two reasons
for that.

1 - I am responsible for maintaining a blog called the PNG Experience
which catalogs stories of ministry in PNG.  And until recently I thought
IFTTT was linking it to my blog.


2 - For nearly 4 years now I've been in a leadership position of some
type and most of the things I spend my time on, are not for public
consumption.  Usually they are sensitive issues that require a modicum
of confidentiality and respect.

My major role is being responsible for communication and as such, my own
communication should be responsible and well thought out. Which is sort
of the antithesis of my blog.  My blog was always me just sharing what
was on my heart at the time, and not always well thought out.

Each time I've come to write something I have these thoughts:

-Should I be sharing this?

-Does anyone read my blog anymore?  Maybe I should just put it on Facebook?

-But I don't really like Facebook.

-Meh, it's probably better to just say nothing at this juncture and see
how it pans out.

So while my blog may be more boring than it once was, maybe mark it as a
sign of maturity?  Some people used to say 'you have too much time on
your hands.'  I mean, I wrote a book, only people who have a ton of time
can afford to write a book!

The truth is, yeah I've been busy doing things I can't really publicize
until it's time to publicize them, but even then, I choose not to
because it's not about me, it's about God through me.

I'm afraid, I have in fact, become, dull.  I mean my life isn't dull,
but what I can share about each of my days is limited and thus, dull.

I'm okay with that.

So for those of you who wondered why my blog got quiet, this is the main
reason.  I take my job very seriously, I take confidentiality seriously,
and I haven't really found the time to parse through the parts of my day
I can share.  I think, maybe, my blog is dying if it isn't already dead.

I would highly recommend reading the PNG Experience, though I'm rarely
an author there.



When I was a youth I felt the word 'contentment' was a bad word. One of the nonsensical things I would spout to anyone who might listen was 'contentment breeds apathy, satisfaction breeds complacency.' I listened to my pastor give a sermon on being 'content' when I was 15 and thought the man was way off base.

I have never felt God calls us to be content. Sure I read I Tim 6 ..godliness with contentment is great gain, Philippians, being content in all your circumstances. Sure I read that, but for the most part I assumed those were comfort verses for people who had fallen on bad times in life and were unable to 'strive for more.'

I never wanted my life to be...boring.

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy rest and relaxation. I just don't enjoy undue laziness. I don't enjoy looking at a job I've done and saying 'there, that's good enough, no one will notice.'

But I'm not a perfectionist either. I look at a job and say 'that is my best right now, and I'm done. But next time, I will do better here, and here and here.' So I try to always be improving.

So here I sit. I am overseas, overlooking a green pasture, sitting next to a fire. I am comfortable in a place that most people would not be comfortable in. A loud crack rings out as I sit here and I think it may or may not be a sign of violence, but it doesn't startle me.

I have learned how to find peace in the middle of chaos.

And I am truly for the first time in my 44 years, content.

It makes me nervous.

I mean that little stupid kid inside me is still saying things like 'if you're comfortable, you won't be relying on God. You won't be able to see Him zig, and you'll fail to zag. You should stay on your toes man!'

But I'm happy! I mean, I love this new teaching gig, I like my friends and neighbors. I like my work, my home. I'm very happy and content.

Which is the moment I realize how wrong I was as a kid. I'm not complacent, I'm not apathetic, and I'm not lazy. In fact, I'm finding this deep seated contentment, of being where the Lord wants me to be is permeating everything I do and creating this calm inside me that allows me to continue the work we have.

Instead of stress being able to attack me and rule me, instead confidence and quiet sit inside my soul.

I rather like it.

But I suspect it. I suspect God won't let me sit here too long like this. I suspect, as always, that He may throw me a curve ball soon. So, I choose to enjoy this time, knowing it may not last. Knowing I may one day long for these quiet and calm moments, I will enjoy it to its maximum.

For the first time in my life I do not feel the urge to be 'going going going.' I'm happy with just 'going going.'

I'm not unbusy. There's a ton to do, and I end each day completely tired out, as does my wife and son.

And yet, my spirit is full and calm, there is not a piece of me that is missing nor a part of me searching for something else.

Therein lies the drive for me to tell people about Christ. So many people are seeking to fill a void, with all the wrong things. If only they knew what it felt like to be full in Christ.

It's the spiritual equivalent of eating a guilt-free meal that is tasty, healthy, and you didn't overeat and so aren't stuffed. You're not so full that you can't move, you can move, you can go be active. You have fuel, and it isn't junk, it's the good stuff.

I want to serve that kind of meal to the world, but I'm not enough to do it. So I pray to God and then I watch and try to zig when He zigs and zag when He zags.


Landscaping 4

"honey, see that tree in the yard that the rain bent over?"
"what do you think would happen if I chopped off the top and buried it in our yard?"
"do what now?"
"if I weight it down I could make it like  rainbow tree! I predict the branches will grow up and make it like a lot of shade!."
"I have no idea."
"I'm gonna try it."
"you realized the neighbors are talking about you now, right?"
"they're just jealous."

Landscaping 4

"Babe you see that old rotten papaya tree out there?"
"I'm gonna chop it down, and turn the trunk into a planter."
"you're going to what?"
"I'm going to hollow it out, put dirt inside and make it a planter."
"mmkay. You're on your own for that one."

Landscaping 2

"Honey, why did you put a tree between two tree stumps?"
"Trust me, it'll be cool."

Landscaping oddities 1

'My husband is sometimes weird."
"Dad, that's just what?"
"Dad you have the most unique landscaping ideas I've heard of."

I decide to catalog some of my landscaping adventures just because.

#1 - In 2008 I made this for my wife out of Kwila for our Anniversary.
It is still going! and look at that patina!


Adventures in Communication

I haven't blogged much as of late. Why? Well because my job mostly involves helping others who are blogging, etc. By the end of the day I don't have the energy.  But every now and then a story comes along that I have to share.

A friend of ours was on walkabout in their language area when they contracted a puncture wound to their foot (I will spare you the photo).  Because infections happen quickly here, it wasn't long before she was in a state to be brought out of the area and to our clinic.

A message was sent back to their main team (paraphrase) "Am hurt, may need to medevac"

(I had written a longer version of this story with more details but for the purposes of flow I'm going to cut corners here).

Soon after that text was sent, they lost cell signal as the cell provider tower must have gone done (this happens frequently here).

The people who received the message had no cell signal, but they had a satellite internet connection. Using Facebook messenger they contacted a friend, who did not have a working cell phone so they called us.

(us being our Bible study group).

Our Bible study activated, and my role was to be the point man to liaise between people with no internet and people with no cell phone.  Using a combination of tools we were able to get hold of someone who could come and get the ladies and take them to safety.

I will spare you the exciting details but what ensued was a series of technical acrobatics leaping from texts to messages to land line, coordinating people who were all over the country in various stages of incommunicado.

At the climax of it all, we had a truck with a driver we didn't know, heading to pick up a patient who wasn't expecting a ride to take her to a location we weren't sure of. Dealing with this level of uncertainty forces one to pray. We did. We all prayed. A lot.

What eventually worked out was their team hiking to the river and getting signal and finding their own ride.  So, as much as the technical communication acrobatics and software were involved, in the end, good old ingenuity and survival skills out in the bush is what got the job done. 

Less than 24 hours later she was being seen by a doctor.

It took a team of people to get our friend to safety and she's on rest now as she recovers from a rather nasty foot wound.

When we say we're 'support' this is exactly the type of thing we mean. "Hey Chad, I can't get hold of so and so, can you reach them and get them to send a plane?"  "Hi Gavin this is Chad, can you send a plane to help them?" "Hi Dr. Carl this is Gavin, we're sending a plane to get so and so can you be ready to receive them at the clinic."  and it goes on and on and on.

Sometimes knowing there's a team of people behind you striving for the same goal is what it takes to help you soldier on.

Here's what patient X says about it:

My injury is only one casualty from this battle.  On this walkabout we had many physical trials!  But I consider every single difficulty that happened so worth it!  I got to teach Bible studies about prayer, forgiveness, the trinity and the saving redemption of Jesus.  We got to fit people for reading glasses so they could read the new Scriptures printed in their languages.  We got to help people play games to increase their reading fluency in their language.  We got to show a Christian film written and produced by Papua New Guineans that encouraged them to think about some of their cultural traditions in light of the truths in God's Word.  We sold many copies of newly printed Scriptures, Bible studies and children's Bible stories.  These momentary, light afflictions are nothing in relation to the priceless nature of God's truth.  Praise to God and my thanks to you for joining with us on this walkabout journey.

We support some pretty cool people.



This morning as I headed to work I saw the morning clouds topping the
hills. Rolling green hills, scarred by the remnants of fire lending a
sort of beautiful texture.  I saw the trees animated by the breeze, and
the blue of the sky and I thought 'this is a remarkable painting God
made.'  But then I thought 'He's made these paintings all over the
world, stretching out His wonderful hand and moving His creation to make
daily, ever changing portraits of beauty.

And then I thought 'If I had to make thousands of such portraits a day,
as a unix administrator, I would have written a script to do it for me
automatically.  It would take up my entire day otherwise.'

Which is when the thought hit me.  God has already automated such
beauty. That's one of the magnificent things about His creation,
designed in such a way as to move and shift and maintain itself.
Automatically creating this portraits all over the world.  I dunno how
anyone can see it and not want to praise God outloud.  PRAISE GOD.


Being Support Staff

We're support staff.  We are on about Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea.  So what does it mean to be 'support staff'.
Well it means a great many things, but one of the most recent was to cover our friends Ben and John and Beth in prayer.
Ben and John and Beth were heading into their village to do Bible Translation work and training.
I've been to their village.

We were praying over obstacle #1 and #2.  I'll let Ben share:
Tadji airstrip is one of two operational airstrips in Papua New Guinea that still has the steel perforated Marston Matting that was used during WWII for quick and portable temporary airstrips. Nearly 80 years later, we're still landing on it. However, tall grass frequently grows up through the holes in the steel matting and makes it unsafe to land. We asked you to pray that we could land here and avoid an additional 8+ hour road trip from Wewak. After praying for the day's activities, praise the Lord that our veteran pilot got us to Tadji, circled once at low altitude to check the airstrip, and then safely navigated his landing against a strong headwind.

I've taken this flight and landed, the alternative road trip is very taxing on the body. It is polite to call it a 'road trip'.  A road trip implies music, snacks, comfort. This is much more like a sojourn. Unless you've lived it, you won't really get what I mean from that so I'll move on, suffice it to say, when you arrive at your destination you're exhausted.

So my family and I, our Bible study, everyone prayed that they would be able to land, and the Lord provided!

Obstacle 2: (from Ben)
Can the truck make it through the rivers and the mud?
Once we landed, our friends from Pou, where the language of the same name is spoken, were ready for us with their pickup truck. We loaded up and headed out to Arop. Our teammate Beth reports that the river now normally flows down the path of this road.

Maybe you saw the video I posted last year about the 'river road'.  This is one crazy journey.

One of the things you hear Christians say is 'pray for travelling mercies'.  Before I came here, that meant having a nice comfortable air-flight, a safe flight, not losing your luggage.

Now it means, arriving in good health without your cargo capsizing, without your truck being washed down river, without major injury or worse.
It's funny to me because I never could relate before, when watching movies of people driving jeeps through the jungle. I used to think 'that looks like so much fun!.'
But when you've done it a few times, it stops being 'fun'.  In this case, the journey is NOT the point, arriving to the destination and being able to do Bible Translation is the point.

So we are supporting them in our prayers, and in any other practical way we can (technical support, moral support,  caring for family staying behind, sending supplies, whatever they need).

That's just a glimpse at one of the things support staff does.


The Little Firefort that Could.

It was Christmas break and I wanted to get Calvin and myself outside.  Recently a neighbor had cut down a tree, and many branches were lying around.  Having learned how to make a 'haus win' (temporary outside fort) using nothing but branches and twine, Calvin and I embarked on a fun project.

We would make a little outside firepit area, and put a tarp over it.  Every time we build an outside fire for an event, it rains.  So, we began the work.

It wasn't impressive but it was near free, and it worked.

Problem: - we accidentally and unknowingly built it mere feet from our neighbors bedroom so when we had a bonfire and chatted, it was like we were in the same room.   When we were told this, we had to figure out a way to move it.

With the help of some friends, we dug it up, and carried it about 50 meters away to it's new home.  It was a little bit weaker and not where I wanted it to reside, but it was done.

Problem: - The wind picked up. Cyclones over Australia nearly ripped the tarp off the top of it. I had to run out there in the wind and secure the tarp with ropes, before the whole thing flew away.  Mysterious winds have been present since.  I've had to repair it a few times.

After a long week of work, it's nice to have a fire, maybe roast a dog, have a place to chat, even have teens over.  It was still alive.

Problem: - As if the winds weren't enough, one evening a tree fell over and hit the firepit area (which Calvin and I dubbed 'FIREFORT!'.  But! Since the limbs we used were still green and flexible, they bent instead of broke, and though the tarp is torn more, the FIREFORT lives.

So, we started chopping up the tree and now firefort is eating the tree that tried to eat it! (we're burning the  tree wood, yes, that quickly because the tree was dead standing)

Having survived a move, defeated the monstrous winds, and survived the falling tree, FIREFORT was beginning to win over my heart. This stupid ugly little fort was living a lifetimes worth in only 1 month's time!

Problem: - The rain picked up, and the firefort, after taking the hit from the tree, was not strong enough to let the rain roll off of it (also because the move moved it from a slight hill to a flat area).  So the rain water began to pool into the now, tired fort's roof.  This resulted in the green bows, bending (not breaking) under the weight.

The Firefort was dying.  I went out to drain the tarp, and put it all back together again with new branches from the tree that fell on it.

Today, we sat under the firefort, held together with zip ties, bunjis, nails and screws and of course, a refusal to die!

As we sat there, my friend and son laughingly mocked me and said 'The reason this wind is here, is because you refuse to let this fort die. Let it die and the wind will go away!

It was funny but the fort still stands.

All I wanted was to keep my our bonfires from being 'rained out'.  But now what I have, is a story of the Little Firefort that Could.

This is truly a beautiful country but you have to be outside to appreciate it. Our Little Firefort gives us that underdog appreciation.

People have said 'it'll burn down, that's a tarp!'
'it won't last 6 months'
'let it die!'
'it's ugly!'
'it's a lost cause give up!'

Don't  they know, that kind of talk makes me love it all the more?