Sunday, June 29, 2008

Family in PNG

Tim and Elissa and boys have arrived! (Some of you may be wondering, who are they? So to fill you in, Tim is Ian's brother, married to Elissa and their two boys are Noah and Lucas). They'll be with us here in Lae for 6 weeks!

Here they are, after many hours in the sky, a few days in Australia to sleep off the time change, a few hours layover with our colleagues in Port Moresby, and then finally arriving here in Lae! They were a little tired (especially Noah!). It was such an incredible feeling to meet them at the airport. We're still pinching ourselves that they're actually here!!

Dinnertime at the picnic table! It's amazing how much fun the kids are having together already! Nothing compares to having cousins around to play with. We're so thankful to have family here with us in PNG.

Allow us to introduce you to some people from our "church family" too. This family professed their faith in the Lord Jesus in church today and therefore became official members too! They are Joel and Gami with Venessa and Robert. They seem to be a great couple, who are deeply committed to the Lord and already have a solid knowledge of Scripture (not often the case here). We are excited and hopeful about how the Lord will use them in our church community! They had written a short song based on the text from Joshua, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord", and sang it for everyone following the service. It was a beautiful testimony of their desire to be completed committed to the Lord as a family. We praise God for that.

Here is another sister in the Lord, Viviana with her children, Elijah, Claudia, Jonlyn and Gitonia. Viviana too professed her commitment to the Lord today. She is married to a man named Elias and we hope and pray that he will one day make the same commitment. (Up til now his work as a truck driver has kept him on the road very often and unable to attend church.)

We praise God for all of our family here in Lae, PNG!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rascals at Work

When we talk about ‘rascals’ here in PNG, the meaning is very different than back in Canada, where they are nothing more than mischievous little kids. Here the rascals are the criminals and sadly sometimes they are just little kids, but they’ve chosen a life of serious crime.

Over the past few days, our church community experienced just how dangerous the rascals can be. Our church property is on the edge of a settlement called Kamkumung, an area that is notorious for its ‘rascal activity’. We’ve been there for about 4 years now and have had only a couple instances with some guys trying to jump over the fence, or throwing rocks at the house. But last week Friday, in the wee hours of the morning, a group of rascals decided to cut a hole in the fence in one of the back corners and try to get into the pastor’s house. There is no pastor living there at present, as our former pastor is helping out a church in Port Moresby right now. However, his daughters, one of whom is married with a newborn little one, and the other 2 who are in high school, do still live in the house along with an older man from our church. The rascals didn’t get into the house because the iron door leading onto the porch stopped them. And then some neighbours eventually ran them off the property. The police had been called, but didn’t bother to answer the telephone. They also called us on our cell phone, but it was downstairs and we did not hear it ringing. We’re not sure what we could’ve done anyway. It was an extremely traumatic experience for the girls and as a result, the husband of the oldest daughter came home early from his place of work (normally he’s gone for 6 weeks at a time) to be with them.

Everyone thought that it would be a while before the rascals came again. But that certainly was not the case. Last night they struck again, but this time they came with a larger group and were armed with guns. They were able to get into the house and stole everything of value. We are so thankful that they did not harm the girls, but again it was terrorizing for them. The older man living in the house tried to defend them and ended up being cut on his head and arms. Ian took him to the hospital this morning and it seems he will be alright, although he was shaken up from what happened. He is a frail, old man and yet he was selfless enough to try to protect the girls.

The house at Kamkumung:

When something like this happens, you experience such a range of emotions—thankfulness that thing weren’t any worse, but also anger and frustration that rascals can get away with this. You especially feel for the national brothers and sisters who are most often the victims. And yet you also feel vulnerable yourself. When the police don't respond, you understand why people take the law into their own hands. You feel discouraged, afraid, and uncertain about what to do next. You know that Satan will try to use this situation to destroy and discourage. But you also know that the Lord will use it to make you more reliant on Him. He is more powerful than any band of rascals, no matter how many guns and knives they hold! We go forward in His strength and power.

Please pray for brother Rumanasen that his injuries will heal quickly. He’s staying with another family from the church until he’s better.

Please pray for the Bouway girls, who are staying at their mother’s village for a couple weeks. They are away from their parents, and experienced much trauma, and it is uncertain where they will live when they come back to Lae.

Please pray for the rascals—that the Lord will convict their hearts to confess and repent and turn from their lives of sin.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Meet Yamo

....with Karlyn on her 1st birthday (almost a year ago!)

This woman spends a lot of time with our family, so we thought we’d introduce her to you all. Her name is Yamo, or "Auntie" as Karlyn calls her. She is about 45 years old, and has one grown son and 3 grandchildren. Three days a week, she works in our house as our “hausmeri” (literally: housewoman). And she is one of the hardest workers we’ve ever met! We really appreciate her work around the house. With her help I’m freed up to do other things—like spend more time with the kids and do my small part in the ministry work!

...busy preparing food.

I can still remember clearly the first time I met Yamo. It was 2 ½ years ago when she came to our home and offered to work for us. Up until that day, I had stubbornly refused to employ a houseworker, (even though we had offers almost daily from women who wanted a job). It took me a while to get used to the idea of someone else coming in and doing my housework for/with me. (I know, all you overworked moms are probably sitting there asking, WHY?!) Anyway, it just so happened that at the time that Yamo came to us, I was pregnant with Karlyn and not getting much else done besides lying on the couch anyway! So my stubborn resolve crumbled and I agreed for her to start work the following week. Looking back, I see the Lord’s hand in sending Yamo to us that day, and she has been a blessing to us ever since. We hope that we are helping her too, by providing her with a steady income to live on which she also uses to help extended family members.

...with Karlyn as she was learning to walk (many months ago).

Yamo has been attending our church for about a year now and also goes to the literacy course that our coworker, Natalie VanderHeide, is teaching. I don’t think Yamo has had much schooling at all, if any, as is the case with many of the women. She has shown incredible determination in trying to learn to read and write. It’s been a real struggle for her, and she’s had a very difficult time remembering what sound each letter makes. I’ve been trying to give her some extra help with this, but it seems one time she will know the sounds and the next time she’s forgotten them all. I can see that she’s embarrassed and discouraged that she can’t remember. We do hope and pray that one day things will click. She really wants to be able to read the Bible on her own. Please join us in praying for Yamo!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reconciliation and Forgiveness

A couple weeks ago, we were invited to the home of a family from our church. They live in a nearby settlement, in an area called Biwat Compound. They invited us to come so that we could witness a reconciliation ceremony.

For the last 2 years or so, the father of this family, Andrew, has not spoken to his brother, who also lives in Biwat, just a few seconds walk away. We do not know all the details, except to say that they had a major disagreement and as a result, Andrew's brother retaliated by burning their house down. And since then, none of the family members have spoken to each other, even though they would often pass right by each other. Over the 2 years, Andrew and his wife Agnes did try to settle the issue that was separating the families, but Andrew’s brother was not willing to consider this. The amazing thing was that Andrew and Agnes were wronged when the disagreement arose and yet they were the ones seeking reconciliation.

And eventually Andrew’s brother agreed that it was time for the feud to come to an end. And so we found ourselves in Biwat on a Saturday afternoon to witness reconciliation between these two brothers and their families. We were there along with almost the whole Biwat community, since most of them are somehow related to Andrew and his brother.

(Can you imagine living in close proximity with ALL of your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, children, cousins, second cousins, etc.??! It’s no wonder that tension arises from time to time…)

What we witnessed that day was very moving. A leader in the community started off by announcing that what happened between them is in the past and that it is not to be talked about anymore. Then Andrew and his brother, their wives and the closest relatives, formed a tight circle, as you can see in the photo.

Andrew’s brother spoke first, and with tears in his eyes, told Andrew that he was sorry. Then they all went around hugging each other and shaking hands. Andrew and his brother shared a long embrace.

Ian closed the time with prayer, asking for God’s blessings over the families and praying that true peace would reign—the peace of Jesus Christ. Not only today, the day of the ceremony, but also in the days, weeks and years to come. We do praise God for restoring peace between these brothers and their families. We pray that as they made peace with each other, the Lord also used this to bring them closer to Him.

Here's Viviene, who will soon officially become a member of our church and was also there that day, with her cute little neice.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sadness tightens its grip again

This world is full of pain and death. And sometimes these deaths seem so senseless! One of these deaths occurred today. This evening, Andrew vanderHeide (our colleague) and I went down to hold our regular evening fellowship in Biwat. This is a settlement very close to our place, so we can usually stroll there in about 10 minutes. As we left our compound we heard a police officer speaking over a loud speaker. Usually, this means something less than wholesome has transpired. As we walked towards the police, they drove off and a large crowd was milling around. We approached the crowd and saw a few of people we knew and they shared what had happened. A young man named, Ishmael, whose mother is a faithful attendee of our church, was stabbed with a bush knife in the back of his neck and left to die in a ditch. He is only about 20 years of age and part of a small gang who were involved in holding up some guys for their beer and money. The driver of the car, we were told, stabbed Ishmael in the back of the neck and he was left to die.

Our hearts go out to sister Augustina, the boy’s mother and his family. We don’t know her husband, as he has rarely worshipped with us during our evening fellowships or on Sundays.

We didn’t hold an evening fellowship tonight for obvious reasons, but I am sure we will take our part at the ‘haus krai’ (lit: house cry) and funeral. We pray that God will use us to speak the Word of truth and love into this situation. As we left the compound, kind of whisked away quickly as the members said things could get a little rough here, it was so sad to see many other youth and not so young people, congregate en masse seemingly to avenge the death. The questions we have are: Why do so many young men end up consumed or absorbed by a life of endless crime and violence? Where are their parents in all of this? And on our part, what can we do in Biwat to see an end to this trend? We have been preaching and teaching there for a year and a half now. All these youths know us, at least to see us—hence we feel quite safe around the roads here—however, not many care to hear the Word. The Gospel of grace and truth has not carved out deep inroads into their hearts, not yet. Others feel, if they hear the message of salvation once, whether they believe it or live it makes no difference, they are secure for all eternity.

Please pray with us for the young man’s parents and brothers and sisters as they grieve the loss of their son. Please pray that the Lord will use this sad and untimely death to begin a new trend among the youth. That is, that they will see the senselessness in living a life of crime and desire a life of wholeness in Christ. May God hear our prayers and shower His blessings upon them by His Spirit!