Saturday, August 9, 2008

Time to Say Goodbye...for now

As many of you already know, last week we made the sudden decision to go back to Canada for an early furlough because Ian’s health continues to burden him heavily. We’ve held out hope for the past year that he would get better, but it seems this will not happen while here in PNG—with the climate, the culture and the stresses of the work. Still this was one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever made. But the amazing thing is how the Lord has confirmed us in many ways—He has already provided so much (car, house etc) and to be honest, we have realized even for the field’s sake, this is as good a time as any to go. Next year, when we had proposed to have our furlough, would not be a great time, it seems. God has used many people back home and in Australia to encourage us over email and let us know they are praying. Since sharing our struggles, we’ve been encouraged by some fellow missionary families here in PNG who have faced similar situations. Carrying these mutual struggles in some ways brings with it some encouragement. Through all of this, we definitely feel a sense of peace, as hard as it is to leave our work and life here right now. Ironically, we felt much the same way when the Lord first called us here—humanly speaking, we didn’t really want to come, but knew it was what God wanted us to do. And when the tough times have come, we have always come back to that. God wanted us here, so He also has a purpose and plan for whatever comes our way.

Since we’re leaving on Tuesday already, we’ve begun to transition and have started putting closure on things. This week has been a week of goodbyes for the kids--as Jonathan had his last day at ‘school’. We brought in a cake to his class, and they all sang, “Goodbye my friend, Shalom”! It was very cute. Here's the whole class.

And Karlyn had her last time at her playgroup with all her little friends. She is having a harder time than Jonathan with this whole travelling thing. A couple days after we made the decision to go, she said to me, "No going airplane". She had somehow picked up on what is going on and isn't too happy about it.

This week, I also helped Elissa wrap up her health sessions as she did one on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Actually, I didn’t do much, especially compared to an amazing woman from our church, named Gami. She was Elissa’s translator and has spent many hours with us as we planned and also wrote up a booklet in pidgin to give out to the women. Gami and her husband Joel traveled with us on Monday to Bobong village, the village of some people from our church. Elissa and Gami held a health session while Joel helped Tim train some of the young men in soccer. We handed out some bandaids and polysporin.

Jonathan and Noah had such a fun time there--chasing chickens, pigs and dogs and swimming in the nearby river. Here they are, hamming it up for the camera and the crowd!

Noah, Jelika and Jonathan. This was taken right before Jelika reached over and pulled Jonathan's outy belly button. It was really funny!

Then on Tuesday we held a health session at Kamkumung church and on Wednesday in Biwat Settlement, close to our home here. I think the women really appreciated learning the information and we hope that it will help to better their lives and especially help them avoid certain illnesses and infections.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, we are all leaving Lae. It’s exciting to be doing this with Tim and Elissa and the boys. Actually it’s kind of funny, although maybe not for them, but we’ll be leaving PNG and arriving in Cairns even before they do! We feel a bit bad, but that’s just how the flights worked out….But they will ultimately win the race because they’ll definitely get to Canada before we do. We are taking a slow trip back in the hopes that this won’t wear Ian down too much more. Thankfully, we remain in our Father’s hands.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

To the Highlands

After a few days in tropical Madang, we cooled off in the Highlands in Ukarumpa. We had beautiful sunny days and cool nights. What a great feeling to be cold again! Here’s Elissa with Karlyn and Noah, on a Sunday afternoon stroll through Uka.

We caught up with Richard and Laura Sommer and family and visited Yonki Lake, which is where they hope to move within the next year and begin a home for children orphaned because of AIDS. It will be the first of its kind in PNG. What a beautiful spot they have there. Here are the beginning stages of their new home…there's a gorgeous lakeside view behind us!

Jonathan and Noah were ready to finish the house off!

This journey the Sommer’s have begun promises to be both exciting and challenging, and we praise the Lord with them for the way that He has been opening doors and confirming their decision to begin this project. The AIDS epidemic here is only growing. More and more children are left without parents because of it, and the traditional system of extended family members caring for these orphans is breaking down. Many parents are stretched thin to provide for their own children, let alone take in any others. There is also, of course, a huge stigma attached to AIDS, as well as many misconceptions, causing the orphans and others affected with the virus to be ostracized. May the Lord bless the Sommer's work so that they can be a blessing to the children who come to their home.

Relaxing on the shores of Yonki Lake...

Beautiful Madang

I’m still not sure how we fit 8 people and our luggage into our vehicle to do the 5-hour trip to Madang! We had to wedge Tim and Elissa into the back bench! The road was the worst we’d ever seen it, and as Tim and I took turns driving we had to stay alert to swerve around or drive very slowly through the potholes. Part of the trip is right through the mountains where the road twists and turns and there are a couple times where it narrows down to a single lane and on one side there’s a steep drop-off! (It’s better not to look down…) So we bumped along over the potholes, some of us dealing with motion sickness, and I think there were times when Tim and Elissa wondered if Madang would really be worth it! But it was!....Here’s some of the beauty of Madang…the sunrise our first morning.

We stayed in little cottages along the water, close to the beach, where the kids played all day, every day! We were again amazed at God’s underwater world as we snorkeled. Although the sea lice gave us some nasty bites at times and we had to watch out for the jellyfish one morning, not even that stopped us!

Here we all are--still smiling, despite some stresses, especially with Ian’s health. He’s still dealing with some virus that has him often fatigued and experiencing other symptoms throughout his body. He really has to take it easy and a few days at this beautiful, peaceful spot certainly helped, but it will be a longer road to full recovery. We covet your prayers about this!