So many things happen that I don't find the time to blog about, so here are a bunch of photos from various events of the last 2 months.
This young man in the photo with Ian began studying at the Reformed Churches Bible College in Port Moresby last month. His name is Greg and he's bright and inquisitive and says he's enjoying life and studies at the RCBC very much.
Although you can barely see them in the photo, Bruce and Dina 't Hart
from Albany, Australia really did visit Lae!
We enjoyed a rainforest hike with them.
At Easter, there was a youth conference at our church
and here are most of the participants.
They had a great time studying God's Word and having fun together.
For the past 6 weeks, our kids have enjoyed visiting these puppies at our friend's place.
"Can I keep him, Mom? Pleeaaase?"
(Except our landlords won't allow pet dogs in the compound:().
Our serious little man.
This past week we had Henry and Rita Versteeg visiting from Port Moresby.
It was their first visit to Lae and we shared our life and work with them,
and also took them to the Rainforest Habitat at the University.
Ian and Caleb enjoying the Rainforest Walk.
"Look at that, Jono!"
(A Crowned Pigeon)
The Whole Fam
Rita is quite the bird expert and got some great shots of different species:
The Southern Cassowary
The Blue Bird of Paradise
Also this past week, we went on a Bush Walk and Nature Scavenger Hunt with Jonathan's class.
It took place at the Lae City Mission property 11 miles outside of Lae.
This mission reaches out to young men who are caught in a life of crime
and tries to help them find employment.
Six of these young men were our guides for the hike
and as we walked they pointed out bright green lizards, huge spiders and other critters for the class to see. It was great fun.
It was about a year ago that I first met this little sweetheart named Charlotte. She is the niece of a young woman who attends our church and is the fifth daughter born to her parents. As you can see, she is absolutely adorable and precious. Shortly after this photo was taken, I heard that she was sent to go live with some relatives in Port Moresby who wanted a baby. She would've only been about 5 months old--still very much needing her mother. This is just so hard for me to understand, especially since this family is not that poor and it doesn't seem like it would've been that hard for them to care for Charlotte as well. And what about the mother? What is it like to give a little one whom has grown inside of you, is so much a part of you, to someone else? I saw the mom shortly after Charlotte was given away and the tears sprang to her eyes quickly when I asked about the situation. It must've been so hard for her.
And yet it is a fairly common practice here for children to be given to relatives for various reasons. It's not a formal arrangement through the courts or anything like that. I'm not sure if any money or goods are exchanged but I have a feeling there is probably a transaction of some sort. Often children are given away to a husband and wife who can't have children of their own; usually by a family who has a lot of children and can't afford to care for them all. Or sometimes it's not the choice of the family at all. We knew of a family with three daughters and one son, and an uncle asked to have the son, and out of respect for him, the parents could not refuse him. So they were living here in Lae and their son 5 hours away in the village with his uncle. I wonder how this impacted that little boy. And I know it was hard on the parents. Often when twins are born, one of them is given away--sometimes this is because of superstition, but many times it's because they cannot care for them both. There are actually identical twins in the nearby settlement who are being raised in different families, but have not been told the truth about each other, even though they play together all the time! Unbelievable, isn't it? I don't understand why for the emotional well-being of the children these things are not openly talked about. As they get older, aren't they going to figure it out? Many times it seems parents choose to keep the secret and I remember from my studies in social work, these types of secrets are never a healthy thing for families and have a way of being revealed, even when the parents think the secret is being kept.
I really struggle to understand these situations and I know that I have to be careful not to judge.
There is so much we still don't know about this culture and so we can't possibly fully understand what all goes on when a child is given to another family. It is best for us not to get too involved in these kinds of situations.
Yet, I couldn't keep my mouth shut a few weeks ago after Bible Study. We were almost pulling out of the church when one of the women said, "Oh, can you just wait a bit? We have to wait for a baby." Ok, no problem, I said and figured that someone's neice or nephew or grandchild was coming to stay with them for a while. That's quite normal around here too. But then, a woman I didn't know arrived at the church with a toddler and an infant. And a few minutes later, the infant was in the car with us, and the mom and toddler were staying behind. I asked what was going on. Well, the baby was being given to a family in Biwat Settlement. I looked at the mother who had just given her baby away and I'm not sure what I was expecting, but her face was pretty expressionless. Underneath that expressionless face, what emotions were happening inside? Was her heart being ripped apart at giving her baby away? Was she angry at her situation? Frustrated? Ambivalent? Was she feeling some sort of resignation that this is the way things are and that's that? I will never know.
We drove on towards home and I asked which family in Biwat the baby was going to. I could not believe it when I was told that the baby was going to the family that had just given away little Charlotte last year! That's when I got a bit angry because I realized this baby was the one thing little Charlotte was not...a BOY. And after four daughters, that's what Charlotte's parents were hoping for, but the Lord chose to bless them with another daughter. And instead of cherishing that blessing they gave her away, and thought they knew better what their family should look like. It wasn't about not being able to afford a fifth child; it was about wanting a son, not...another...daughter. How can they have peace with that, I ask? I know that I may sound like I'm being terribly judgmental and hard on them. I admit I don't know everything about their situation, but I did ask the women driving in the car with me that day, "How about just letting God be God and letting Him decide what our families will be?" No one answered. And so we drove on in silence, bringing this baby boy to his new family, and all the while I was wondering, how is little Charlotte doing?