Monday, September 24, 2012

A Preview of Things to Come

This portion of scripture and illustration are taken from the Mesem New Testament. Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus that God's Light (Asakng) has come into the world.  While in the US we have many translations of the scriptures, available in soft cover, hard cover, vinyl or leather....the Mesem people will get one version of the scripture and it the one that so many have worked together to provide for them.  The cover will be blue, with a fold over flap to protect the pages, and a snap that is "rain forest friendly".  One of the things we learned in our years in Papua New Guinea is that cockroaches love to eat books.  So Carolyn, at Life Publishers suggested a cover to discourage digesting the Word for the wrong reasons.

Neil will depart November 3 for PNG where he will meet with church leadership to coordinate the dedication and then go to the port to get the scriptures and bring them through customs. He will need to find a place to store them as well.  We have some challenges: we don't own a vehicle anymore and he has no easy way to move 3500 copies of the scriptures.  We need a safe storage facility.  He will need a place to stay and he hopes to work on a book about Bible customs as well.  While he is gone, I will keep our previous ministry commitments.  Tony is away at school, so I may be bribing one of you to drive me when I need to travel a longer distance.  Feel free to volunteer :).

We are looking at our direction for missions after PNG and have need wisdom concerning our next step.  For several years there has been a need for a study Bible in Melanesian Pidgin and we are well qualified to take on that project. At the same time, we have looked forward to this stage when we could pursue a long held call to Southern Europe.  Should we try to do both at the same time, or should we begin the study Bible and then go on to Southern Europe?  At this point we are seeking the Lord for His direction.  We know our call to missions continues. Thanks for faithfully staying the course with us. Together we can say, "Hitherto hast the Lord helped us".

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We've Got a Date!

We are thrilled, really, to have a date to announce for the Dedication of the Mesem New Testament. It is now scheduled to be held January 26-27, 2013 in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Though there have been many delays over the years, I was reminded of the words of Jesus last night when praying with someone, "Any time seems right to you".  Jesus always intended to the do the Father's will.  What his brothers had in mind and what He had in mind may have looked the same but were very different in purpose. We have wanted the Mesem to have the scriptures. We've spent years working to that end.  In my mind, it's been, "The sooner the better" because I've grown quite weary at times. Yet the Lord foresaw all the events, knows all the people, realized that it was not safe to travel this summer and so many other things we could not have known. He will still accomplish the right thing at the right time. Is't that a fantastic promise?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dedication Dates and Other Moving Targets

For months now we've been looking forward to announcing a date when the dedication of the New Testament will be a reality.  Recent political changes in Papua New Guinea have affected our ability to pin down the date.  The elections are a time of significant unrest and would be a huge distraction from something as important as the Mesem scriptures being distributed.

Last week a decision was made to postpone the dedication until January 2013.  While it is yet another delay, it is one that was not unforeseen by the Lord. Our current plan, Lord willing, is for Neil to return to Papua New Guinea when the New Testaments are due to arrive, and ensure they are securely stored until we can return for dedication.  When we do dedicate, Neil will need to spend about two months in the interior distributing the scriptures and teach people how to use the helps.

During this time we are asking the Lord's guidance as to our next steps. We are sure we are called to remain in missions but have been given three choices all of which we want to take as from Him and consider in prayer.  We believe we know where we are to land long term, but would the Lord like us to "linger a bit" and help other works in Papua New Guinea move forward? 

A long awaited newsletter will soon be out. We've joked that dates in PNG, like wild pigs, are moving targets. We will be as relieved as you when we have a firm date on which all church leaders agree!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Today I uploaded more photos to the Google web album. I had to re-upload several as I have not yet figured out how to keep them on the web without cluttering my hard drive. I'll figure that out later.

The news from PNG has been difficult. Election turmoil has made a delay in the New Testament inevitable.  The dedication cannot possibly take place before December. Neil will need to return at some point without us, and Tony and I will follow, Lord willing, at a time when the dedication does not preclude Tony attending. Communicating that the college school year in North America and the school year in Papua New Guinea are not the same is not always easy.

After 25 years of life in the South Pacific, delays are common. Few things run on the schedule we would have liked. I am by nature one to plan and well, that and South Pacific living are things that can be mutually exclusive. I learned a long time ago that I need to "let go" of my need for things to run according to some plan of mine. It has always belonged to Him.

In looking over these photos of days gone by, I cannot help but say, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us". I did not think I would always make it to see the day when the New Testament would be completed. I smile at photos of doing the laundry by hand, which is more fun looking back than at the time, and I see photos of Tony growing up barefoot in the rainforest and remembering many good times as well. It gives perspective.

It was in 1990 that I wrote in my Bible, "God is more pleased by contentment than control".  Amen. He is the one to be in control. We can be content in that. <

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A First Term Lesson-The Grace Given to Fruit Bats

(This was written circa 1991)
It was a hot night in Madang and as usual, we were hiding under the mosquito net protecting ourselves not only from the annoying mosquitoes but from geckos, rats and other creepy crawlies. The “fwop-fwop-fwop” of a bat flying through the night registered somewhere in the back of my mind. Those solid leathery wings make a distinct sound as they hit the air. It was the unanticipated sound in the sequence that surprised me.

Fwop-fwop-fwop- BONG!

The sound of a dull collision with our metal water tank caught me by surprise. A bat had hit our water tank? Sure enough, just outside our window was an unconscious little fruit bat lying on its back. I couldn’t tell if it was the victim of bad fruit or bad luck. 

I was stunned. How many times had I seen and heard science documentaries that spoke of the astonishing radar of bats. Bats could circumnavigate every obstacle, even in the pitch of night, using their sonar. Yet, here in Papua New Guinea, home to thousands of bats, one of these creatures, unfamiliar with the science, had flown head long into a tree and knocked himself senseless.

An analogy for missions was born.

Prior to becoming a missionary, I read every mission biography I could possibly lay my hands on. I marveled at CT Studd. I felt a lump in my throat reading of Amy Carmichael. I was practically discipled by Helen Rosevear, who was a personal favorite because of her down to earth approach to writing. I had seen movies, read books, listened to famous missionary speakers and they seemed sure of where they had been and where they were going. They seemed humble, joyful, purposeful, and always anchored in truth.
Then I became a missionary and realized that missionaries, like bats, fly head long into objects, get knocked senseless and must recover.

This was a very encouraging realization. I am honest to a fault. I discovered that it wasn’t too long before I looked at others and found myself asking, “Am I the only one wondering about this?” Years later I realize that I am one of the few giving voice to what everyone is thinking.
God use ordinary people just as He uses ordinary bats. The encouraging thing is that there are no special bats or special people. The discouraging thing is that there are no excuses. You can’t look and say, “That person is so amazing to go there. I could never do that”. The person you are looking at can’t really do it either without an amazing portion of grace that cannot muster in and of themselves. It’s a huge grace trip from beginning to end.

So I’m thankful that bat flew along and reminded me that ordinary is OK. The bat, by the way, recovered and flew on. So will we.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Rodent's Reaction to Espresso

In an effort to record those “stories we didn’t tell in church”, I am trying to give a weekly recap of memorable moments that never made the prayer letter. 

In 1990, Neil and I returned to our home in Dusin. We opened the door and were horrified to see more rat droppings than I have ever seen at any time in my life.  We’ve seen a lot of rats. We dispatched a lot of rats to the place that rats go when they are dispatched.  We just never quite saw the distribution of rat droppings that littered our house.  The Dusin house was entirely bamboo and had but one closed cupboard.  Our pots and pans were covered.  The bookshelves were littered.  As we made our way into the house, stepping gingerly, we had no choice but to put the boxes of supplies down on top of the mess.  Then we began to notice other things besides the droppings.  We had a really nice short wave radio on which we got all our outside news.  The antenna had been gnawed through.  The curtain cord was in shreds. Books were gnawed and toilet paper…a rather precious commodity, was no longer useable. (I am now a self-confessed "tp hoarder".)

I peeked into our extremely small bathroom and the plastic medications had holes in them.  The tips of everything from antibiotic ointment, to other medical tubes were totally gone and had to be tossed out.  We couldn’t figure out the cause for the devastation but began to clean, wash and boil.  (The Dusin house had only cold water so we had to heat the water if we wanted to shower or do dishes).

The loft was almost as bad as the downstairs, but we were grateful, after shaking off the droppings from our bed, that the Codan radio with which we communicated with the outside world was graciously untouched but for droppings on top of it. That could all be swept up.

I heard Neil call me and went to see what he’d found.  We’d been cleaning before we unpacked so things would be sanitary enough for the next several months.  The last place we looked was in the place where we stored our food because, well, there was never a lot of food left.  Neil dangle before me a desecrated bag of espresso coffee.  Suddenly the lights went on in our minds.  Yes,  “il ratto” had gotten into the espresso and “ZINGO” that had lit up its little body and thus began the carnage. We were looking at a rodent's reaction to espresso.

We cleaned that area really well too, though it was not nearly as bad as the rest of the place. I guess he started there, got his high and move on to more chewable things.  I had been counting on that coffee to get me through the next few months and was annoyed, albeit also amused, that the rat had taken as much as he had.  I actually debated throwing all the coffee out since I didn’t want the rat to win but I think I came up with what looked like a healthy compromise. We’re both still here, so as the saying goes, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger”. I don’t know if that is true about most things, but it can be said about the remaining espresso.

If you are looking for a moral to the story here it is: keep your coffee in a metal can.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Giving by Receiving

Every Wednesday I meet a friend for a time of ministry in Boston. As we talk together,  I find that I often remember some story from Papua New Guinea that I had completely forgotten. It is good to record these stories, for while some of them are very funny and some less so, those stories speak of God’s amazing faithfulness. This story speaks of sacrificial love.
 Over the years I have had a number of surgeries for my spinal cord injury, as well as several additional surgeries for various things that seem to show up where they shouldn’t be, or for things inside that decided they wanted to check out before I do. I joke that “we shall meet the Lord in the air” because so much of me is buried on different continents that I will have to be reassembled mid-resurrection.

At one point I had terrible pain with gallstone. A decision was made to medevac me and Tony so I could be checked out and sure enough, my gall bladder and I had “irreconcilable differences”, necessitating that we part company quickly. By this time, I’d already had surgery in PNG without enough anesthesia and I found I cope best if I sleep when some part of me is removed, so I knew Australia was the place to go. Neil was still in the village and I conveyed the message to him on short wave so he prepared to hike out and meet me so he could care for Tony, freeing me to go to Australia for surgery.

 Neil knew from experience that the night before we left Samanzing was always very hectic. Everyone who had a need would come and the house was always crowded with those who wanted one thing or another. So it was no surprise to Neil that the house filled to capacity even as he hurried to fill his backpack so he could depart before dawn for his 10 hour hike to the nearest road. 

Very late at night, after things quieted down there was yet another knock on door.  The village headman arrived with a small bag.  He gave it to Neil who looked inside and realized it was full of money. Now the Mesem are desperately poor people. Inside this bag were many coins as well as “treasures” that people had held on to for years in case of an emergency. One man had placed a 20 yen note from the Japanese occupancy in the bag. Several had given silver sterlings that pre-dated independence by more than 30 years.  When Neil tried to give it back the village elder said, “You must take it, you are one of us now”.

I am always grateful we took it.  There were many lessons in that act. People need to give and we need to receive to show they have value. We needed to show that they, too, had something to offer us. Had we not taken that gift, we would have been saying that we didn’t need them, and being “one of them” was not important.  It was in the humility of receiving we were initiated into the relationship which we most desired to have with them. They showed sacrificial love and by letting them love us, we loved them in return.
It’s good to give and I like to give, but we always have a certain control when we are giving. We are in a different position, relationally, than when we take. One of the difficult things for me in becoming a missionary was living on support, because we had always been generous givers and enjoyed doing that. Being a recipient is a humbling thing.  But I have come to realize that when we receive acts of love, we are loving and affirming the love of the one who gives and that is a good thing.  

I share this story before I forget again. I share it to remind myself that in receiving God’s love, I am loving Him back.   

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Woman with Nothing To Give

I was telling a story this week to a friend about the first Mesem book of scripture ever published. It was the Gospel of Mark.  I told a story that many of you might not know, but which touches me to this day.

One morning I spoke at my home church and at the end of the service one of the ushers came over with tears in his eyes.  He had ring. He said, “I don’t know what to do. This woman said to me, “I have no money to give but give this to that missionary” and she ran out so fast I didn’t get her name or anything.” Then he handed me a beautiful ring. It was delicate ring with red stones.

I was leaving the US the next day and asked my father to have it appraised but the jeweler told him that it was not his area of expertise because the ring was antique.  I realized that gift, which I knew to be great was a greater sacrifice than I initially imagined.

Ultimately, we sold the ring for $220.  We felt that a gift so precious needed to be used for a special purpose.  In 1995, we bought the paper on which the Gospel of Mark was printed with the proceeds from that ring.

If you go to our website there is a video of that dedication and part way through I appear, much younger, dressed in PNG clothing and the story I am telling is how the first gospel was given to the Mesem, by a woman who said she had nothing to give.

I am not sure who she is, nor if she ever knew.  But I know that great sacrifices do reap great rewards, and though it was sewn in her tears, it will be harvested with rejoicing.  And if you who gave that ring are reading this, please get in touch….