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Tuesday, November 27, 2012



     first, let me say sorry for not posting in a while. It has been pretty busy around here. Now. on to Hensen.

     Hensen has an interesting story. I think he looks like Cramer on Seinfeld. He is the only national employee at POC who is not form the mountain. When Hensen was a small boy both his parents died. He left his home area (the Sepik) and ended up two provinces east. With no land and no family in the area he needed a job. It just so happened that he ended up near a place called Jungle Camp. Jungle Camp has since moved and become POC (the place where we work) but I am getting ahead of the story. He got a job at jungle camp taking care of missionary children. One of the families became very attached to him. When the course was over they wanted him to move up to Ukarumpa with them. Hensen had heard all kinds of horrible stories about the people who lived in the Highlands and was afraid to go. The family eventually left without him.

     However they could not forget about Hensen. At that time in PNG there was a national radio program that would make announcements over the air for its listeners. The family made an announcement that they were coming to the area where he was and they wanted him to meet them and return with them to Ukarumpa. Someone who knew Hensen heard the program and told him. Hensen decided to meet them and go to live in Ukarumpa.

     I should say that the offer was not totally without strings. In exchange for room and board with the family Hensen had to work for the family and help look after the children. Hensen lived with and worked for the family for several years. As the children grew bigger less was required of Hensen and the father of the family told Hensen if he would like to stay with them he would pay for Hensen to go to school in Ukarumpa. He gladly accepted and was thus educated.

     Upon finishing his education he began to work in different departments at Ukarumpa.  While all of this was happening Jungle camp had closed up and moved to it’s current location in Madang province, reopening as The Pacific Orientation Course. One of the directors at POC remembered Hensen from Ukarumpa and asked him to come and handle the office work at POC. Hensen was ready for a change and gladly accepted. While at POC he met his wife Ti’en (Dorcas). He eventually resigned and moved his family back to the Sepik where his family’s traditional land is.      

     They lived there for several years until another POC director came to the Sepik to find him and ask him to come back. He returned and has worked there ever since. He told me recently when he retires he will stay  until his children finish school then he will move back to the Sepik.

     Because Hensen has had so much education and work with expats so long his English is very good. That can be a good thing when working in the office. But his Tok Pisin is not very good. Maybe what I mean by good is '”pure”. He mixes LOTS of English words in where they should not be. This is a pretty common occurrence with Papua New Guineans who have a good bit of formal education. They even have a word for it, “pinglish.” This presents a little problem when he interacts with the students who are trying their new language out on our employees. So, we just tell the students at the beginning of the course that his Tok Pisin may not be the best to try to emulate. That being said, he has a very unique perspective about life and culture in PNG being a national and having lived with expats for many years. He is an amazing person and I love to sit and listen to him tell stories.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Life Well Lived


      As many of you know we came home early because my mom passed away in June. Unfortunately, we didn’t get here in time to say goodbye but we did make the funeral services. It was a whirlwind but we made it and I felt like I was dealing with it pretty well. Things have settled down now, we have been here five and a half months. The last few weeks have been a lot more difficult. I think in some ways it is just starting to hit home and maybe I’m just starting to deal with it.

      What has made it easier for me is hearing what she meant to so many other people. It seems like she touched people in every  phase of her life. She worked at the Department of Social Services. I’ve had people come up to me and say that they worked with her in the late 60’s and had great stories to tell about her. My dad got a call after she passed away from a man who she had taken into protective custody as a child who was heartbroken over her passing.

      After she retired she really got  involved at her church. Not long ago we got a very nice note from the ladies group at her church. They voted to rename the group after her. They said she had revived the group and it was a reminder to them to continue to serve the church and the community.

     In addition to her work and her church my mom also had an impact on the community. She volunteered at several different organizations that helped underprivileged people in our community. I have had two different people come up to me in the last two weeks who served with her and tell me what an inspiration she was to them.

     We’ve only lived the in Spartanburg area for a short time over the past 11 years. I feel like we missed out on so many memories of her. But what we do have and what we gain every time someone shares a story with us are insights into a life well lived. We also have the encouragement that what we do truly does make a difference.

      I want to say thank you to each of you who have shared a story with me. I also want to thank you for your prayers. But most of all I want to thank my mom for not taking the easy road, for taking the path less traveled, and reaching out to her fellow man along the way. Thanks for being the encouragement and the example for me to finish well.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Papa Ganig


        Papa Ganig has worked at POC as long as it has existed at its current location (since 1977). He actually worked at the Lutheran girls school before POC was there. He is an incredible guy. He is the hardest working employee we have. On a good day he can still outwork 2 or 3 of our other employees put together. He takes care of all the grounds work (cuts the grass and bushes). He also chops all the fire wood used at POC; that’s a stack 10 feet wide 14 feet deep and 12 feet high every 4 months. The guy is a machine.

      One of the other things that our employees do is take the students on various hikes in the jungle (pictured above). It is generally my responsibility to assign employees to hiking groups. I can only assign Papa to the most advanced groups of hikers. He will leave all the rest of them in the dust. When we were students at POC Papa led my group on our 3 day hike. We had a very fit group and it was still tough to keep up with him. I love hiking with him but every time we take a group of students together we end up getting in trouble with the director because one of them says we were trying to kill them Smile

      Papa is also the adopted father of my best friend Miani (see previous post). So he sees us as his children. He address us as his children and our kids as his grandchildren. We intern call him  Papa, and our children call him “grandfather” (in the local language).

 haus man 013 

(Papa’s youngest son 2nd from the left) 

       Papa’s youngest son went through a “haus man” ceremony a year or so back. The picture above is from the celebration at the end. During these celebrations shelters are built at different houses in the village for the families of the boys involved. Papa insisted that we sit with his family and eat with them when the feast was served. What an honor it is to be so deeply loved by so many. these pictures make me long to be back there now.

      Up next Hensen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012




     There is so much to say about Filus I’m not sure where to begin. We all know that it is wrong to have favorites among your children but is it wrong for your children to have favorites among your friends? I’m not sure if it is or not but my 3 and 5 year old definitely have a favorite and it is Filus. he might be the most patient and caring person in the world. Silas will stop him in the middle of work and ask Papa Filus to help him catch a frog. Filus never says no. He will sneak around a building to avoid them before he will tell them no. Little Evie thinks she is a workman too. She goes right into the workshop and sits right down in the grease and sawdust and falls right into what we are doing. Filus goes right along with her and involves her in what ever he is fixing. This is probably my fault. I have always encouraged all of my children to be involved in the work I am doing. I think it is incredibly important for children to see adults working and to know that they can do work too. I firmly believe that it will make them more productive later in life. I also think that it will help them to discover what they enjoy and where they are gifted. Filus is a lot like me in this regard. His kids will come up to POC and hang out and help when they have free time.

     In addition to being great with kids Filus is unbelievably gifted at fixing stuff. He can fix just about anything. He is our mechanic, electrician, and welder at POC but he is in no way limited to this. it seems like he has got his hands in just about everything.

      Filus lives just down the hill form POC and it is not uncommon for him to hear me working on something at night and come back up to help me. 

     Filus’ mom and dad died when he was young and he was adopted by Amat (Talad’s dad). He and Talad and his brother grew up together. Filus even took Amat’s name. He is Filus Amat.

     I spend a lot of time with Filus. He and I usually take care of all the more complicated problems at POC. I also just like hanging out with him.  He and I go to town together regularly as well. Being in town with Filus is a little bit like being in a parade. Everyone knows him and it seems like he has helped just about everyone, so you are always waving and shaking hands.

     Maybe my favorite part about Filus is that he is always teaching. If we are in the jungle he is teaching me some new tidbit about a plant we just went by. If we are in town he has just shown me some little hole in the wall where we might be able to get just the part we need. And if we are on the mountain he has just shown me something about Papua New Guinean culture that I totally missed.

     Next up Papa Ganig.

Saturday, October 20, 2012



    Today’s workman is Kui. He is the driver for POC. There are not many Papua New Guineans in our area who can drive and even fewer who can drive legally. Kui has two primary responsibilities. The first is to drive the vehicles (obviously). He and I do most of the driving when the course is in session. It is not unusual for us to take several vehicles to town in order to accommodate all of the students. When the course is on Kui is often the busiest workman.

     His second job is to drive the tractor and backhoe. He does an amazing job working on our road and keeping it passable. It is no small task to keep up a 60 year old dirt road that runs up the side of a mountain in the tropics. It sure makes my job easier to be able to tell Kui what I want and know that he will make it happen.

     The best part about Kui is not that he drives  the trucks or fixes the roads, it is that he always has something funny to say. We all work extremely hard to keep POC going and the days can get really long but Kui’s jokes always make the work go fast and the mood stay light. As many of you know humor is one of the most difficult things to pickup in a new language. Though I still have trouble catching some of the more subtle jokes, hanging out with Kui has moved me forward light-years in Papua New Guinean humor. Just looking at his picture as I am writing this post has made me smile.

Next up is Filus.

Friday, October 12, 2012



(Papa Miani and baby Miani)

    Ok, so Miani is not a full time employee of POC but he was in the picture and we love him so here goes. When we came to POC as students Miani and Judi (his wife) volunteered to be our “was famili”. First, they came up to POC and had dinner with us. I thought it was a disaster. We barely spoke any Tok Pisin and the parts of the evening that I didn’t fumble through trying to talk were spent in complete silence. Fortunately, Papua New Guineans are fine with silence. Though they love a good story, just being together is the most important thing.

     Our relationship continued to grow as we went through the course. We went to eat at their house just about every week and eventually even spent the night. I think Miani gave me the best advice about language learning I ever received. He said, “If you want to learn Tok Pisin you have to go hangout with Papua New Guineans and talk. You might mess up but it will be ok and they will help you get better.”I took his advice, I went out that weekend to a soccer game in the community and started talking to anyone who would listen.  I was afraid to mess up but once I started I realized most people wanted to help me to speak better and they were genuinely interested in what I had to say.

     When we returned to POC as permanent staff our relationship with Miani and Judi picked up right where it left off. We quickly became great friends. He even marked off a piece of their garden for us. Miani comes to our house all the time and it not uncommon for us to sit and talk for hours. We love him so much, we even named our youngest child after him. he has assumed a place as our children’s uncle. In PNG this is a place of great honor and responsibility. We are very privileged to have him as a friend.  

     Up next will be Kui.

Sunday, October 7, 2012



(Evie and Talad)

     As I have said in the past, Papua New Guineans are masters of relationship. Relationships bond communities together and provide stability. Though we have special relationships with all of the people that work at POC, our relationship with Talad and his family is particularly strong.

      Before we ever knew Talad we knew his father, Amat. Amat was our language teacher when we were students at POC. He is a wonderful grandfather type figure with an infectious smile and an amazing desire to help others. I (Matt) struggled in my initial language learning. Instead of giving up on me and focusing on the more promising students Amat took us under his wing and patiently pulled us along. In PNG the children take the father’s first name as their last name, although this is a relatively new development for the sake of the “white man”. Talad’s full name is Talad Amat, a wonderful testament to a great man.


    (Tisa Amat)

I think our friendship with Talad also grew quickly because we had so much in common. He has several children that are the same ages as our children and they became friends almost as soon as we arrived at POC. Talad is also a carpenter and he seemed to pickup exactly what I wanted him to do even when my Tok Pisin was not the best. Even when I was not able to communicate well he showed the same care and patience that his father showed us as students. But the thing I like most about Talad is he always has a good story to tell. I can’t begin to count the number of times the two of us have sat and shared stories for hours.

     Talad and Amat have told us many times that we are like family to them. We feel like they are family too. Shortly after we got back home Talad’s older brother died in a car accident. This was very difficult for me after just loosing my mother. We were able to call and talk to the family and to help with some of the things that they needed. This is one way we are able to maintain our family-like relationship even from half a world away.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Workmen

033     Well, I decided to start our blog again. Tiffany told me many of you have asked why we stopped. There are really several reasons for it. First, the internet and power are very unreliable in Papua New Guinea. So, it just became more and more difficult to find a time when it was working and we were free. The internet is also very expensive. We have to pay by the KB and uploading photos, even reduced size ones got very costly. The second reason was time. We got very busy with POC work, family responsibilities, and ministry in the community. Something had to give and so it was the blog. Maybe we should have set better boundaries but that was the decision that we made. For those of you who have missed it I am sorry we have not done a better job keeping it up. It is my goal to try to post several thing a week from now on.

     I decided to start by talking a little bit about the people that I have the pleasure of working with. The picture above is of all of the permanent workmen at POC plus my best friend who comes and works occasionally. From left to right their names are: Talad, Miani (my best friend), Kui, Filus (my 3 year old’s favorite), Papa Ganig, Hensen, Mauhak, and Ugal. I am going to write a post about each one of them over the next week or two.

    I’m planning on going from left to right, so the first up will be Talad.

Monday, February 13, 2012








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2 gether + 4 ever = 6 children


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Happy Valentine’s Day!

LOVE, Tiff



Friday, January 13, 2012


i turned 35 last week. It wasn't as painful as i thought it would be. It does feel monumental. Like time to cut the crap. A friend gave me a card on my birthday. At the bottom she wrote-" Zep. 3:17". It didn't ring a bell really. When we got home and unpacked from our roadtrip i got out my trusty study Bible and looked it up...

For the LORD yur God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.
Zephaniah 3:17

WooHOO!!! (THANK YOU, Jude!) She had no knowledge of what i've been going through...and i just thought this is so like my God- the way He works, the way He speaks through people to me. This is my verse for the year. i will roll it around and meditate on it and gain deeper understanding from it.

i can't put words to all that is growing in me now but these two words have sprung up for my 35th year... LOVE SIMPLE.

i am cleaning out. Letting go. Giving things away right and left- and already i feel lighter...

everything the eight of us have will fit in the back of a truck. WEEeee!

As some of you know- Matt's Mom has been fighting cancer. She is really sick. She told us she wants everyone to pray that her doctors can find a drug that will slow down the progression of her cancer as there doesn't seem to be any cure at this point. Will you pray for her? - and Matt's Dad too, who is working hard taking such good care of her.

i have almost given up on blogging as you have seen- but i do update our Facebook page almost daily. Check it out.

So there it is~ the year of letting go, LOVE SIMPLE, givin' it all away, and Zephaniah 3:17...