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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.