Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I put this picture with this post because I feel a little bit like the pig today. When we arrived at our house we opened the door to find that every drawer and cabinet door was open and everything we have had been riffled through. We came up about a month and a half ago and brought some boxes up and all of the stuff we shipped from the US in the sea container had arrived. The housing department here was generous enough to let us go ahead and put everything in the house and leave it here while we finished up in Madang. While we were away someone broke into our house and stole a good bit of stuff. Myself (Matt) and the boys were the hardest hit. All of our good tee shirts and shorts were taken as well as all of my shoes. No one was left unscathed. Tiffany had some tee shirts taken as well as all of her wrap skirts (laplap). They also got her warm hats that she was looking forward to wearing now that she has had to cut her hair. Everything was rifled through. All the dry goods that were in our pantry were stolen as well as some of our pots, pans and dishes. Maybe the most painful was the 2 external hard drives that had all of our old pictures on them.
We are all still feeling a little pained and numb from this. When you combine that with the fact that we just left all we know and all our friends for a place that is very different and a bit strange to us we are hurting (especially me). To top it off our friends who came up with us were supposed to go back on POC’s truck yesterday. They left in the morning and made it about 45 minutes away before having a flat tire. They then discovered that the spare was flat too. Fortunately, the truck they were driving has dual wheels on the back so they took one off the back and put it on the front and limped back to our house. I have to admit I had mixed feelings when I got the call that they were having tire problems. I was truly worried for them but I was happy to have them here again. I have some friends in the auto shop here so we were able to get in and fix the tires even though they were closed. By the time the car was ready it was too late for them to leave so they stayed with us last night. It was nice to have them one last time. They left early this morning and I got word just a little while ago that they had made it to the halfway mark.
I know the numbness will fade and we will settle in to being here and we will make lots of new friends here but for now it is hard to do much but sit here and be sorry. Please pray for us as we adjust.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Now, as we approach the end of our time here at POC we have so many relationships that need this closure that I am beginning to be overwhelmed by the prospect of it all. I have grown very close to a good many people here on the mountain, heck we even named one of our children after one of them, that I feel like I should start saying goodbye now but our lives are so intertwined that it almost seems absurd. How do you say goodbye to people you will continue to see all the time for another month?
Once, we started telling people we were leaving word spread pretty quickly and lots of people asked me if it was true. Each time I say “yes” and then in good Papua New Guinean fashion we have to discuss the whys, hows, and whens. When all of this is done they mull it over a bit and agree that it is the best thing but they are so terribly sad to see us go. I guess in some ways this is a goodbye in itself, especially for the more casual relations we have formed. And in some ways this is easier on me than abrupt goodbye at the very end that seems to hang on an uncomfortably long time.
For the people we have built deep relationships with it has been much more difficult on both sides. We have to discuss it more and the separation has to be dealt with much more solemnly. There are some other cultural elements that have to be dealt with as well. Papua New Guinea has several different broad cultural areas. The area we currently live in (and really feel a part of at this point) is the “lowlands”. This area is most of the costal regions (excluding the Sepik) on the north side of the island. Our folks (and us by extension) are a much more low key people. Life goes at a slower pace stuff takes time to be worked out and a discussion can go on for weeks without getting truly heated. People spend a great deal of time tending to relationships and making sure that they are in good order. Physical conflict is always a last resort. Of all of these lowlands people the people of Madang are the most steeped in this way of life.
The area we are moving to is called the “highlands”. It can be broken into several broad cultural subcategories but for simplicity sake I will treat it as one here. Highland people are much more aggressive. This is good in the fact that they tend to jump on a task and try to push it through to completion much more than lowland people do. They are also more entrepreneurial and seem to always have an angle they are working (good if it is channeled in the right direction). Unfortunately, they are much more quick to fight as well. A dispute can very quickly erupt into a fight that involves entire families. The fights also tend to involve weapons and are much more deadly.
These cultural elements add a bit of anxiety to our goodbyes as well. Our people are afraid of highlanders and so they are afraid for us. We have assured them that we will be ok, but they worry none the less. Please pray that we will deal well with goodbyes over the next 5 weeks and that people will understand that we will be back to visit.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
During our first term in PNG Tiffany’s sister sent us a package. I asked for a good pair of flip flops*. It is impossible to find anything other than the cheap plastic ones here. I had gone through a series of different ones from the States and though they had lasted longer than anything I had gotten here they still pulled apart and broke before they were worn out.
We opened the box and among the various other prizes she sent were the flip flops pictured above. They didn’t look like this when I got them. I put them on and never took them off again.They are Quicksilvers, I’m not sure of the style. What I am sure of is they are the best pair of shoes (running shoes, boat shoes, etc. included) I have ever owned.
Flip flops are the favorite shoe in PNG, especially in the costal area where we live. I have worn these shoes every day for the last two and a half years. They are my work boots, my hiking boots, my dress shoes, my beach wear, and my sport shoes. I do literally everything in these shoes (as you can tell by the shape they are in). The only time they sat unused for any period of time was when we were home (in the US) in the dead of winter and even then I wore them around the house.
Sadly, I am going to have to retire them soon. They have made several trips around the world, been in multiple countries, been used and abused in ways that I’m sure the manufactures never intended and they are still in one piece. It pains me to think about letting them go but the time has come. I hope my next pair (what ever they are) can preform half as well as these have.
* For you native American English speakers- much of the rest of the English speaking world call this type of shoe thongs. In Tok Pisin they are called tongs.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Part of my job this course is to go out to different areas in our province (Madang) and find villages where our students can live for 5 weeks. It is a long process that involves multiple trips and various checks on the villages. I get the chance to meet a lot of people during the process. I have lots of great conversations in the process, many of which turn to spiritual things.
A couple of weeks ago I was going through the villages and doing my visits with a Papua New Guinean friend when we came to Bawak village. We sat down with Smith (first name of the waspapa)and began to talk (he is the man on the right of the picture). My friend started to ask about all the cocoa dryers in the village (you can see one just behind Smith in the picture). We began to look around as Smith pointed them out and there was one for every 2 or 3 houses.
This was quite striking because they are just now building the second one on our entire mountain. These dryers are important because dry coca beans are worth a whole lot more than wet one. So if they have a means to dry their beans they can make a good deal more.
My friend mentioned the fact that they were just now building the second dryer on our mountain and Smith told the following story:
Not too long ago Bawak didn’t have a church and most of the people in the community were involved in “Cargo Cult”. (Basically this is the idea that there is a secret that wealthy people with lots of belongings know and they keep for themselves. If you can find out “the secret” then all these things can be yours. It is generally believed that all westerners “white man” know the secret. It manifests itself in many different ways but “the secret” is always involved). Then 2 churches moved into the village and a couple people started going. These people started to change; they were different than anyone else in the village. Others in the village wanted to know why they had become so different so they went to the church to find out. They too started to change, and so it went. It was not a quick process but eventually there was no more cargo cult in the village and everyone in the village was different. But it didn’t just stop with the people the village started to change too. There wasn’t anymore stealing, the teenagers were better behaved, and various types of development (the cocoa dryers, etc.) started to happen. All of this change was not because they had learned “the secret” or because God was happy with their obedience and showered all types of gifts on them (health and wealth theology- western cargo cult). It was because the truth of God had reached into their hearts and change who they were and those changes were manifested in the community.
My friend was blown away by this story. It was so simple and so true. They had become the “city on the hill”. God’s transformative power was not limited to some internal thing that only effects the spiritual realm, never to be seen. If you allow it to permeate who you are and flow out of you it can not only transform those around you but whole communities.
My friend kept coming back to this story all day and for days following we talked about it and what it means. Sometimes he lamented that our mountain has had the Gospel so much longer than this other village and we are still so far behind. In the end we came to the conclusion that there is nothing we can do about the past but there is plenty we can do now. What was not immediately obvious to him is that these changes are already beginning; I can see them and I am honored to be a part of the community as they happen.
God allow every person in this community to have the overflowing bounty of you truth. I know that it is building even now. Lord help us to be your catalysts, help us to make this community your next “City on the Hill”'.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Friday, August 16, 2013
Here is a picture of the pig and the food that I wrote about in the previous post.
I went down to Miani’s village about 1 pm. Judy and some of the other ladies from the village had already gone to their garden and gathered the bananas and vegetables.As with any event in PNG We all sat around and talked and told stories for several hours as people came. Then there was a lot of discussion on how we were going to tie up the pig. It is a very large pig for PNG and it’s tusks were starting to come out so they were very concerned about restraining it well while the legs were being tied up. Everyone finally agreed on the method and all the men went to get it. It ended up taking 6 guys to hold it down and 4 more to tie the feet. I was surprised by how strong it was. After we finished tying it up and carrying it back up to the villages Judy prepared a small meal for all the people who helped get everything ready. We ate and then the discussion began about getting it to Judy’s family.
We originally thought Judy’s family was going to come and get everything and carry it all up to their village. We quickly realized the pig was too heavy for them to carry all the way to their village. Papa Ganig then launched into a “back in may day” speech about when he was young they carried pigs like this for 15 miles up the side of a mountain. I guess that sort of nostalgia is universal. He finally relented to the consensus and I went and got the largest POC vehicle, a 4 ton flat bed truck outfitted with a shed and benches. We loaded the pig and all the food on the truck and then pretty much the whole village got on the truck and carried it up to the other village. When we arrived the pig and all the vegetables were unloaded and carried down the Judy’s uncle’s house in a grand procession. The food and pig were brought into the village in a single file procession and then pilled up in a way that made it look even more impressive. It was very dark by this point and that seemed to add to the drama of the whole thing. As each new item entered into the light of the lamps and were added to the heap they almost seemed to be appearing out of nothing. Once all the food had arrived there were a series of speeches made by both families about how sorry everyone was for the loss and how the bonds between the two families were strengthened. Judy’s family then presented Miani’s family with a small pile of food, in thanks for the pig. Finally, everyone talked for a while and then we all got back on the truck and went back to Miani’s village.
Judy’s family will cook all night to prepare all the food we brought in addition to what they have gathered. The Huas Krai meal will happen Saturday afternoon and then they will take it down. Miani and Judy will make a separate meal in their village Sunday afternoon with the food they were given for everyone who helped there.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Well as most of you know we have a pig here and we were going to eat it when we got back. Miani and Judy are our closest friends here and they have been looking after the pig. Just after we returned Judy’s mother died. Just like everywhere else deaths are a big thing in PNG. Not like everywhere else, they require several feasts to mark different events during the mourning period. The first is during the burial time. The family actually makes several big meals during this time to feed the gathering family and the mourners. The family and friends are responsible for providing this food. The closer you are to the immediate family the greater the burden to provide food. There is also a greater sense of responsibility for people who have jobs or access to money.
We have basically been adopted as brother and sister to Miani and Judy. Judy’s dad is also a language teacher at POC. I (matt) was a facilitator for his group during one of the courses and we developed a friendship then too. During this burial time we gave a 10kg (a little over 20 pounds) bag of rice to help with the food preparations.
During this first phase the immediate family builds a temporary shelter where they gather and receive friends, called a Haus Krai. The family continues to receive visitors in the structure for several weeks after the burial. Then the family decides on a day that they will take down the structure. The removal of this structure marks the end of the morning period. On that day a very large meal is prepared for everyone who has been involved in the Huas Krai. It is customary for a pig to be killed for the closing feast. This is where our pig comes into play. Miani’s adopted father Papa Ganig wanted all of us to give the pig to Judy’s family. So he bought a new baby pig to replace ours.
So, Friday Miani and I will get the pig and some garden vegetables ready. Judy’s brothers will come down and we will present the pig and the vegetables to them. This gift will reinforce and strengthen the bond between the families.This is also a prime example of how things that we as westerners think of as individually owned are actually communal property in PNG.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
We have been in PNG for a week now. I guess it is time to reflect on our trip over. Leaving home always brings mixed emotions for me (Matt). On one hand We are leaving all of our family and friends we have had for so long. On the other we are returning to a place that we truly love and to people whom we love and who love us. It is also very stressful to go. But I think the stress lies in the business of it all. This is compounded by each additional person you throw in the mix. In the weeks before we left we got passports and visas, we packed bags to ship and to take with us, we all went to the dentist and to the doctor, we got malaria medicine, and what seems like a million other things all for 8 people.
I asked the doctor to write the prescriptions for our malaria medications for 3 months because it is so much cheaper in the US. Tiffany took the prescriptions to the pharmacy and they said it would be a couple of days before they could fill them because it was so many pills. That was understandable because there are so many of us and it was like 90 pills apiece. So I waited an extra day and went back just to be sure they had time to fill it. The pharmacy only had 2 of the prescriptions filled. They tried to get the meds from 2 different distributors and were unable to get them. They then tried to get the medication in its generic form. they were able to fill 4 more prescriptions that way but that still left us 2 prescriptions short and we were leaving in 2 days. they then called the pharmacy across the street who had enough to fill one of the two. The manager of the pharmacy then went to one of their stores in a neighboring town and got enough to fill the final prescription. this is just one example of what our final weeks were like.
Our trip was rather uneventful, no baggage lost, no missed connections, no sickness or horror stories. All of the children travel well and they were all well behaved. We had to take 2 extended layovers this time that we had not taken before and I think they helped us to adjust. The first was in LA. We were there for 2 nights. We have some friends there , the Shermans, with whom we had the chance to spend the afternoon. Our flight did not leave until 10pm the next day so we stored our bags and took a sightseeing tour around the city. We saw, Marina Del Ray, Venice Beach, Hollywood, The Sunset Strip, Mann’s Chinese Theater, the walk of Stars, the Hollywood sign, and lots more. It was a nice way to close out our time there.
Form there we went through Auckland, New Zealand on our way to Cairns, Australia. Miani was born in Cairns so it was nice to get back and see the sights. Though it is winter in Australia right now Cairns was very nice. The kids played at a splash pad and swam in the pool at the place we were staying. We also did a little bit of shopping for last minute things that we realized we would like to have. The one sad thing about our time in Australia was that while we were getting our stuff ready to put in the taxi to go to the airport we realized that we had lost our camera somewhere in Australia (hence the reason there are no pictures with this post). We moved between hotels while we were there and I think it actually got lost somewhere in that move but we were not able to track it down so we are without one.
Though the last two flights were the shortest of all they might have been the most taxing. I think Miani had had all he wanted of traveling by that point and he didn’t want to sit calmly in his seat (our laps). the people around us were very kind though and didn’t seem to mind him too much.
All in all it was a good trip and we are finally here.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
We are grateful for all the things you have given us to take back. Each one of these items makes our lives a little easier. We still need quite a few things as you can see by the “Wish list” on the right side of the blog.
They will be packing the shipping container at the JAARS facility in Waxhaw, NC on July 10th so we have to have everything packed, labeled, and listed before then. My Dad and I are planning on taking everything up on Tuesday the 9th (next week). I am looking forward to doing that together. We are also going to visit my grandmother’s farm in York, SC while we are up that way. I have not been there in many years.
I know some of you have expressed interest in helping with the remaining items. It would be great if you could get whatever you have to us by Saturday July 6th so that we have time to pack and label everything properly.
On a totally separate note the 4th of July is just a couple of days away. It is one of my (Matt) favorite holidays. We arrived just in time for it last year. the kids had a great time. It was probably the first time that they were old enough to shoot fireworks themselves. When they started seeing the fireworks stands around town this year they asked if we could buy some fireworks to shoot this year. Being my favorite holiday and so close to our departure date how could I refuse. We are planning on buying them on the 4th and having our own little show an Nana and Papa’s house. We don’t have fireworks in PNG so this will be our last chance for 3 years.
Thanks again to all of you who have made our return trip possible. Keep praying.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Tuesday, April 30, 2013