Saturday, March 29, 2014

Standing in New Life

I’ve just finished up an intensive Wilderness First Responder course, where I’ve been learning about everything from snake bites to concussions to basic splints. The training will be extremely helpful when I’m in the villages of Papua New Guinea—but thankfully, it’s not all up to me! We have a fantastic clinic in Ukarumpa with highly regarded doctors and nurses (and even dentists!) who are able to provide excellent health care not only for missionaries like myself, but also for my national friends. They are a critical part of the team bringing the translated Bible to Papua New Guinea. Enjoy this story I wrote last year after interviewing one of our doctors, Dr. Jeff.


One of the rooms in the UHC!
Dr. Jeff had never seen anyone like this before.

Like stewards carrying a royal litter, the men gently lowered the chair onto the floor of the clinic. The elderly man’s eyes hid the pain as his family members bustled around him. “Please, will you help us?” they pleaded. “He can’t walk.” Why isn’t he on a stretcher? Dr. Jeff wondered—then realized the man couldn’t straighten his legs. He was bent in the shape of the chair! Crippled in that position for nearly five years, he had sought help from doctors around the country but without success. The Ukarumpa Health Clinic was his last desperate chance.

What could it be? On a hunch, Dr. Jeff ordered a lab test, gave him some medication, prayed with the family, and sent the chair-bound man home. Would it work? Only God knew. Incredibly, when he returned a week later, the pain had decreased! Over the next few months of treatment, the pain subsided completely, and the man regained slight movement in his knees and wrists. With a fierce determination, the man tackled the painful rehabilitation process with unparalleled tenacity. At one point, he lay down on his house floor with a rope tied around his feet. His wife tossed the rope over a roof beam, attached a weight to the other end to pull his legs straight, and then sat on his knees to press them flat! After a year of medication and therapy, he finally was able to stand up and walk. Joy radiated from his face—he had a new life!

2,000 years ago, when a paralysed man was lowered through a roof, Jesus showed Himself to be God by offering new life both physically and spiritually. This holistic testimony continues today through Bible translation and medical care, and the results are the same—“all were amazed and praised God exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”” (Mark 2:12)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Thousand-Year Day

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 2 Peter 3:8

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in the United States for seven months. It’s hard to believe that I’m going to be in Papua New Guinea for another couple of years. Every time I come or go, the world left behind trickles into timelessness—close to my heart, yet always just beyond my grasp and I struggle for clarity. I hate it. Was that only days ago? Or...years?

image courtesy of

Time is a strange thing. It flies, it crawls, it’s counted, it’s spent, it’s wasted, it’s saved, it can be found and it can be lost, it can be set aside and it can be squandered, but in reality, we never know what to do with it. It catches us off guard, surprising us and chasing after us, as if we were foreigners struggling with a different language or a different food, eventually becoming acclimated, but never fluent—as if, we weren’t meant for time. Master and servant, precious and hated, we count down those twenty-four hours, or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds—and wonder at what could be beyond the ticking of the clock.

Outside of time, He stands (or perhaps time is inside of Him), a place where past, present, future become as meaningless as if starfish tried to describe the sky. Thousand years or one day? The equation balances into equal importance.

Two thousand years ago, or, by this new reckoning, two days ago, Jesus walked the earth. He was three days in the tomb, and Jonah spent three nights in the whale—three thousand years, an agony for them! Time breaks under eternity’s weight like a sieve, and days are hung with thousands of years like washing left on the line—the day my sister took her 33rd step, or Napoleon was crowned emperor, or my mother thanked the mailman, or I left for Papua New Guinea, or Jesus died.

A year here—minutes there. I ache with the effort of this time-bound land. Eternity seems so slow in coming. For out there, the clock is silent.

And yet, He reaches in, scoops up earth, and speaks light into being.

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Genesis 1:5

And I wonder...what might He do tomorrow?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mary Poppins and Packing

Packing for overseas travel seems easy at first. The principle is simple, after all:

Have stuff. Have suitcase. Put stuff in suitcase.

But it never works out quite like that. Oh no.

It all starts with the heap of stuff—stuff gathered after hours of analyzing costs of xanthan gum on this website versus that website and putting together Amazon orders filled with everything from livestock suturing tools to gluten-free bouillon cubes to several years worth of vitamins until the UPS man is on a first-name basis with your dogs and the shelves of the basement “packing zone” are overflowing.

With Mary Poppins playing in the background and three dogs watching eagerly, I dragged everything into the middle of the rug, and divided everything into carry-on versus checked. It’s like the separating of the sheep and the goats, I decided.

Many stages of packing....
Then came my favourite part. While I could never look at the pile of stuff and give you an accurate estimate of how many items there are (10 and 30 look about the same to me) or what the snorkel weighs or how many millimeters long the book might be (my dad can do that), I can with pretty consistent accuracy, tell you whether or not it will all fit spatially.

And my pile was going to fit. Even more, by the time I had finished and Mary Poppins was dancing on the rooftops with the chimney sweeps, not only did it all fit in my checked bag, but there was quite a bit of room to spare. Success!

Or not. Because my bag was 10 lbs over the checked weight limit.

The heaviest items were pulled out immediately (think bags of gluten-free flour)—but I soon realized that the smaller volume available in my carry-on was not going to accommodate a pure weight transfer.
Such a fun game! Image courtesy of

Suddenly, it all became like a Tower of Hanoi game, but instead of switching the wooden rings in and out with the speed of a county fair game attendant, I was playing with ounces and volume and my mom’s bathroom scale. 2.4 pounds of bulky clothes in the carry-on could trade for some smaller jars of vitamins and xanthan gum...

Back and forth I’d drag the checked bag to the bathroom where I could confirm my progress (only another 8 ounces to go!), the dogs trailing at my ankles, until finally the scale read triumphant! I collapsed on the couch and watched Mary Poppins float away on the clouds, effortlessly carrying her bottomless carpetbag.

Next time, I vote for one of those!

Lift-off! After seven wonderful months at home, it’s time for me to head back to Papua New Guinea. Over 13,000 miles, 8 airports, 3 countries, 32 hours of flight time, and three weeks of travel—it’s going to be fun and crazy and exhausting. Here’s my itinerary for the next few weeks! 
  • Mar 14: Leave Minnesota for Hawaii
  • Mar 17: Start Wilderness First Responder course in Hawaii
  • Mar 28: Leave Hawaii for Australia (connecting through New Zealand...and missing Saturday as a result of the international dateline)
  • Mar 30: Meet up with my colleague, Hanna, in Cairns, Australia April 4: Fly to PNG!