Monday, May 26, 2014


“Thanks for the meal, Catherine!” My friends leaned back from the table in satisfaction, and I grinned. It was early on in my home assignment this past August to the United States from my work in Papua New Guinea (PNG), and I was glad to finally be hosting friends again.

“You’re most welcome!” I jumped up to clear some of the dishes, then turned back to my friends. “Now, what would you like to drink? I have green tea, black tea, chai, milo, coffee (it’s even from PNG!)...”

No one answered. One lifted his hand to shade his eyes from the noonday sun and blinked, confused. “Something to...drink?”

My hand froze on its way to the hot drink cupboard as I realized my blunder. Hot drinks are not for hot afternoons.

“Or not!” I smiled brightly. “Shall we go sit outside to visit?”

Although some might argue that the US produces many tea-happy individuals, its preoccupation with tea in comparison to other countries is like a dripping faucet held next to Niagara Falls. Here in PNG, tea (or any other hot drink) is sipped at breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, evening, night, and every time you stop by someone’s house, even if only to drop off the scale you borrowed the week before. In Ukarumpa, our linguistic centre, we even sound a bell every 10 am and 3 pm to remind everyone to stop and observe the sacred 15 minute tea break. Our store dedicates nearly half an aisle (a tremendous space!) to boxes of tea and coffee (“I’m turning into a coffee snob,” one of my friends sighed the other day, “No more Folgers. Only PNG coffee for me!”), and many people fill the nooks and crannies of their suitcase with tea bags. Nearly every house has an electric water kettle (I didn't even know what one was before coming here!), and the temperature outside is never an issue—as long as the water in the cup is hotter than the water outside, life is good.

Since I’ve returned to PNG, tea has also taken on another meaning...this time as an acronym for Translators Exploring Allocations. In April, when my colleague, Hanna, and I returned and realized what a daunting task it would be to narrow down the 300 remaining language groups in Papua New Guinea asking for Bible translations to the one that we would serve (called an allocation), we decided that a support group was necessary. A week later, we gathered all the other linguists and translators searching for a language group and began praying together; TEA-time was born. Since then, we’ve been meeting several times a week to drink tea and hear from various directors and leaders to share about their areas so we might see what God would lay on our hearts. It’s been a tremendous encouragement to me (especially when my injured shoulder continues to prevent me from serving in village workshops) and exciting to watch how God is working through these humble gatherings.

Perhaps you’d care to join me for tea?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"I have to try"

One of my jobs in Papua New Guinea is to interview fascinating people and write their stories to be shared by our Communications department. The other week, I was privileged to sit down with Yasu Opune. At first, he was a bit quiet, but as we visited over a cup of tea, he suddenly began to open up about his passion--literacy for his people. When the when time came for me to write the story, I had a terrible time figuring out what quotes of his *not* to say!

“I think I’ll have to try.”

For three years, the women of Yasu Opune’s village had been praying for someone to teach them how to read the translated Gadsup Bible, when God laid it on Yasu’s heart to teach a literacy course. “I had only taken a basic literacy workshop,” he explained, “but I soon had 174 participants and four classes!”

A few years later, Yasu attended LLEAD (Leadership, Literacy, Education and Development), a two-year program in literacy-based transformational development. “Before I went to LLEAD, I thought literacy was for reading and writing only.” Yasu spread his hands apart, “But it actually covers a wide area. Literacy impacts every part of the things we do; it’s what makes people become poor and what makes people become rich. It’s what makes them become a believing Christian, and it’s why they don’t know Jesus. LLEAD led me to the top of the mountain, and now I can see the world.”

Yasu hopes he can soon hand the Gadsup literacy program to the local teachers. “God has answered their prayer and used me as His channel to help them. But, there are many other places that have needs. What seed God has given me, I have to plant it in the right soil!”

Now, Yasu spends much of his time teaching literacy courses around the Highlands, often using his own money, and when that runs out, praying that God would provide the resources. “God is the provider, and He keeps blessing me and using me, so I need to keep helping these communities.” In May, Yasu will be leading a literacy course among the Binumarian, a neighboring language group.

“In Binumaria, they have translated the Bible already, but no one can read it.” Yasu explained. “That’s the problem—literacy needs to come first, otherwise how can they read the Bible? My goal is that at the end of the course they will be able to understand God’s Word and be able to testify...and the Lord will receive glory from this. But I don’t start directly. I go indirectly. I find out what their needs are, then I work out a plan for training.”

Yasu leaned forward, his eyes bright and passionate, “If it’s God’s will, I will continue to go out whoever has a need. I must try to keep sharing and help others.”

Will you pray for Yasu and the Binumarians as they start this new literacy course on Friday, May 16? Pray also for Yasu’s financial support, as well as for an ongoing illness that often tries to discourage him. “If God wants me to do this work, He will help me. Please pray,” Yasu shared.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother's Day Bouquet

Papua New Guinea has gorgeous flowers. Every time I wander outside my house, I am in awe of the orchids that just tumble along the edge of the road, the bougainvillea that becomes so prolific that people start hacking off chunks to save their pathways, or the frangipani that drops so many blossoms that the air becomes thick with its fragrance. Papua New Guineans love to have flowers around their houses, and if a wild flower appears in their garden, they will plant their vegetables around it, savoring its beauty. 

It's Mother's Day, and throughout the US, husbands and children are raiding florists,  grocery stores, and dandelion patches to find the perfect bouquet of flowers to show their love. Yet, for many, this holiday of rejoicing is frayed with pain--motherhood denied despite countless queries, relationships torn by the darkness of this sin-bound world, and even by things considered good--things like trekking off to another part of the world for years at a time to serve in Bible translation.

The LORD is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
 Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die....
But the love of the LORD remains forever
    with those who fear him.
Psalm 103:13-15, 17 

 “I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them
 I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he will blossom like a lily."
Hosea 14:4-5

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.
Luke 12:27-29

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul.
 Psalm 23:2-3

See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come!

Song of Songs 2:11-12

  Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
...There the LORD will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands,
    and encourage those who have weak knees.
Say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
    He is coming to save you.”
 Isaiah 35:1-4

He is coming to save you.

Its no trite phrase to His beloved, but a promise we can cling to whether emotions on Mother's Day are drowned or celebrated in chocolate. Because, there are two things in this earthly world that are eternal; two things that we know will last past blurry skype calls or tissue boxes: people and the Word of God.

The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

Thanks to my colleagues who have willingly shared their photos; I don't have all your names, but I am grateful!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Day I Rode the Ambulance Home

I’d like to say it was done as I used my super-cool ninja moves to fight off a pack of saber-toothed tigers attacking sobbing kindergarteners. Or maybe that I was scaling a sheer cliff without a rope to catch some escaping thieves and my fingers slipped. Even something like shoving a dingy off into the ocean to begin a language survey would be more interesting.

But no. My boring story of a shoulder injury likely comes from hauling around luggage and shoving my backpack into overhead compartments in multiple airplanes a month ago. After some massage therapy and rest, the pain subsided and I thought all was merry with the world (albeit some stiffness and limited range of motion that I thought would work out with time).

Our ambulance!
But, when the stiffness didn’t leave, I found myself in our clinic’s waiting room two days ago, hoping to see Dr. Carl who could then suggest some exercises or perhaps refer me to our occupational therapist for some treatment. It should only be about 10 minutes, I thought, and then I can be on my way.

So I chatted with the nurses and we caught up on Ukarumpa news until the doctor arrived, and he asked questions, poked and prodded. “Any pain?” he queried as he manipulated my arm. “Nope, just a bit stiff,” I responded, puzzled because I suddenly felt a bit dizzy....

...and the next thing I knew, I was waking up from some crazy dreams with several doctors and their stethoscopes peering at my face and a whole bunch of other people in the room. I’m on a table. Why am I on a table? Why am I in the clinic? Why are all these people here?

Then it all came back. My shoulder!

Apparently, my body was not about to let anyone mess with that injury! But, I suppose if one is going to black out, collapsing into a doctor’s arms in an exam room would be the place to do it! I ended up spending a good two hours in the clinic as our very capable doctors and nurses rehydrated me (esp. when I started throwing it all up), got things stabilized, set me up on a course of meds and shoulder exercises, and tried to puzzle out why the pain (that I couldn’t feel) would be so severe that I might suddenly drop to the floor. I was definitely the excitement of the morning!

As I was driven home in the ambulance with orders to take it easy, I thought back to my morning devotions, where I had so blithely offered God my day’s to-do list that might accomplish what He wanted and not what I had planned, while simultaneously asking that He would help me have a day of rest...

I guess I got my answer!
Buddy was very glad that I spent the day with him

For those of you wanting all the details, my injury is a soft-tissue injury of the trapezius and a secondary shoulder impingement, and thus doesn’t require surgery or a trip to Cairns at the moment. The doctors are optimistic about my prognosis, and I’m meeting with an occupational therapist here in Ukarumpa to plan the rehab over the next few weeks. In addition, it "just so happened" that we have a  physical therapist who is here briefly for other reasons but was able to do a more thorough exam and give me direction for treatment. Buddy, our dog, was very pleased with my day of unexpected cancellations and appointed himself Chief Rest-Enforcer.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

There's a gecko in my closet!

 There was a gecko in my closet.

We peered at each other, before he flicked his tail and darted somewhere in between my skirts and sweatshirt. Of course, such an event needs to be documented--and what better than a children's poem? And since children's poems must be illustrated, here are some 3-minute sketches for your enjoyment.


There’s a gecko in my closet—I think he likes my clothes.
But, he’s picky ‘bout his sizes. Too big and no sticky toes!

There’s a gecko behind my towel—perhaps he wants a shower?
Good thing today is sunny—he’s using up my solar power!

There’s a gecko on my ceiling; he’s perching upside down.
I wonder what he thinks of us, all hanging from the ground?

There’s a gecko in my soup! He fell down from the rafters!
He's trying for the circus, but we scream instead of laughter!

There’s a gecko in my bookshelf, between the cookbook and the grammar.
He’s practicing his read-aloud—no more croaking stammer!

There’s a gecko in the water dish, just going for a swim
My dog is really thirsty, but is terrified of him!

There’s a gecko ‘tween my pots admiring his green reflection.
Please sir, what’s for dinner? Will moths be your selection?

There’s a gecko on my window; he’s listening to the drums
I can see his feet a tapping and hear him start to hum!

There’s a gecko in my light, basking in the heat.
Perhaps he’s on vacation with an icy treat?

There’s a gecko crawling down my wall; I think he sees a snail!
Watch out Mr. Gecko!
And now, there’s just a tail.