Monday, January 26, 2015

Off With His Head! (Taking Sunday School to a Whole New Level!)

“Who are you who come to me with a stick and sling like a dog?!” roared Goliath, towering over the tiny David. “You are nothing!!!!” He shook with rage.

And then, his head promptly fell off.
Not again! I peeked above the tabletop, trying to see where his cardboard noggin might have flown to, as the audience roared with laughter.

David's head fell off a couple of times by Rebekah Drew
“I come in the name of the God of Israel!” squeaked David, as I frantically tried to shove Goliath’s head back on his stick body and leaf armor. “And He fights for us!” David whirled a piece of vine above his head and sent the tiny stone flying into Goliath’s forehead—knocking off his head once again.

Now, even the cooks had emerged from the fires to find out what the commotion was and were crying, they were laughing so hard. Inga, my puppet partner, and I kept biting back the giggles, as I rewedged the head into the twig.

 “Victory!” crowed David, wiggling in a happy dance. “The God of Israel has won!” David picked up the pocket knife and attempted to saw off the head of the fallen Goliath...but now the head wouldn’t come off. Finally, Inga jumped up and jerked the head off. “Hooray!!!”

Inga and I, along with three other teammates, were leading a two-week Sunday School book production and teacher training workshop for 50 Sunday School teachers from the Tiaang and Tigak languages on Djaul Island, New Ireland Province this past September. Throughout the workshop, teachers not only worked hard on learning translation principles, but also topics including children’s learning styles, skits, songs, personal Bible study, lesson planning, memory verses, games and even puppet shows.

Three-legged obstacle-course races! photo by Rebekah Drew
Most of the teachers never had any formal training for teaching Sunday School, nor any personal experience other than perhaps wiggling and poking their friends while an adult gave a lecture. Because ready-made resources are hard to access in many of the remote areas in Papua New Guinea, we showed teachers how they could create fascinating Sunday School lessons using common items found in the village, from sticks and sand to pieces of cardboard to posters made with giant leaves and written in charcoal. We demonstrated how to use pictures, songs, dioramas, posters, object lessons, and even dramas (Inga and I faced off as Elijah and the prophets of Baal, complete with pouring buckets of water on my tiny altar!).

Do you think it's wet enough? photo by Rebekah Drew
The teachers joined in enthusiastically, and by the end of the course, had surpassed our ideas with their creative and moving lessons (such as this drama from a lesson on the Good Samaritan!).

Yes, the pink-thing is a donkey :) Photo by Rebekah Drew
We ran three-legged races (after all, Ruth did tell Naomi, “where you will go, I will go to!”), and broke into teams and filled buckets of water with cupped hands (who wants to be a part of Gideon’s army?).

Who can fill up the pot first? Photo by Hanna Schulz
 But, perhaps the favourite was ‘Brata, Brata, King!’ (meaning, ‘brother, brother, king’ or our version of ‘duck, duck, goose’ to pair with the story of Samuel’s choosing David over his brothers), as twenty-five teachers, from teenagers to 60-year-olds, ran laps around the church yard, squealing with laughter.

The infamous "duck, duck, goose," game! (watch out for the holes dug by the pigs!) photo by Susie Pederson

“Oh my,” gasped Lydia, the grandmother crouched next to me, as we watched the circle of players collapse in hysterics during ‘duck, duck, goose.’ “This game,” she slapped my leg, “this game is the best game ever!”

Monday, January 19, 2015

"There's a Carabiner On My Dog's Leg" (and other vet escapades)

“Catherine! It’s for you!” My housemate leaned back in her chair as I snagged the phone. “Hello, this is Catherine.”

“Hi, it’s *mumble, mumble*. I hear that you know something about vet work and animals.” The voice sounded strained.

 “Uhh, I do what I can.” I sat on the couch. “How can I help you?”

“Well, my dog has a metal clip stuck on its leg.”

“A... what?”

“A metal clip.”

I pressed the phone to my ear. Did I hear that correctly? “Did you say a metal clip?”

“Yeah, like a carabiner.”

I tried to imagine the scenario. This was no small dog, if I remembered correctly “Your dog has a carabiner on its leg?”

“Yeah, that's right. And we can't get it off. And we thought you could help.”

Equine dentist at work!
In Papua New Guinea (PNG) in general, veterinary access is extremely limited, and it’s no different up here at our linguistic centre of Ukarumpa. So, over the past few years (as a result of my background with critters), I’ve somehow become the contact person for many of the medical situations that arise—from urinary tract infections to litter box training to cane toad poisoning and gangrene. I’ve splinted a puppy’s legs, treated hot spots, and advised on cornea scratches, and helped with dog training—in addition to my work with the horses, which has included floating teeth (that’s playing equine dentist), treating arrow wounds and mysterious lamenesses, or trying to reverse secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism (say that 10 times fast!). Last year, Rebekah and I even hopped on the motorbike and played travelling doctor as we ran a vaccination campaign of the centre’s dogs, and this past weekend, I organized for our one accessible vet to come up to perform some surgeries.

Have vaccines (and needles, sterilized water, syringes)? Will travel!

Ukarumpa has everything from chickens and ducks to beef and dairy cattle, horses, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots, cockatoos, and even some exotics. Pets play an important role in maintaining the sanity of Ukarumpa residents, but many also are sources of income, food, rodent control, and security.

But, I’ve never been called about a metal clip on a dog’s leg.

“Uhh, how big is this clip?”

This puppy was going lame, but now he's big, happy, and completely sound!

“How thick?”

“I’d say, medium-thick.”

I see.

Due to our lack of resources and my lack of professional training, solving some of the medical issues is like giving James Herriot a screwdriver and some antiseptic and saying, “have at it!” But, I’m grateful for Google, my medical library (yay for Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice and Where There is No Animal Doctor among others), and a team of vets in US, Canada, and Australia, who occasionally advise me when I get in over my head.

Aww, poor Grommit wearing a homemadeCone of Shame!
In fact, this week was supposed to the second week of several animal husbandry workshops, led by a friend of mine who is a trainer with the Christian Veterinary Mission (read more about my training with this organization here). Animals play a huge role in the life of a PNG village, not only providing sources of income and food, but also interwoven into the very fabric of their culture. Unfortunately, lack of husbandry skills, first aid knowledge, and disease management in PNG villages can wreak havoc on animal populations, with an impact that ripples through the community. We were hoping to lead several workshops this month teaching on the basic management and care of pigs, chickens, and goats, first aid, common diseases, and protecting yourself against animal-to-human diseases (as well as using the time for discipleship, giving opportunities to study the role of illness and disease in the world and God’s response, the importance of life, and our responsibility as stewards for the environment around us). Unfortunately, unexpected health problems for my consultant and primary instructor travelling from the US caused us to cancel the workshops at the last minute. We hope to reschedule them at a later time (perhaps even this year).

A few more questions about the carabiner-dog, and I set off on a quest to find bolt cutters (seeing as it was Sunday morning, what better place to ask around then at church? Although, I do admit that “Hi, how’s it going today? Do you happen to have bolt cutters I could borrow?” is not your normal after-service chit-chat). But, thanks to the Ukarumpa Fire Department, bolt cutters were found, and a dog’s leg was rescued. All in a day’s work!

Until the next phone call...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keeping up!

photo by Hanna Schulz
One of the most memorable moments of this last year occurred during my trip to New Ireland Province, when I was amazed at how God used 15 minutes of silence to impact 50 teachers. I wrote about it in my November newsletter, which I forgot to announce on here! If you haven't gotten a chance to read it, I encourage you to check it out by heading over to this link

Since it's the new year, I'd love to remind you about the various ways you can follow my ministry and hear about what God is doing here in Papua New Guinea.

You can see all my old newsletters on my Newsletters page. If you would like to receive them in your inbox by email (they come out every 3-4 months), go to the Newsletters page and enter your email address in the box at the bottom and click "subscribe."

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Happy reading!

Monday, January 5, 2015


Mud. There has to be something I can be grateful for about mud.

My gum boots were covered in the dark muck as I hauled several buckets of copra to the horses’ feeding area. Every path, every patch of ground was a sucking, squishy swamp that was ready to swallow my shoes off feet in an instant. As we called the herd in from the pasture, the horses picked their way toward us carefully, testing each patch of ground, and some pinning their ears in reluctance, their legs suctioned to the ground.

In fact, it was not unlike my travels in Gulf Province where I experienced mud on a whole new level (let me tell you about that!). But this is Ukarumpa, our linguistic centre, and while it is the rainy season right now, which means we get daily downpours and mud is inevitable, still it’s hard to get used to.
Look at all that water! If I stood next to the waterfall and fence, it would be over my head. Normally you can't see any water from my window, but thanks to rainy season, we've been getting floods!

Come on, Catherine. Be thankful. What good is there about mud?

I stared at it, frowning.

“Well, I guess the grass looks that much greener next to it.”

Trekking through Gulf by Debbie Petterson
As I look back on the last year, I see a lot of mud-like events that are hard to be grateful for—multiple injuries and unresolvable health issues including “chronic fatigue syndrome” (the combination of which have resulted in this blogging silence of the last 6 weeks), tribal conflict around Ukarumpa resulting in evacuation of the horses, many transitions, goodbyes to family and friends, difficult village trips, being the victim of an armed robbery and assault (don’t worry, I’m fine), a hard-hitting betrayal, various job pressures and tensions and more.

They have been dark and squishy and have clutched at my legs and slowed me down until I’m too tired to move, and just when I think I’ve got myself cleaned up again, I find myself spattered with more.

But, next to the mud, the grass is so much more luxurious and brilliant than ever before. And this year has had its “green” moments too: amazing workshops, watching God reach down and touch people, beautiful friendships, precious time with family, opportunities to worship and serve all around the world and in ways that I never could have predicted. I suppose even the mud has been useful...after all, what’s better than calf-deep muck for teaching perseverance, focusing on one step at a time, and remembering to look up and keep perspective!

It does have its consequences; I’m really not sure how this year is going to unfold as I continue to puzzle through my exhaustion and health challenges and deal with the repercussions of the chaos of the last six months.

But I know where there’s mud, there will also be grass. And where there’s grass, (at least here in Papua New Guinea) there will be flowers. Maybe even wild orchids.

And that I can be grateful for!