Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Race to the Fenceline!

Yay for horse camp!
“Ready? Chestnut! Find a chestnut!”  The kids, scattered in the grass under the eucalyptus tree, scrambled for their books and magazines, racing to be the first to identify the horse color. “I got it!!” hollered Aisha, “Here’s a chestnut!”

“Very nice” Isaac, one of the Ukarumpa Pony Club youth leaders, grinned. “One point to your team! Now for the next color...ready?”

Isaac and his fellow youth leaders were developing their teaching and horsemanship skills as they helped lead a horse camp that I organized for the younger kids in the Ukarumpa community earlier this year. Horse health, colors, breeds, tack-cleaning, riding lessons, feeding and more were on the schedule as the kids learned more about themselves through horses.

Kids of all ages get to participate! photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy
The Ukarumpa Pony Club has been around for decades, serving the youth and adults from dozens of countries who have come to work here in Papua New Guinea in Bible translation.  For many adults, the Pony Club is a valuable break, providing stress release and emotional/mental care from the rigors of life here, as well as a recreational athletic activity. (Those sorts of things are harder to come by here, especially for women who deal with more restrictions here—we can’t just spontaneously leave centre and go to the park for a run or the pool or head to the mall or the movie theatre or the coffee shop or even less exciting places like a gas station!) For the children, it promotes character development, responsibility, teamwork, sportsmanship, and communication skills, and for many, the horses encourage emotional stability as the kids deal with the many transitions and aches of missionary life.

As someone who has been involved with horses for her whole life, I’ve found the Pony Club to be extremely valuable for me in keeping me sane :) , as well as a great ministry opportunity as I teach riding and horsemanship to dozens of kids and adults, and care for the medical needs of the herd. In particular, I remember one adult Papua New Guinean student who had never been on a horse before....

Firewood and a young rider competing in a gymkhana
photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy
“I don’t know, I’ve never done this before,” Dana* admitted as she put her foot in the stirrup. “Firewood is a good soul,” I reassured her, “he’ll take care of you.” Dana took a deep breath and swung her leg over.

“Now, I just want you to focus on breathing and feeling his footfalls,” I instructed. “I’m holding the lunge line, so he won’t go anywhere. If you can, I even want you to close your eyes.”

Dana looked at me askance. “Okay....if you say so.” She squeezed her eyes shut, as she clung to the front of the saddle. But, as Firewood plodded slowly around the circle, her body began to relax and a smile broke across her face. “I can’t believe it!” she opened her eyes, and grinned at me, “this is actually so much fun!”

Last November, the Pony Club sustained some significant damage when a local upset village attacked the horses and our facilities and destroyed a good portion of our property, which resulted in us needing to evacuate the horses to a different location for several months. Although we have since returned to our original location, after much discussion our leadership has concluded that the best solution for future peace and protection of horses and participants is to extend the primary Ukarumpa security fence around our pastures, arenas, and barn.

However, as the Pony Club is entirely financed by individual members, we aren’t able to bear the extra expense of this fence alone. Would you consider partnering with us and helping us continue this valuable ministry for years to come?

At this point, we only need another $8,395 for the fence (we’re 57% of the way there!); we’ve been told we need the finances by the end of June. If you’d like to learn more and partner with us, check out our website ( and watch this video: (can you find me? :) I’m involved in 3 different ways in the video!).

Join us in this race to the fenceline!

Go! Go! Go! (and here's your chestnut horse!) photo courtesy of Isaac McEvoy

*Names have been changed