Thursday, December 31, 2015


This year's Christmas looks like something from Dr. Seuss!
I’m into my 6th year of blogging with over 155,000 views from all over the world...and as I hit my 300th post, I thought it was time to look back on some highlights, both since the blog’s inception and this year in particular!

Interestingly enough, the most viewed post, rocketing over 1800 views is “Greetings from Mars—or what to do when your missionary returns home.”  Apparently you like knowing about how to handle Martians. Another all-time popular post is "Beyond Bless the Missionaries” (a how-to pray guide perfect for your Sunday Schools and small groups). My sister’s writing always makes me chuckle, and you agree with over 1200 views on her article “Are you the artist?” which refers to her challenges growing up as my younger sister... My adventures when on home assignment have been chronicled extensively, but you all find “When Moses comes to church”  to be one of your top reads.
In the tropics, time flies. Without having the change of seasons, it's hard to mark the passing of months...and now here we are at the end of 2015!

My chronic fatigue continued to be a major player in my life this year, but the causes were finally explained when I traveled to Australia in August, where I was diagnosed with Lymes Disease, along with a bunch of other random illnesses. Thank goodness I now have treatment options and am on the road to recovery! I've reflected on some of the challenges here in the blog as I've wrestled with my identity and purpose here in Papua New Guinea as a perpetually sick person, as well, as how God has chosen to fill my strength with His.

But, the Lord has been faithful as I've taken it one day at a time. In June I was healthy enough to begin working with the Kamano-Kafe, a large language group here in the Eastern Highlands Province, on Old Testament translation where I encountered Leviticus and such questions as how to translate the fingers of the man cow pig!  And, have you ever heard of an Anti-Radiation Mysterious Mouse Evil Spirit pad? 

The rest of my year filled up with workshops, teaching at the horse paddocks, various veterinary adventures, writing for our Communications Department, and the general excitement of daily life both with Papua New Guinea culture as well as missionary life (many of you liked my musings on singleness).

It's been a remarkable year, but I'm definitely looking forward to 2016! What have been some of your 2015 highlights?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bluetooth it to my phone!

Michael, a sixth grader, pleaded with his friend.  “Please, bluetooth it to my phone! I want to watch it, too!”

Shrugging Michael off, his friend stared transfixed at the video of Jesus translated into Kamano-Kafe. “No, I can’t do that. But my cousin [Lani] sells these SD cards. You go to her house and buy one of your own like I did.”

Michael craned his neck, “Please, send me just one song! Then I’ll go buy it!”

“No! Get your own!”

Early Monday morning, before school, Michael sprinted across the village to Lani’s house. Lani was sitting by the fire, cooking breakfast when he arrived, panting. “Please,” he begged, “Do you sell these SD cards?”

Lani grinned up at him and laughed, “Yes, I do.”

Michael frowned, “No, I’m not being funny—I really mean it. I want to buy one. I really need one!”

Lani nodded, “Yes, I can sell one to you. But it’s 20 kina [Papua New Guinea currency].” Before she was done speaking, Michael had bolted from her yard, back to his parents’ house to ask for the money. He returned in a rush with the kina and left clutching his precious SD card.

Many schoolchildren watch the videos about Jesus on their phones.
As Michael watched the videos about Jesus and listened to songs, all in his own language, the rest of his classmates began asking questions. Lani soon found herself selling SD cards to many schoolchildren, and was asked to sell them on the school grounds during lunch hour. “You must come!” they said. “There are lots of students from other villages, and they keep asking about these videos about Jesus in our language. They need SD cards, too!”

Later, Lani shared about the importance of the audio and visual recordings. “The young men and women need these SD cards so they can hear God’s Word and worship songs in their own language. When they see the videos about Jesus, they become interested, and they [understand because] it’s in their language.”

Lani is the wife of one of the translators, whom I have the privilege of working with every week. Her joy as she told her story was absolutely infectious! I originally wrote this article for the The PNG Experience (our publication site for translation in Papua New Guinea).

*Names changed for security

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When nakedness is...relative

I took a deep breath, looking at myself in the mirror. You can do this, Catherine. Everyone is doing it. It’s fine. You’re fine. I walked toward the door. See? You can do this. Down the hall...were they looking at me?, wait? Yes? They were!!? I glanced down, AGH! How do people do this? I just feel so NAKED! 

Let’s play a game. Which picture was I so worried about looking like?

I'm on the right in a carefully draped sari.
Here I'm going hiking.
The answer is....B! I was in Australia this last time around and was trying to convince myself that wearing jeans with no fabric to wrap around my waist wasn’t going to mark me as an escapee from the red light district.

Modesty is dictated by culture. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), a modest woman is careful to cover herself from her waist to past her knees, not allowing any outline of her thighs or curves to show....but in some places, as long as she’s married and has had kids, topless is quite acceptable!

Traditionally, women wore the grass skirt, or purpur. Nowadays, the purpur is only used for special occasions, like this dedication of a maternity wing at a local hospital.

These purpur are very fancy! (photo taken in Madang)
A classic woman’s dress in PNG is a laplap (a wraparound skirt, like a sarong, that goes to mid-calf or ankles) and a meri blaus (a large baggy shirt that reaches somewhere between the hips and the calves).
Here I am in a meri blaus and laplap

However, with 830 different language and culture groups in PNG, fashions also vary throughout the country.  Out in the islands, it’s common to wear white to church, and sleeveless is reserved for only garden work—puffed sleeves should be worn in the classroom or formal occasions. Out in Western and Gulf Provinces, women skip the meri blaus entirely and wear baggy shirts with skirts or loose capris (or culottes—which is basically a separated skirt). With the influx of Western culture, some towns are a bit more daring—women are starting to wear wide trousers with a short meri blaus just past the hips.

Various styles...from loose capris to culottes to skirts (and we're complaining how our boat driver didn't get muddy at all!)

Appropriate horseback riding attire means I either tie a laplap around my waist or wear a long meri blaus over my jeans or breeches. When I go swimming, I start with a swimsuit...but then I generally throw on a t-shirt (for sun protection) and a pair of men’s board shorts (baggy, down past my knees).

Here's my friend sporting a lovely laplap!

A long meri blaus does the trick.
Men’s clothing rules are a bit freer. Traditionally, men wore only a malo or a loincloth. Nowadays, as long as the clothes aren’t tight (and shorts are around knee length), they can pretty much wear anything (or nothing...), including pajamas, bathrobes, and women’s bright pink blouses! Formal events, like church or workshops, usually find the men wearing button down shirts and long trousers (and in the outer islands, men will even wear a laplap).  Shoes and socks are always optional, of course (most people here wear flip-flops/thongs or just go barefoot).

At the same maternity wing celebration, men wore traditional (and very fancy) dress.

So, you can imagine, after living in a place where my knees haven’t seen the light of day in public for years, wandering past the beaches of Cairns or Hawaii is a bit like diving headfirst into the waters of Antarctica!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"I'm just a man from the village"

“I had been praying for five years that that a revision of the Tok Pisin [Papua New Guinea’s trade language] Bible would happen.”

James, the audio-recording headphones around his neck, leaned back in his chair. “So when I heard that Rich, the translation adviser, requested we come and look over the old Kamano-Kafe New Testament [to see if it needed revision or re-translation], I came to find out. He smiled faintly in remembrance—he had never dreamed that God would answer his prayer through a retranslated Bible in his own language!

For these women, just like James' cousin,
 the audio recordings speak life!
“At that time, my prayer was, ‘Please, God, I don’t have lots of knowledge. I’m just a man from the village. I’m not able to do great ministry among policeman or criminals or doctors or soldiers or men who have lots of education and knowledge or those who live in towns, or even those who live in villages. I’m not able to do that. But, Lord, if I was able to help translate the Bible, well, then the Bible can go to all those corners and meet those people and fit their needs.”

For the last ten years, James worked closely on the translation team, re-translating the New Testament and finally dedicating it at Christmas 2014. But the task isn’t over yet, and now he’s determined that his people will have the Old Testament too, and in this fashion, they have just completed recording the book of Exodus. So, when James’ cousin, an engineer with a big company, called him the previous week and shared with him how much this Kamano-Kafe translation had impacted his life, James’ heart was full.

“When this man shared with me, it confirmed in my heart that what I had prayed for so many years ago has happened. All this work hasn’t been a waste...[God’s Word] has gone out to all kinds of people and it has reached them directly and settled in their hearts. I rejoice how God has answered this prayer!”

I have the delight of working with James every week on the Kamano-Kafe translation of the Old Testament. I originally wrote this article for the The PNG Experience (our publication site for translation in Papua New Guinea).