Thursday, March 18, 2010

If you don't speak the language . . .

I'm sitting in the Sydney airport, on my way back to the USA! Awhile ago, I was waiting to get on the plane in Port Moresby, and there was a flight to Hong Kong that was supposed to start boarding any minute. But just when it should've started boarding, the Airport Announcer Person announced that the flight had been delayed, and that more information would be available in half an hour. Most of the passengers, however, stood up and got in line to start boarding as soon as the Announcer Person said, "Hong Kong", which leads me to believe that English may perhaps not be the language they understand best. After they had all been standing there patiently for quite some time, probably wondering why they were not being allowed to get on the plane, an Airport Worker came out and motioned for everyone to sit down. So they sat down, and all was quiet again. Until the Announcer Person said, "Now boarding rows 22-30 on the flight to Hong Kong." Once again, as soon as he said, "Hong Kong", nearly every person in the room stood up and got in line. Now, this is not such an unusual phenomenon in airports. We all seem to harbour a secret fear that some crafty person will somehow get on the airplane before we do, sit in the seat that was supposed to be reserved for us, and leave us behind forever. But what happened next was not entirely usual. As the entire crowd pressed forward to board, Announcer Person said over and over again, "Rows 22-30 only, please. Ladies and gentlemen, now boarding rows only rows 22-30. All other rows please take a seat. Rows 22-30 only at this time." Announcer Person made a noble effort, but it was all in vain. The crowd continued to press forward, and one could not help thinking that rows 22-30 must be enormous rows indeed if all those people were going to fit in them. And then it happened. Just as Announcer Person was beginning to sound a bit frantic, someone stood up and, without even using a loudspeaker, spoke a single sentence that worked like magic on the pressing crowd. Most of them immediately sat down, rows 22-30 began boarding, and Announcer Person ceased his frantic instructions. What was that magical sentence? Actually, I have no idea, because it was in a language I don't understand. But most of the passengers headed to Hong Kong understood it, and hearing it spoken in their language made the difference between a confused crowd with no idea what they were supposed to do, and a calm group of people who knew exactly what was going on. Witnessing the chaos that resulted when nobody understood what Airport Announcer Person was saying made me think . . . how much greater is the chaos in so many people's hearts because they can't understand what the Living God is saying.

And they just announced my flight, in the language I understand best, so I'd better go get on the plane myself. Next time you hear from me, I shall be on the other side of the Pacific!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I had an auction at my house last night. I think I've told you a bit about auctions in Ukarumpa . . . before you leave, you invite all of your friends over to your house and "auction" off everything you don't want to take with you. Everything is free, and the first person to say something gets the item being auctioned. You quickly learn not to make fun of things, after having a few ridiculous items thrown at you because you were the first to open your mouth.

And, even if there are things your friends don't want, somebody is sure to want it because nothing is ever wasted in PNG culture, and very few things are ever thrown away. This morning I put all the stuff that was leftover from my auction out by the road in front of my house. Half of it was already gone by the time I left for the office, and I bet you an ice cream cone that the rest will be gone by the end of the day.

Today is my last day in the survey office. I don't think I quite believe that I won't be back here on Monday morning . . .

Monday, March 8, 2010

Uninvited ants

"Hey, Juliann," my housemate, Joy, accosted me as I walked through the kitchen, "Could you put that sugar in the plastic container? I saw an ant crawling up it." Since Joy was currently in the process of deboning a whole chicken, something I would never even attempt, I was more than happy to take care of the sugar. But when I picked up the bag I saw, to my horror, that the ant had already invited all of his friends, and they had accepted the invitation and arrived along with all of their friends. It was Saturday, so the store wouldn't be open until Monday, and I was very hesitant to throw away all of the sugar in our house, because you really just never know when you might need to make a chocolate cake. So I picked out a few of the more obvious ants, dumped it in the plastic container, ants and all, chucked the whole thing in the freezer and waited for them to die.

They say you go through four stages of bug acceptance:
#1 You see the bug in your food and therefore don't eat the food.
#2 You see the bug in your food, pick it out, and eat the food anyway.
#3 You see the bug in your food and eat it anyway, bug and all.
#4 You see the bug on the table, pick it up and put it in your food for extra protein.

I suppose I've reached stage #3, but I don't plan on advancing to #4 anytime soon!

Friday, March 5, 2010

For sale

Want to have a garage sale without ever leaving your living room? The Ukarumpa intranet "for sale" board will allow you to meet all of your selling-of-old-stuff needs, from the comfort of your own home. Simply send an e-mail to the "for sale board" address, and within minutes your inbox will be flooded with requests from eager buyers, giving you their account numbers and post office box numbers. You can charge their accounts, from the comfort of your own home, by sending an e-mail to the finance office . . . but you do have to venture outside to actually take the stuff to the post office. I have already disposed of quite a few things through this very handy system.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

In this we greatly rejoice

"You . . . joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." ~Hebrews 10:34

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [and mould] destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust [and mould] do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." ~Matthew 6:19-20

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice!" ~1 Peter 1:3-6

I'm currently in the midst of packing for furlough, and deciding what to sell, what to put in storage, and what to take with me. It's really hard, and quite honestly it makes me feel a bit scattered to have boxes of possessions on both sides of the Pacific. During my orientation course when I arrived in PNG over two years ago people often told me, "Hold your possessions loosely." I think I'm discovering how important that is. What if my books mould in the damp climate while I'm gone? What if everything I have in storage gets stolen? There has recently been a lot of theft in Ukarumpa. A lot of people have had things stolen, sometimes even while they are at home asleep. I don't always feel entirely sure that I will wake up in the morning owning the same things I owned when I went to bed the night before. Just this afternoon my favourite sweatshirt was stolen off my clothesline. Frankly, this is a bit scary. I don't like it. I like my stuff and I would prefer to keep it. But it forces me to ask myself, "Do I really believe that I have an inheritance in heaven that can't perish, spoil, fade, mould, or get stolen?" If I do (and I do), then how can I not be willing to put my earthly possessions on the line in order to let more people hear about the inheritance waiting for them in heaven, that is "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine"? Don't get me wrong, I really really hope that I will still own my earthly laptop when I wake up tomorrow morning. But if I don't, is it too great a price to pay when Jesus paid with His life to bring me and the people of Papua New Guinea home to the New Earth where nothing will mould or get stolen?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where is normal?

Furlough . . . it's one of those things you always hear about missionaries doing . . . it means they will come speak at your church wearing odd clothes and show you pictures of themselves eating bugs. I have seen many people come and go from furloughs, but somehow I didn't think it would actually happen to me. In thirteen days, though, I will join the ranks of the furlough-goers and set off on one of my own.

It's kind of an odd feeling, really. I am literally counting down the days until I get to see family and friends at home. But at the same time, I've grown accustomed to life in PNG . . . walking to work on gravel roads, simple choices at the only store, calling my neighbours to borrow chairs from them, asking for butter on the "wanted board" when the store is closed on Saturday, and having friends in my house all the time. When I think about going back to the USA, I can't decide whether I feel like I'm going back to normal life or leaving it behind me.