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Friday, April 20, 2018

UPNG Graduation trip - day 3 Graduation (Friday)

What a day we had today.  It was graduation day and our new missionaries were graduating from the University of Papua new Guinea.

Beautlyn, Tanya, & Elidah (with the feather headdress)
The girls wanted to get to campus by 6:30 am, so we planned that Elton would pick me up first at 5 before picking up the girls.. so I set my alarm to ring at 4 am, but later I discovered that it was an hour off and I actually got up at 3.  It was too late then to go back to bed. So, I started the day tired, but had more time to spend with God and to get my head straight for the day.
Tanya & mum in the back, Beautlyn & auntie in middle

We picked up Beautlyn & Tanya & drove to the campus, and they looked beautiful!

It was great fun to walk around and see people, especially former Student Life students (from our ministry on campus) who were graduation.

Elidah marching with the other graduates
The graduates, being led by some traditional dancers, all marched down the hill to the graduation area.

We (Elton, Tanya's mom, & Beautlyn's auntie) found a tree that overlooked the graduation tents and camped under it.  We forgot to bring any chairs, so we had to stand or take turns sitting on a piece of concrete that happened to be there.  Even though we were under a tree, it was still quite hot.  But it was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we had the parents dinner last night so that I had friends to stand with.  

Here is a short video showing where we were, what we could see, and the thousands of people that were there.  As you see at the end, we could see them giving the degrees to the graduates, but we couldn't hear or recognize who each graduate was.

At the end of the day (4 pm), I was wiped out!  My feet were killing me from standing/walking for 5+ hours (I chose to wear dress shoes and my feet don't generally like shoes), but I'm really glad to have been able to go and to celebrate with Tanya, Beautlyn, and Elidah!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

UPNG Graduation trip - day 2 Thursday

Elton & Dianne waiting for our guests.
Tonight we invited our 5 national missionaries and the parents of the 3 new missionaries out for dinner.  My goal for the night was for the parents to get to know us (our senior missionaries and myself) and our ministry, and for me to get to know them a bit.  We got there early not sure of what it will be like - and in the end, things went extremely well and everyone was encouraged!  (Please click on the photos to see larger images).

Beautlyn brought along her mom and grandfather

Tanya brought along her mom and brother

Elidah brought along her mom & dad
I shared about Kaylynn & myself and our history raising 4 kids in the Pacific islands (I gave them all a photo of Kaylynn & I since she wasn't there).  I also shared, with Elton's prompting, that we as a ministry focus on Jesus' Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) which says to "make disciples of every nation" ("ethnos" = people groups, of which PNG has over 830) - we focus on discipling believers & training them to share their faith, disciple others, and train others to find disciples of their own.  We are working at the University because the country's future leaders will come from it and most people groups (over time) are represented there.

After I shared, I left the conversation hang a bit to see what would happen.  One by one, all the parents shared how they felt when their daughter told them God was calling them to full-time ministry... and how they felt about it now.  They were very honest, most saying that they were initially worried, concerned, or angry.  All of them talked about how their relatives wanted to be "paid back" for helping to pay for the girls' education.

Elton and I both shared (Dianne had to leave early) how our parents responded at first.  It also helped that I had 3 daughters and I shared how I knew how hard it was let them go out on their own (harder than with sons).  The 3 girls also shared how God led them to join our ministry and how hard it was to tell their parents.

In the end all the parents expressed support for their daughter and what she was doing.  One parent shared with me afterwards that they appreciated my sharing how God has used me over the years in the Pacific, shewing that my commitment to the Pacific islands is long term.  Another parent shared how honored they felt with their daughter being the first person from both sides of her family to become a missionary.  Another parent shared how they see this calling by God to be a higher calling, and that even though the relatives were hoping to be repaid, in the end what their daughter was doing was going to impact others for eternity.  Another parent shared how they are convinced that many new missionaries will join with us in the future through these girls.

We hung around and went outside and took lots of photos.  It was obvious that everyone was encouraged and not eager to get away.  

Personally, I enjoyed talking to the men, Elidah's father and Beautlyn's grandfather.  Both are godly men and I found myself greatly encouraged!

UPNG Graduation trip - day 1 Elton (Wed & Thur)

The day we fly to PNG is always a very long day (with lots of naps).  This trip, I woke up at 2:30 am, caught my shuttle to the airport at 3:30, checked in for my flight at 4:30... and then called Kaylynn and woke her up and pleaded with her to get out of bed and bring me my wallet that I left at the house (I can't function in PNG without money).  She was wonderful and did this for me, and 30 minutes later it was good to see her again (briefly) as she drove past me holding my wallet in her outstretched arm out the window of the car.

I arrived in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) at 1:30 pm (3:30 pm NZ time) and  Elton & Dianne were waiting for me - with wonderful smiles!  They drove me to my guest house and left me there.  I needed to get my head straightened out and to make a plan for my time in PNG (only 8 days).  (I'll count this day as day 0)

The next day (day 1) Elton picked me up and we spent all day together.  We talked about lots of stuff, including the need to him to work full-time on his support and pull himself off of campus for a few months.  I was pleased to hear that he was thinking the same.  So this is what we are going to do, we just have to figure out how to keep his disciples engaged and motivated without him being around.

Elton is part of an Oceania leadership training over the next 2 years, with the first week starting in New Zealand at the end of May (it will be exciting to introduce him to all the family and our church - many of whom have been praying for him!).  So we went downtown to the NZ Immigration service together and submitted his application for a NZ visitor's visa.

We then went to campus (UPNG) to meet up with his disciples, and then headed back downtown to IRC (like the IRS or IRD) and met with a person who was investigating a tax issue we have.  We saw her, and things are not all sorted, but we refreshed her mind with who we are and had several things clearly explained to us, which is very helpful.

Tonight we are taking our 3 new missionaries and their parents out to dinner to get to know each other.  I'm a bit nervous, but excited at the same time.  I'll write about that in the next blog.

Thanks so much for praying for us!!  We really appreciate it!


Thursday, April 5, 2018

PNG Easter Conference trip - Last full day: "Not Somehow, But Triumphantly!"

This is the last full day of our trip.  This is the day of frantically trying to attend to all the details of ministry that need a personal (not online) touch.  Some of these details were planned for yesterday, but alas...

Eva Puipui’s (our former PNG director’s wife) sister died and her funeral was yesterday afternoon.  Funerals here are longer than in the U.S. or New Zealand.  We left the funeral early after almost 4 hours.  (There was probably another hour or so to go.)  Eva’s sister and brother-in-law have been instrumental in supporting and helping our PNG ministry and our young staff team here.  The brother-in-law is a busy and influential pastor, but has taken time out for such things as taking our staff to the airport in the early morning.  He's also come to some of our programs, doing things like giving prayers of dedication for graduating students.  Our hearts go out to him as he deals with his great loss.

As I’m writing this, Dan is flitting around to do banking, meeting with Elton, modeling leading a discipleship group, hashing out issues of taxes with the PNG government, getting the ministry van inspected for road fitness, etc.

The girl who discipled me in high school had a saying, “Not somehow, but triumphantly.”  It’s based on that verse in 2 Cor. 2:14 that says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”  So, my prayer for Dan today is that he’ll depend on God...and smell good!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PNG Easter Conference Trip - Easter Weekend: "Smashing Walls!"

 Dan leading one of his 6 seminars
"Smashing Walls" was the theme of this year's conference.  Of course, Jesus smashed the biggest wall of all when He made a way for sinful man to get to a holy God.

My personal wall for this conference was having the energy and clarity to come up with and deliver the 3 devotional talks I was tasked with.  (The 3 hour earlier time difference on top of getting here just the day before the conference started didn't give much leeway for foggy brains.)  Dan also has a similar story to tell.  However, I think our PNG staff had the biggest wall to smash through with regards to this conference.  It seems the common thread of all conferences that the staff organizing it are pretty much over-taxed and exhausted by the end of it.  I feel bad that Dan and I weren't able to be here a few days earlier to help out practically with the on-the-ground prep-work.  That being said, God did some big things in the hearts of our students this year.

As we went through the written feedback from the conference, it looks like 7 students became Christians.  Many more learned what it meant to walk with God and the importance of being involved in small group discipleship.  One student in particular couldn't seem to get over being amazed at the truth of God's love and forgiveness for him personally!

Learning how to share their faith and then going out to a nearby marketplace to practice seemed a favorite part of the conference for many of the students.

Even though there were many details of this conference that we could have improved upon, it's wonderful to know that God's Spirit can smash through and cause His work and purpose to be done.  Easter is all about Jesus' light conquering the darkness.  We got to see the personal darkness of the 7 of our students conquered when they trusted Jesus to be their Saviour, as well as the 36 others that did the same on our day of outreach.

Our prayer is that the darkness in PNG will keep being pushed back and that the Light of Jesus will keep getting brighter...especially on the campus of UPNG!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

PNG Easter Conference Trip - Day 1: "Comings and Goings!"

As we’re paused here in Brisbane, Australia, awaiting our flight to Papua New Guinea, I can’t believe all the farewells and hellos of this last month.

During a dinner honouring our outgoing director (Don and Kathryn Mansfield) and welcoming our new director for the Pacific Islands (Justin O’Malley and his wife Heather), I had yet again another gall stone attack.  It resulted in a 5-day hospital stay and farewelling a toxic gall bladder.  It was my first surgery, and Dan’s first experience as the support person.  (He, of course, has been the patient many this was a complete exchange of roles.)  All is well.  New Director, new team (the Islands have been merged with the New Zealand ministry), an empty space in my body (and a loss of 10 lbs. that I’m trying to keep off.)

We also sent our passports off to Wellington (New Zealand’s capital) to the PNG High Commission to get our entry visas placed in them.  After months of supplying Papua New Guinea with info, and a packet of money, we found out (by chance) that the High Commission in Wellington was waiting for our passports.  We were uninformed.  We also were about to embark on this trip to PNG for the student Easter Conference.  We telephoned to see if we could just enter the country as usual with a visitor’s visa.  We were THEN informed that we were already in their system and if we entered as a “visitor,” our long-term visa would be canceled and we’d have to begin all over again.  SO, we said good-bye to our passports for a few days, and paid for a courier to return them to us.  We greeted our passports last night at 6:30pm.  (We left for the airport at 3:30am.)  That was cutting it close...which caused much prayer and “funny tummys.”

In all this business of change, adapting to new circumstances, etc., I’m hanging my hat on the truth that God doesn’t change.  He’s the same kind, sovereign, powerful, faithful Father that He’s always been...and He wins over all the darkness and uncertainty of life.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Feb. 2018 PNG Trip - "Dan's Dad Always Said..."

As we finish up our stay in PNG, it's always a rush to try and get everything accomplished before the airplane takes off for home.

Yesterday, we should have remembered what Dan's dad always said, "Just think of the next thing."  We were trying to think two steps ahead of where we were and arrived at the mall (which houses a post office, office supplies, grocery store, etc.) with our list of tasks and realized we forgot to bring our money (as well as driver's license and credit card.)  Oops.  We missed that step!  We had to retrace our steps, calm ourselves, and begin again.

Here we are, packing up, with one meeting to go before going to the airport.  It's always a crazy time of wondering if we did all God intended for us to do...Did we choose the right things to attend to?  That's when it's a comfort to remember Who is in charge.  We are just God's servants, doing the best we can.  We take great encouragement from the fact that so many people are praying.  As we leave, and the country of PNG gets smaller in the distance, our staff seem so vulnerable...until we remember Who it is that has their back.  This ministry stuff is definitely God's business, and if we hold on to that, then whatever happens will be gold, silver, and precious stones...not wood hay and stubble.  We just have to look to Him for our next (and each) step, one at a time.