Friday, January 6, 2012

Coming Home: Mixed Feelings

As many of you know, I am headed “home” to America in a few days. While I was hoping not to return under these circumstances, I still feel a great deal of eagerness at the thought of seeing my passport country again. Below is a list of things I am looking forward to upon arrival. This list is by no means complete, but it might give you a bit of insight into the person who steps off the plane.
  1. Pavement
  2. Driving faster than 20 mph
  3. Going outside without mace
  4. Restaurants
  5. A winter wardrobe
  6. People who understand my accent and do NOT ask me where I am from
  7. Friends who have known me since “way back”
  8. Children I do not teach or will not teach, and can simply enjoy
  9. Experiencing worship in my heart language and culture
  10. Churches with carpet
  11. Anywhere with carpet
  12. Vanilla chai tea lattes
  13. Cherry coke zero
  14. Looking people in the eye when I speak
  15. Single men :)
  16. Unlimited internet access
  17. Christian radio
  18. Current TV shows, books, music, movies, etc.
  19. Fellowshipping with the American Church
  20. My dear family
Many missionary children and cross-cultural adults often struggle with transitions and all the changes transitions can bring. While they look forward to so much, they also grieve some things they are leaving behind with each move. Here are a few things I will miss…
  1. Walking to work
  2. Teaching
  3. Learning from other cultures and perspectives
  4. Community events
  5. The Ukarumpa family atmosphere
  6. Helping others and letting them help me because “we are all we have”
  7. My cat, and yes, the dogs
  8. Not feeling the need to look in the mirror
  9. Sunny, warm days all year round
  10. Being a part of something bigger than myself
  11. Worshipping with believers from many heart languages and cultures
  12. Having people over for dinner and being invited out many times each week
  13. My Bible study girls
  14. The “For Sale Board” :)
  15. Friends who know what homesickness feels like and what it means to always feel at home
  16.  Hearing first-hand accounts of how a tok ples Bible has changed a community for the first time
  17.  CHEAP second-hand shopping
  18. Being surrounded by so many wonderful, content, and godly single women
  19. My first grade class and watching them grow up
  20. The part of my heart that belongs to Papua New Guinea

Friday, March 11, 2011

Showering at the Pacific Orientation Course (POC)

One interesting thing about POC is the shower situation. If you are an experienced camper, these showers may look luxurious to you, but if you are used to your porcelain bathtub, you may be a little uncomfortable with the showers at POC. Here’s what I mean…

First, clean rain water is stored in this white tank. Because there is not enough rain water for all of us to use for both drinking and showering, we are not allowed to use water from this tank for our showers. Our semi-clean shower water is pumped from a nearby river instead.

Some of the river water flows into this brownish black contraption we affectionately call “Martha.” The water sits in the top portion of Martha, awaiting a fire in the lower portion to be built by a staff member or student of POC. When the fire is lit, it takes about 30 minutes to heat the water to a shower temperature. We call this “stoking Martha” or “lighting Martha.” This chore is done twice a day, 6am and 4:30pm (before peak shower times).

Next, the water flows from Martha to these two faucets. When you are ready for your shower, you can fill a buket with your optimal shower temperature water by using the hot and cold water as you please. One buket will give you a five minute shower if you use water sparingly.

If the water is not hot when you turn on the “hot” tap, Martha has not been lit or she needs to be stoked. If this is the case, your shower will need to be postponed until the fire is going in Martha.

After your white bucket is full of water, you will need to carry it to a shower stall and fill the overhead bucket. This metal bucket is crafted with special holes on the bottom to allow water out in a slow and controlled manner. You can turn the bottom part of this bucket to start or stop the flow of water.

(The small showerhead you see in this picture is cold water only. If you like cold showers, you do not have to worry about stoking Martha or filling a bucket, but be warned, this water often stops unexpectedly. If you are all soaped up inside your cold shower when the water stops flowing, you may wish you had filled a bucket!)

When your bucket is full, you can pull the string and secure it to the hook on the right-hand side of the wall. This can be adjusted to whatever height you would like. 

After you have showered, you may want to brush your teeth at the sinks, using the items you have stored in your personal cubby. (My cubby is the very middle one!)

Now you are clean and ready to go back out into the Madang heat. Don’t worry, you’ll be sweaty again in ten minutes and wanting to do it all over again!

The purpose of the “roughing it” atmosphere at POC is to get us ready to live in a village and to make us grateful for the conveniences we do enjoy here in Papua New Guinea. Many Bible translators use showers even more basic than these (or they wash in the river directly). Showering at POC has given me a better perspective of what my coworkers go through on a regular basis.

NOTE: The bathroom I’ve shown here is from my stay in Madang for the Pacific Orientation Course. This is NOT what my bathroom looks like in my house in Ukarumpa. In case you are curious, my regular bathroom at my house looks like this. 

As you shower in your own house today, remember to pray for those working in remote areas with few conveniences. They have learned to sacrifice comfort in order to bring God’s Word to the nations.

Grateful for His Sacrifice,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pacific Orientation Course

I have just recently returned from the Pacific Orientation Course (POC), held in Madang, Papua New Guinea. The purpose of this course is to introduce volunteers and mission workers to the language and culture of the Pacific region they will be serving in. This course is held twice a year (beginning in August and January). While I was apprehensive about the challenges of the course, I enjoyed my time in Madang immensely. In addition to learning Melanesian Pidgin and many cultural aspects of this country, I fell in love with the people I have been called to serve. My heart has been forever impacted through my time at POC.

Daily POC Schedule:

6am – Optional Morning Walk

In order to get in shape for the weekly hikes, many of us chose to get up a bit early to walk down the mountain and back up. This was good for me as I am NOT a morning person! The beautiful walk helped me shed my grumpiness, wake up, and be ready to start the day. J

7am – Breakfast in the Dining Hall

Call me crazy but I loved meal times in the dining hall! All the noise of people eating and children screaming made it feel like we were one big family!

8am – Tok Pisin Classes

By 8am it was time to learn! We all gathered in this classroom for Tok Pisin worship and then split into small groups for instruction. Mipela bin lainim planti samting! (We learned a lot!)

10am – Tea Time/Break

Tea time is very important in the Papua New Guinean work day. Twice a day everyone stops for tea, coffee, and crackers. This was a time to talk, relax, and refresh. I think America could benefit from this custom!

10:30am – Lectures on Anthropology, History, etc.

After our break, it was time for more learning! What do Papua New Guineans believe about the world? How to they view the spiritual realm? How should you respond if you are asked to give someone money? What do Papua New Guineans think of these white-skinned foreigners? What is PNG’s history of government and how does this affect us today? We discussed all these topics and more during this time. Goodness, there’s a lot to learn!

12:15pm – Lunch in the Dining Hall

1pm – Rest Time
This was one of the best parts of the day! Many Papua New Guineans take a nap during the hottest part of the day because it is too hot to work in their gardens or cook food during this time. So, of course, we took advantage of this custom and slept as well! I chose a comfy couch underneath a fan each day and was out like a light.

2pm – Hiking or Lectures

Most days, we had more lectures after rest time but on Mondays we hiked. We all slopped on the sunscreen, slapped on hats, slipped on relatively cool clothing, and sipped lots of water. National men led us through the deep jungles on what they considered an easy walk up and over high mountains. Many of them walk these trails each day to get to their gardens or to come to work at POC. We needn’t worry about the rain because our bodies were drenched with sweat anyway. Although challenging, these two to three hour hikes were worth every step!

4pm – Free Time

Living with 60-something other people can be a lot of fun! When we were not doing our reading assignments, memorizing Tok Pisin dialogues, or listening to lectures, we found ways to have fun with each other. Card games became a fast favorite way to spend some afternoons or evenings.

5:45pm – Dinner

7:30pm – Evening Activities or Homework

9pm – Bedtime!


Saturday – Sunday – Haus Kuk Weekends

Starting a few weeks into the course, we were expected to “fend for ourselves” on the weekends by building a haus kuk (cook house) and preparing our own food. This was similar to camping as we built our own shelter and table, and then cooked on the fire with the food we purchased at a local market or in town. All of this was to prepare us for the village living phase of POC when we would be on our own for five days with similar resources.

Sunday morning – Church at a local assembly or as small groups at POC
Many of us had the opportunity to worship with our Papua New Guinean brothers and sisters at local churches while at POC. I felt particularly blessed to praise the Lord in both English and Pidgin (Tok Pisin). God is moving in the churches here and He is raising up people to follow Him wholeheartedly. I was so blessed to join with them for a few short weeks!

Sunday afternoon – Trip to Jais Aben for swimming and refreshments

We all looked forward to Sunday afternoons at POC. After church, our staff members took us to a resort called Jais Aben for swimming and refreshments. This was a nice change from our camping-style life. We were able to sit outdoors and sip a Coke, go swimming, or snorkel in the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes we even forgot we were in PNG…well, maybe not quite. J

Jais Aben Restaurant

Well, does all of this make you want to come for a visit? J As I said, I really enjoyed my time in Madang at POC and wish it could have lasted longer. Now I am back to business in Ukarumpa and settling back into life here. Please check my blog again for more information about this adventure! I will be adding more posts over the next few days.

Learning and Loving,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Adventure Begins


“I am coming to learn that eating food that tastes good to me is a luxury, rather than a necessity.”

I recently said this to a fellow participant in the Pacific Orientation Course here in Madang. It’s not that there is nothing good to eat; it’s just that there are so many new foods to be exposed to this first week.

“With time you will learn what kinds of things you like from the stores and markets around here.” Missy explained. For years, our faithful cook Missy has been preparing new arrivals (many of them are Westerners) to enjoy Papua New Guinean foods.

“The tin meat in the red can is usually the best, although it costs a bit more than the other brand. It is leaner than other kinds of meat you can purchase and as you will not have refrigeration, this is one of your best options for protein when you go to the village.” My mind had sidetracked when she held up the red can. All I could think was, “Canned meat can’t be that bad, Melissa. Just try it again. It wasn’t so horrible at lunch today when it was mixed with all those other things…”

Of course, canned meat hasn’t been the only stretch for me. Thankfully however, the general idea around here is that we work up to things. Our staff is easing us into all aspects of this course a little at a time. When we first arrived, we ate many comfort foods that Americans were familiar with—pizza, grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti, etc. As time moved on, we were introduced to more and more Papua New Guinean food, although still prepared with many American ingredients. We’ve had sweet potato (called kaukau) with onions in a tomato sauce, pumpkin leaves cooked in coconut milk (kru bilong pumkin), and steamed vegetables called pitpit and taro. The tables have almost always been stocked with ketchup, sweet chili sauce, salt, and pepper—just in case you need to douse any unfamiliar taste to get it down. The best part, in my opinion, has been the lunch trays of fresh pineapple, papaya, and bananas. These dishes are always the first to go empty, leaving hungry eaters wandering to other tables for more.

Fruit bowl!!

Rice cooked in leaves from a coconut tree

As Missy reminded us, “Start small. Feel free to only cook what you are comfortable with. Keep it simple.”

Of course, she was referring to the weekends in which we will be responsible for cooking for ourselves in our outdoor handmade structures over the coming weekends. These days are called haus kuk weekends. From Saturday morning until Monday, we are responsible for planning, gathering, and preparing food for ourselves and our roommates. The kitchen is supplying us with pots, dishes, utensils, jars, tarps, and even a drum oven. Missy assures us that we can cook just about anything in our little haus kuks. She is even giving us a cooking demonstration before we attempt it ourselves.

It’s hard to believe I’m really here sometimes. If you know me at all, you know I am an insecure cook at best. But God is using the weak things in me to prove how strong He is. I do not know why I have been given this opportunity, but I am determined to make the most of it. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as I learn to interact with this new culture.

…Oh, and if you go to a real restaurant this week, please enjoy a dessert for me!  :)


Amanda is looking at the supplies we have to work with

Go Amanda! She’s got talent with the bush knife!

Tami secures a knot to keep the haus kuk strong.

Tyler came by to help. Thanks Tyler!

Trying to dig a hole for one of our posts. This is hard work!

Here’s John helping with the tall parts.

We did it! Now Amanda, Tami and I have our haus kuk built! Maybe we’ll help the guys with their haus tomorrow… or maybe we’ll just cook for them in return!  :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ukarumpa Carnival 2010!

Each October, the Junior High and High School students of Ukarumpa International School put on a fundraiser called Carnival. They use part of the money for class projects and they donate the other half to a charity of their choice. This year, the class donated funds to the nearby School for the Blind.

The theme this year was “County Fair” and it sure looked like one! Activities included…

A pig chase...

Face painting…

Family fun…

A pep band…

A pie and jam judging contest…

Great food..., and of course


Even after everyone had gone home to have dinner after a wonderful day at the fair, many of us came back at night for Australian “bush dancing” and more rides on the lighted Ferris wheel! If you are ever in the our neighborhood during the last Saturday in October, be sure to stop by and experience the Ukarumpa Carnival! You will love it!

Monday, November 1, 2010


The Word of God changes lives.  As the Director of Support Services here in Papua New Guinea, Jerry Walker, writes, “SIL (Wycliffe)’s desire is to see: Papua New Guineans - knowing and living God's Word, leading to changed lives and transformed communities.”
But we have an enemy, and he is desperately trying to stop God’s work from taking place. He is trying to distract us as warriors from where the real battle lies. This past week has felt like hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. But as Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, we can have peace because Christ has already overcome the world. It is with this confidence and peace that I write about what has been happening here on Ukarumpa Centre.
NOTE: Please do not use this information as a “conversation starter” or simply information to pass on to anyone interested. The information we wish to share is about what God is doing to spread His Word—not the negative stories that we could so easily dwell on. If anyone asks how things are going here in PNG, please respond with a positive report about what God is doing here! I hope I have given you many positive stories to choose from. For those of you who battle for us often in prayer, may this information be fuel for your earnest prayers for, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16)
On the 22nd of October, some village leaders from our neighboring community (Ukarumpa Village) arrived on Centre asking to speak with our Director. They had some concerns to bring before our leadership and wanted to be heard right away. To make a point, they forced our security guards out of their posts and made unreasonable demands. To be cautious, we sent our children home from school and went on a kind of “lock down” until the meeting was over. Thankfully, other security guards and many police arrived quickly to help the meeting go smoothly and make everyone more comfortable. While we did not agree with many of their arguments nor could we give into their demands, the meeting ended peacefully and life went back to normal.
On October 27th Ukarumpa Village men came onto Centre and successfully intimidated our Papua New Guinean employees who were working on our water system. Until this water system is completed, our Centre has been drawing water from a river on Ukarumpa Village land, which has been a cause for disputes for many years. Instead of halting construction of the water system, however, more than 80 members and employees pitched in to complete the project in record time. The police were called on the men who tried to cause trouble and they have been warned not to attempt this again.
On the 31st of October a devastating incident occurred. This is how our leadership described the event:
“On Sunday night (31 Oct) local time, an unknown person entered SIL-PNG
Aviation's leased property with a gun. One of the on-duty guards was
shot and killed.

Local police are investigating the shooting, and SIL's private security
contractor has entered into mourning. Currently, the origin of the
assailant is unknown as several local villages have had conflicts with
the security contractor.

SIL members and personnel have closed down operations on Monday, 1 Nov,
to allow the guards to mourn as culturally appropriate. As a community
we publicly and physically extend our condolences to the guard's family,
friends and co-workers.

At this time, we do not feel the hostilities are being directed toward
the expatriate community, but SIL members are currently manning all
security posts.

The culture dictates "payback" for every wrong, which leads to an
unending cycle of revenge. We ask our larger international community to
pray for a peaceful and lawful resolution to the current issues facing
our Papua New Guinean security contractor and the SIL-PNG community.”
We, as SIL/Wycliffe members and employees are shocked and stunned by what has transpired this week. Again, I ask you NOT to pass this information on as something interesting to talk about. We are all taking this seriously and desperately need your prayers. If you have concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me ( I do not feel scared or unsafe here, only saddened by the events of the week and motivated to pray for the speedy spreading of the Word of God. Only God’s Word can change lives and transform communities. MARANATHA!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A British Tea Party…Ukarumpa Style!

Ukarumpa International School is full of different cultures and nationalities! To celebrate this diversity, all of the primary grade levels study a different country each term. Term two social studies in my grade one class are devoted to the United Kingdom. To help us get the feel for this exciting part of the world, I asked a real British woman named Mrs. Alison Tute to come during this time. Each week, Alison has been teaching us something new about Great Britain. We’ve studied the geography of the country, the flag or “Union Jack,” and we have read a bit of Winnie-the-Pooh at the end of each lesson.

This week we had a special treat. Our first graders had an English tea party with scones and jam! Well, actually Alison and I had tea, and the kids had scones and jam. :) Here are some pictures of the event.

Here Alison is teaching the kids about how to do a proper tea. To get to England, we crowded onto the magic carpet, closed our eyes, and counted to three. When we opened our eyes, we were in the United Kingdom! First grade is so much fun!

Our charming British café with scones, butter, and jam along with napkins, tablecloths, and menus! The kids said later that “the café looked a lot like our classroom!” but they knew that it wasn’t the same place. I told them the owners of the café probably made it look like our classroom to make us feel at home!

Each child was able to get one scone with butter and jam. Shh! Don’t tell them that the butter is sitting in a petri dish from our science kit! It’s okay, I washed it. :)

Who would have thought my boys could be such charming gentlemen? They were very polite and proper…until we were called back to the carpet. One young man just couldn’t resist sticking his finger in the jam. *sigh*

This table of ladies could not have had more fun! Their voices barely concealed their excitement as they asked for a friend to “Please pass the butter,” while their napkins rested on their laps.

Being “Mother” means that you are responsible for serving each person at your table. Even the boys enjoyed being “Mother” and did a wonderful job!

These ladies had pleasant conversation while enjoying their scones. Couldn’t we stay in the United Kingdom just a little longer?

But alas, it was time to return to first grade in Papua New Guinea. We all came back to the carpet and again closed our eyes, counted to three, and voila! we were back in our classroom! This is a special experience we will be talking about for weeks to come! What a trip!