Monday, July 27, 2009

Coffee and Rugby

I suppose on first glance that the title of this entry seems a bit unusual, but these two things represent some of the biggest struggles facing our national believers.

First is coffee. This is coffee harvest time in Papua New Guinea. Nearly everyone owns a grove of coffee trees. When the coffee is ripe, they spend days picking the coffee and hauling it back to their homes in flour sacks, usually around 50lb loads at a time. Then the coffee is run through a sort of hand cranck machine that strips the shell from the coffee. The coffee is washed and spread out in tarps to dry, then repacked in the flour sacks. When a sufficient quantity is accumulated, it must be taken to town to be sold. The closer to the coffee factory it is taken, the higher the price it can be sold for. So many people take a 50 pound bag on their backs and walk 6 hours to a spot where they can get a ride to town. After all their work, they can usually sell the coffee for 5 kina a kilogram, which translates roughly to around $50 for that 50 pound bag. That may seem not like very much money to us, but it is a huge amount of money to them.

With the money, unfortunately, comes many spiritual struggles. First, many of our believers are gone from home for days or weeks at a time, picking, processing, and hauling their coffee. That means that they are away from the ministry and accountability of the church. While they are in town, they are often surrounded by the unsaved, who are very ungodly in their actions and conversations. In addition, since most people have more money at this time of year than any other, there are many pitfalls even for those still here in the village. There are noisy parties with alcohol flowing freely. The peer pressure is especially hard on the young people.

Then, on the other hand, there is rugby. Rugby, as you may know is sort of similar to football, but with a few rule changes and no pads or helmets. Each neighborhood has their own team and often receive challenges from other villages. When a game is scheduled, nearly everyone from that neighborhood will pack up their entire family and walk the several hours to play or cheer on their team. They are usually gone for several days, as it is not just a matter of the game, but also a huge feast following the game with presents for everyone attending. The most recent game was about a week and a half ago on a Friday. Probably half of our church attended and probably half of those didn't make it back in time for church on Sunday.

Some churches here have banned participation/attendance as part of their church covenants (much as we might bars or nightclubs), but our church has not yet taken that position. Yesterday morning, Brother Randy preached on cleaning out areas of sin and specifically mentioned those who may have allowed coffee season or rugby to pull them away from the Lord and into sin. The altar was crowded at the invitation with 12 men and women making things right with God. Then, in our afternoon service, Brother Randy preached on "prove all things and hold fast that which is good" from Philippians 1. He then got two pieces of paper and labeled one "Ol Samting Nogut" (Bad Things) and "Ol Gutpela Samting" (Good Things). He then asked the people to list the things pertaining to ruby that fit each of the categories. There were lots of ideas for the Bad Things paper but hardly anything at all for the Good Things paper. Brother Randy didn't draw any conclusions at the end. He just taped the two pieces of paper on the wall at the front of the church and left it at that. We are praying that the people themselves will recognize the damage that this is doing to their spiritual walk.

So, all that to say, please pray for our believers to stand strong and stay faithful. Perhaps they are not bombarded with the many evil influences present in American culture and entertainment, but they do face their own struggles, perhaps even more difficult in certain areas.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Record Day

Things have been going along pretty well here lately, outside of a few minor aberrations. Jeremy Dion, the BJU student who was doing his missions internship with us, left on Friday. He actually flies out of the country this Thursday, but he wanted to spend a few days with the Ritschards, GFA missionaries near Goroka. Brother Randy drove him to Nomane and he flew in to Goroka from there. His time here was a real help to us and I hope to him as well. He preached several times, initially through an interpreter and later on his own by writing out his message ahead of time. He spent many, many hours working on various building projects around the mission. He built a number of shelves for me to store medical supplies on in the clinic – a huge blessing.

I also had some more email troubles this week, so if you sent me an email and haven't gotten a reply, that's why. I was using an old Dell computer to do email because new computers just don't seem to work well with the setup out here. Unfortunately, the problem with using an old computer is that it's old:-) So, while I was typing an email last week, it suddenly died and won't start up again no matter what I do. I hope to send it in to town on the next supply trip and see if anyone can fix it, but for now I will just share the Smith's email.

I had a record day in clinic on Monday – 55 patients! That is the most I have ever seen since arriving here as a career missionary. (I did see 60 patients once during my short term trip here 5 years ago.) I'm not sure exactly what brought the high numbers. For one, I had to cancel clinic last Wednesday due to my own illness, then I had a smaller group on Friday as many people were gone to a big rugby game in a neighboring village. Other than that, it just seems that a lot of people are sick right now. Most seem to have upper respiratory infections, but there are a few malaria, ameba, etc.

Other than that, I am staying busy doing language study and trying to organize the clinic. On Monday, I paid the Smith kids to come help me carry boxes of stuff over to the clinic, then today I started getting it put on the new shelves. It's a bit overwhelming at times, but it's going to be great when it's all done.

I'm also getting involved in a few new ministries. With Jeremy's departure, I am going to take over the choir for the church. That isn't as pretentious as it sounds. We only sing about every 6-8 weeks as it takes that long to learn a new song. No one reads music, so it is a matter of drilling the parts over and over until everyone gets it down. We don't do fancy arrangements, just basically the 4-part harmony that you have in your hymnbook. I'm excited about the opportunity though.

I've also started helping Elena Smith with her Sunday school class. We have two SS classes for the children and 4 teachers working on a 6 week rotation. We also have 4 helpers for the SS teachers. The girl who normally helps Elena is in town with her family for an undetermined length of time, so I am filling in for her.

Well, I'd better stop for now. I just had a lot to cover since I wasn't able to post last week. Thanks so much for your prayers.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Well, things are continuing to go along here. Clinic continues to be large,
averaging around 25 each morning. The injured patients I mentioned in my
last post all seem to be healing, a definite blessing from the Lord.

On Sunday, we had a bit of a treat for the afternoon service. One of our own
young men, Barry, preached the message. We have 3 other national preacher
"boys", all in their late 20s or early 30s. Barry, on the other hand, is
maybe only 20, if that. (Most people here don't know their birthdays and
don't really have any idea how old they are.) He was saved several years ago
under Jon Calhoun's ministry (the missionary that started this ministry).
His family is unsaved but he has continued to go on for the Lord. His family
wanted him to get more education and sent him to town to go to high school.
There he lives with an unsaved family and by his own testimony, there is a
lot of drinking and wicked behavior. At school as well, he is surrounded by
pagan influences. But, as he testified on Sunday, the Lord has been with him
and enabled him to stand strong. The church he is attending in town has also
recognized the Lord's hand on his life and they have chosen him as one of
their preacher boys to preach from time to time and help lead the church. It
is definitely a blessing to see the Lord at work, raising up workers for
Himself and His glory.

As you know, Saturday was the 4th of July. Of course, since it is a
celebration of American independence, it is not observed here in PNG. But we
whiteskins (as we are called by the nationals) got together Monday to
celebrate. We roasted hot dogs over the open fire and grilled hamburgers.
(Both of those are a bit of luxuries as we don't typically use that much
ground beef at once.) I made a cake from a cake mix that my father sent in a
package and decorated it to look like the American flag. We also made home
made ice cream. After we ate, we sat around the fire and sang patriotic and
Christian songs. Probably more low key than your celebration, but
definitely enjoyable.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Road Trip

I just found out that my blog from last week never posted, so here it is. I
have not changed the time references, so they all refer to the week previous
to this.

This week, I took a brief trip out of Kiari for the first time in a little
over a month. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Ben Ritschard was visiting
us for a week, so it was time to get him back to his family. The easiest and
most economical way is to drive to Nomane, the nearest airstrip and put him
on an airplane that we booked to come get him. It had been raining quite a
bit, so we were a bit concerned about the condition of the road. In the
event of road difficulties, Brother Randy asked 6 national guys to come
along to help pull/dig us out if we got stuck anywhere. We left about 7:30am
and made it safely to Nomane with only minor incidents (got stuck twice,
truck quit once, etc.). I wish I could post video from the trip as it is
almost impossible to describe. I was standing up in the back of the pickup
truck holding onto the roll bar. Ben was standing next to me and five of the
guys were sitting either in the bed of the truck or perched on the sides.
There was breathtaking scenery as far as we could see in every direction.
The road is pretty narrow, so you could reach out and touch the side of the
mountain on one side and the other side was a steep drop into the valley.
The road is dirt, of course, or actually more better described as mud and
clay. We cross numerous stream beds and small rivers. The basic pattern
involves a steep climb to the top of a mountain where there is a village,
then a steep descent to a water of some nature, then another steep ascent,
and so on. There are 4-5 major villages between us and Nomane, all without
any Bible preaching church. Very sobering!

At any rate, we arrived safely at Nomane and waited for the plane. To make
the most economical use of the plane, Brother Randy had left some supplies
from his last town trip to come out to us on this flight. In addition, the
Ritschards (who are planning a furlough sometime late this fall) took the
opportunity to send out some of their animals for some national Christians
to care for in their absence. After a bit of a wait, the plane arrived. Of
course, this is not the paved runways and busy airports of America. It is a
long grass strip framed by large white cones to mark it from the air. The
pilot circled the strip first to check for any issues, then landed and
taxied to the side where we were all standing. The guys with us helped
unload all the cargo including the animals. Then Ben got on the plane as
well as five little kids who their aunt was sending to Goroka to their

We loaded the truck with, starting at the cab, approximately 500 lbs of
supplies wrapped in a tarp and tied to the rollbar, the spare tire (also
tied), two goats, eight people (including me), and two pigs. Needless to
say, the ride home was a bit crowded. The goats were pretty sedate. One of
them laid with his/her head on my foot for about half the trip (better than
later when it turned around and tried to sit on me). The pigs on the other
hand were not happy at all and one of them kept trying to bite one of the
guys. We got home about 3:30 that afternoon.

Well, that was most of the excitement for the week. There have been a lot of
people for clinic lately. 25 on Friday and 24 today (Monday). Even my clinic
helper was sick, so Susanna, the Smith's oldest daughter, came down and
helped me. I had a 10 year old girl come on Friday who had basically impaled
her leg on a fence. (They're constructed of sharpened posts held together by
vines.) She had large flap on her upper thigh that took about 2 hours to sew
up. She came back today for a recheck and it seems to be doing alright, but
I'm still a bit concerned. It was very dirty and rather deep, so it will be
a real blessing if it doesn't get infected. On Wednesday, one of the
national ladies from church brought her 1 year old son. His older brother
(6-7) had been cutting firewood and the smaller boy got his hand in the way
and was cut. It really needed to be sutured, but there was no way to
restrain him adequately. In a stateside ER, he would have been sedated while
the doctor sewed him up, but I just am not equipped for that. I ended up
steristripping it and wrapping it very well. He came back on Friday and it
seemed to be knitting together all right.

Well, I'd better close this epistle for now. Thanks so much for your
prayers. The Lord continues to give safety and wisdom in answer to your