This last week has been quite the adventure as far as the container was concerned. I wasn't directly involved though, so instead of trying to tell you about it myself, I am going to post a copy of the email that Missionary Michael Berbin sent out to tell the story. It's a bit long, but I think you'll find it interesting and enlightening. Enjoy!
"O give thanks unto the Lord: for He is good: because His mercy endureth forever." How can I praise and thank the Lord enough for His goodness in ways so innumerable? Your prayers have again moved His mighty hand on our behalf--amazing.
As you know, the last phase of this incredible journey (actually you'll see later I did leave some fun for Bro. Matt Crain) was to get the equipment from Lae on the eastern coast of PNG up to the Highlands by truck and then drive the equipment back into the bush. Among many challenges to these procedures was finding a company to haul the equipment up to the Highlands at a reasonable cost. You prayed for that and the Lord answered. However, I don't believe I mentioned the way the Lord provided (if I did already tell you this, the works of the Lord bear repeating). The first company wanted K10,000 to haul the equipment to the place where we turn off the highway to enter the bush road. That is roughly $4000 USD. PHEW! Then I remembered a fellow who is originally from one of our villages who now operates a heavy equipment company. I called Jeffrey and found out that he knew of a fellow who was willing to haul the equipment for roughly $2000 USD (this was last week Thursday (Sept 16th) while I was staying at the SIL guest house in Lae). Friday of that week (please keep track of the days and the guest houses) was the day we unloaded the container at a Bible college 14 miles outside of Lae. Jeffrey told me he would talk to his contact and call me back on Monday to let me know if his trucker would be able to move the machinary on Tuesday (Sept 22) or Wed. Back at the SIL guest house I was told that I would have to leave on Friday morning as they had pre-booked all their rooms for a group over the weekend of the 18th and 19th. So, Friday before I unloaded the container, I shifted over to the New Tribes guest house. Late Sat. afternoon, the (fairly new) guest house mangers asked me up to their apartment to get aquainted as they were from Romania--homeland to my grandfather. During our conversation the talk turned (for some unkown reason) to mechanics and they told me that there was a man staying at the guest house who was a mechanic. It turned out that I had known this mechanic (Steve who's workshop is in Goroka) for about 10 years. On Sunday after church I went to have a chat with Steve and he told me he knew of a man in Lae who may be able to haul our equipment, but I replied that I already had that arranged. On Monday I shifted back to the SIL guest house to find that the group never showed up and that I could have stayed at SIL for the weekend--at that point, it was no big deal to me. (This is going somewhere--stay with me.) No call from Jeffrey. All of my calls to him resulted in Network Failure messages. Then I began really thinking hard as I had already booked my return flight for Sunday the 27th so I had basically that week to get the machines up to Aibai. Tuesday morning I decided to go talk to Steve's man (John Bangkok) who said he could haul the equipment the following day for $3000 USD--I promptly took him up on the offer. Turns out his workshop where I would need to load the equipment on the trailer was literally 300 yds from the Bible college where the machines were sitting--was able to drive one piece there, walk back and drive the other piece there in about 15 minutes. I know this is a bit scattered and tedious, but think on this answer to prayer. The Lord shifted me out of one guest house through a no-show booking in order for me to be able to talk to Steve to get the contact I needed who's truck was already parked within 300 yards of my equipment--and I still have had no contact with or from the other man (Jeffrey)! Amazing.
We are now at Wed morning (and I will try to shorten and streamline this in consideration of your already overtaxed patience--sorry) When I got to the workshop at 7:30 am (our prearranged time for departure from Lae) I knew that I was in for a long day as John Bangkok (real name Lamjuan Phoolthasee, and no I did not make this up) had told me he estimated it would take about 7 hours to get to Goroka and another 3 hours to get from Goroka to the turn off. We then had to unload the equipment and drive it to a safe?!?! overnight stopping place--I guessed three more hours. You need to understand that the place where we turn off the highway (Dumun pronounced Doomoon) is a hot-bed of criminal activity (I and my family had already been held-up, as in robbed, there once), but 10 hours would put us there at 5:30 in the afternoon--still light. At 4:00 pm we had not left Goroka!!! I tried in vain to get the driver to overnight in Goroka so we set off about 4:30 for a meeting with the criminal element of PNG. Along the way I literally began checking my watch to see when you folks would begin waking up and praying for us again. We finally arrived at Dumun at 8:30 pm (6:30 am EDT in the US when some of you were probably praying) in the dark and rain, and the criminals began crawling out of the woodwork. Later Terry Ritschard would tell me that as he sat in the pick-up truck (which we brought to carry fuel and tools) in the dark he overheard two men discussing jumping into the truck while we were moving the bulldozer--presumably to steal it. Then (please understand that there are no police patrolling the roads after dark) a Highway Patrol vehicle appeared out of the darkness and gloom. I asked the officer in charge if he could hang around for about 15 minutes and out popped a number of officers. The one holding the M-16 had a very sobering (and proably disappointing) effect on the crowd. I was astounded beyond measure and just a little bit relieved. After we unloaded, the police actually followed us until we were clear of the criminal area (or more criminal area). We arrived at our over-night stop at about 12:30 am (Thursday morning)--a long but blessed day. The Lord also prepared this stopping place in the wilderness (they actually cooked fried chicken, and chips--which I missed out on due to my being in bed in a coma), but I'll have to save that story for later. On Thursday, we left at 8:15 am for the finally little drive to Aibai--we arrived in Aibai at 5:30 pm.
Thank you for your work in this adventure. We praise the Lord for His power in answering prayer, and trust that you will remember all of His wonderful works as you face the "bulldozers" of your life. This is about much more than getting airstrips completed. This is about the glory of our great God! Just this week I was reading in Matthew about the disciples who heard "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," but actually heard "you have brought no bread." The Lord reproached those men who had seen the marvelous provision in the feeding of the 5000 with two problems in their thinking. First the did not remember the Lord's previous display of power to provide. Second, they did not understand what that display signified about the Lord and His working. I trust that as time passes, we will all remember and understand what great things the Lord has done.
Matt and Rebekah Crain will arrive on the same flight on which I depart Goroka. After recovering from jet-lag, Matt, Randy Smith, and Jeff Owens ( a new missionary for Kiari that arrived in country yesterday) will move the equipment to Kiari (another 14 hours or so by bulldozer--see I did leave some fun for Matt). There the plan is to finish the Kiari airstrip then move back to Aibai to finish the Aibai airstrip. Continue to pray that the Lord will supply operators to do this work (we are accepting volunteers at the GFA office).May the Lord bless you and continue to use you as He has--for His glory,