Sunday, September 27, 2009

To God's Glory!

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,

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Well, let's see if I can bring you up to date on what's been going on since my last post. The school situation seems to have settled down, at least for the time being. Some of the involved students and parents were even at church yesterday morning, a definite praise.
On the container side of things, Brother Randy left early Tuesday morning to go to Goroka. He stayed there for a few days waiting for Michael Berbin to get things cleared in Lae. They weren't able to get the container inspected until Thursday morning, but when it was done, it was incredibly short and painless. The men unloaded all the loose items in the container into three pickups and brought them to Goroka to Terry Ritschard's house (another GFA missionary here). Michael Berbin then turned around and went back to Lae (about 4 hours away) to try to make arrangements for a large flatbed truck to take the bulldozers to the start of the bush road. At this point, we aren't sure when that will happen. In addition, Brother Randy's pickup developed some issues on the way back to Goroka for Lae, so it is at the mechanic's shop for the time being.
Please continue to pray for all the details associated with this project. Lord willing, the machines will arrive in Kiari sometime this week, but there is still much to be done for that to happen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Container and School Trouble

In my last entry, I told you about the expected arrival of the container. We were informed that it arrived in PNG on September 1st. Unfortunately, they were unable to locate it until September 11th, but it has finally been found. The next step is for the customs inspection. We are hoping that can take place tomorrow (Tuesday). Wednesday is PNG Independence Day and so all businesses will be closed. Once the customs inspection is completed, the missionaries will load the contents into pickups and drive them to Goroka (our nearest major town). The bulldozers will be brought by flatbed truck to the start of the bush road. Then Michael Berbin and Randy Smith will drive the machines back to Kiari, clearing the road as necessary as they go. They are expecting it to take at least 3 days to make the trip, so a national will drive a pickup as a support vehicle for fuel, food, bedding, etc. Once the machines are here, they will have to make more trips to town to bring in the rest of the contents of the container and get more fuel for the bulldozers.

In the meantime, we are trying to purchase all the ground for the airstrip. (Technically, the land will be owned by the government when the airstrip is open, but our ownership of it will give us control over the clearing and maintenance of the strip.) Land ownership is a bit unusual here and there are 20 different land owners for just this area of ground, each with their own section. A committee of 3 national guys from our church is busy dealing with each of these landowners to reach an appropriate settlement.

On top of all this, the list of students accepted into our Christian school for the coming year was posted after church yesterday. Unfortunately, six former students were not reaccepted due to their conduct either during last school year or over the school break. This led to a rather major reaction from the parents of some of the students. One man had a tirade in the church yard after the service yesterday and this morning cut trees and blocked the path to the school. Also this morning, two former students came to the home of one of our national preachers and threatened he and his wife, then later came to the clinic where his wife was working and tried to get me to kick her out so they could "talk" to her. Brother Randy had a long meeting (several hours) with everyone involved this morning, and things seem to have calmed down for the present.

So, please pray for all the details associated with the container, the machine transport, the clearing of the airstrip. Also pray for clear heads to prevail regarding this school situation. At least it's never boring here:-)

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I must apologize for the sparse posting over the last few weeks. We have been having a number of major email issues. First, the computer that I was using for email quit completely. So I started typing my emails on my computer, loading them on a flash drive, walking up to the Smith's house, loading them on their computer, and then sending them. That worked okay for a few weeks. Then the phone card system that we use for the satellite phone quite working. It is a company out of Indonesia, and they said it would be down for an indefinite length of time. That left us completely without email access for about a week. Then the Smiths went into town on their vacation. They took their computer with them, which enabled them to send and receive email in town, but it didn't help me here in the bush. But now they are home again, with their computer, and the phone card system seems to be up and running again, so I am finally posting on my blog. Whew!

There has been lots of other news as well. As you know, we are expecting the arrival of a container with machines for clearing the land for our airstrips (as well books for this school year, an exam table for the clinic, and other miscellaneous boxes of supplies). The container will come to Lae, the main port of the country, and the men will have to drive to Lae to clear the container through customs, unload it, and transport the contents back to the bush.

Originally the plan had been for Randy Smith to go to Lae with Michael Berbin and Matt Crain to deal with the container. Well, first the Berbins ended up heading home for furlough in August. They were due for a furlough but hadn't planned on going until next year, so it was a bit unexpected. Then, last week, Matt Crain developed some health problems and had to return to the states to see his doctors there. (He seems to be doing fine and hopes to return in the near future.) So that left Brother Randy to deal with the container -- a rather challenging proposition. Well, Michael Berbin decided to fly back to help him, so he should arrive in the country on Saturday (September 5th). The container was scheduled to arrive in Lae on September 4th, but we don't know yet if it actually arrived or if they have located it yet amongst all the other containers on the cargo ship. When we know for certain that it is there, then Brother Randy and Brother Michael will drive down and begin the process. Please pray for all the details associated with customs and transporting everything back to the bush.

Well, I guess that's all for now. Thanks so much for your prayers and support. They are a huge blessing!