Nov 1, 2016

September/October 2016 Reflections

September/October 2016 Reflections

Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness, Oh Lord!

These months have been full, busy, challenging, rewarding, humbling, stretching, and growing!

What a sweet Shepherd we have. He is so kind to continue to shape us and mold us more into His image, to purge out that which does not glorify Him. It is a painful process, but Oh Lord, help us to be soft lumps of clay! Help us to receive the conviction and chastening, and to be yielded and still in the Hands that are always working out of deep and eternal Love.

Many things have been stirring in our hearts and home.

One of the deep desires Tyler and I have is to keep the hearts of our children in the midst of all the busyness of the ministry here. Recently the Lord has again been refocusing our vision for our home. We feel keenly our need of His help in shepherding our rather rambunctious flock! We set aside one week at the beginning of the month to spend time working together as a family on home projects, and didn't go hardly anywhere except to swim together at the ocean. We set aside early evenings together to read Pilgrims Progress, play games, and wrestle (at least everyone but me!).

The fruit of that week has been much more peace in the boys. Since then we have been making it a priority to end our work a little earlier in the day so we can have a little more time together in the evenings before bed. It's been a blessing, and we thank God for helping us to see the need for it.


Also, we are feeling stirred to seek more faith in the ministry to the Bulu people. We are reminded by the still small voice of our Father to not neglect to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. The last thing we want is to be busy serving in different needs here, only to realize we've been building with wood, hay, stubble. The important thing, the one needful thing, is to stay close to Jesus, to seek Him with all our hearts, and to only walk in the works that He leads us into, that He has prepared for us to walk in. With all the many desperate, pressing needs surrounding us, it is easy to take the burden of many things not meant for our shoulders, which we do not have grace to walk in.

The beginning of September was rather tumultuous with a few different fights at the middle/high-school down the path a mile or so. The kids from the neighboring Bulu village attend there along with the teenagers from our village and there is tension between that village and this one. No one was seriously injured, though there were some machete cuts.

Our friend Peter who is the government appointed representative for the Bulu people, was very busy trying to make peace and sort through the problems for a while. It is challenging for him to know how to deal with the situation, because there is enmity between not only between the kids, but their parents.

He and Tyler were able to pray together and seek the Lord for His answers to the problems.

Shortly after this, a big group of Seventh Day Adventists came in and camped out for a week down by the school. There were several Doctors and nurses, and they held free medical and dental clinics.

Our part of the village was pretty quiet that week as a lot of people were spending time down there.

Another big event was a huge bride price ceremony for one of the leaders in the village. This kept everyone quite busy for weeks leading up to it, as most of the families of the village had to try to make a big chunk of money to contribute for the ceremony.

For a week or so many of the villagers were awake at night beating drums and performing different parts of the ceremony.

The man who was fulfilling his duty to pay the bride price (for his wife of twenty plus years), is a Christian, and we felt deeply concerned by some of the ceremonies him and his family took part in. Many of the customs surrounding such events are intertwined with spirit worship, and are not fitting for a Christian. Tyler had many conversations discussing this with different people during those weeks. The Christians will often agree it is not the best thing to do, but they often feel trapped by the family and tribal expectations. We discern this is a danger for the souls of those who want to be followers of Jesus, and are praying earnestly for boldness and fervent love to Christ for the many who are caught in this web. The church meetings at our house were sparsely attended during this time, as everyone was too busy preparing for the custom.

Tyler was able to install the first community well near one of our neighbors homes. The first pumping was a very special event. It is such a blessing to see people able to fill their buckets and water containers with clean, cold water. Tyler is close to completing the second well now, a little further down the path. There were many memorable moments as he and our neighbor guys hand drilled these wells. The difficult thing for me was trying to keep the boys on task for morning chores and school when they so desperately wanted to be with Daddy! In the afternoons, as soon as they were released from “prison”, they would often run off to join him in his work. They are learning a lot about well drilling and installation right along with Tyler, which is so neat! Tyler is on a big learning curve and is doing a great job of researching the different problems he runs into, and problem solving. He has also been learning to weld as a result of needing different parts for the well drilling. God is giving him wisdom as he seeks to be a blessing.

The two older boys decided to try their hands at dugout canoe making, and with some help from neighbors, they each have a cute mini canoe. This was a fun experience, and Judah has now moved onto making a full size canoe, as his is a bit small for him.

One of the activities that Tyler and the two older boys have been doing a lot more of is spear fishing at the reef. They have a great time together, and come back with some cool looking reef fish.

The two little guys and I hang out to swim by the shore, which they love. They are both getting pretty good in the water, and Keen often holds his breath and goes under. The kids here are often amazing swimmers by the time they are only three or four as they spend so much time in the ocean.

There were several births this month that I was involved in.

One day a grandmother came to get me to help her daughter-in-law who was in labor. I grabbed some supplies and headed down the trail, but by the time I and several neighbor ladies arrived, the people with me announced the baby must've been born already. When I asked how they could tell, they said “They're running the dogs”. I watched as a group of mangy, skinny dogs tried to go under the house of the woman who had given birth, only to be run off by several girls.

The grandmother said the baby was already born and the mother was down at the ocean washing up.

I carefully climbed the rickety ladder into the hut. It was empty except for a naked baby girl lying in the middle of the floor, with the placenta still attached. As I walked across the floor, the rough cut boards shifted as I walked (they weren't nailed), causing the tiny baby to get bumped around. I picked her up gently, cleaned her up and cut her cord. She was not breathing very well, so I cleaned her airway and wrapped her up as she was cold.

One of the woman and her grandma gave her a bath, then when her mama was changed and sitting down in the house cook (with about twenty others who were there for the excitement), we got her to nurse. I sat with them visiting for awhile, then headed to the beach to join all my boys who were swimming and spearfishing. As I walked, I felt so humbled. I have always been so cherished and well cared for.

At our boys births there has always been someone to take care of me and the baby. To whom much has been given, much will be required! Help me to be a willing servant, Oh Lord! You have given me so much!

One evening several weeks later as our family was sitting down together reading Pilgrims Progress, we heard someone calling for us outside. Tyler went out to check it out, but the group of several teenage girls insisted they needed to talk to me. When I came out they said a friend of theirs had pain. Which is the polite way of saying someone is in labor (I've learned this through trial and error). I ran upstairs, grabbed my bag, kissed the boys and we all prayed together, then headed off with the girls.

The young mother was in labor with her third child, and the labor seemed to be progressing well. I set up my birth supplies on a bed/table made out of thick branches under a tree. I had her lie down on our make-shift birthing table and used my stethoscope to check for the baby's heartbeat so I could figure out it's position. But I could hear nothing- no heartbeat, no placental noise, nothing. It was completely quiet. I thought maybe the baby was lying with it's back to her back, as I could not find its back- which I thought might make it hard to find a heartbeat- especially as all i had was a stethoscope.

The labor continued for several hours and the aunties and grandma who were there to support her and I all sat chatting about various things. It was a beautiful, quiet night. I got out my birth book and taught the ladies a few things. One of the middle aged woman – a widow- has been with me at nearly all the births I've attended here, and she has a heart for the mothers. She is the one they usually call. So she is very eager to learn. I don't know a whole lot myself, but more than anyone here, as they haven't had the opportunities I have.

Finally the baby started to come, but it was being born face first, which is a very difficult position, and it got stuck. No matter how hard she pushed, it wouldn't budge. I was praying out loud for wisdom. The baby's face had an odd coloring and I felt it was imperative it was born soon, but my book doesn't talk about how to help birth babies in this position. It just says get them to the hospital. Which doesn't help me much being 3 hours away from the hospital, and the village truck wasn't even leaving for another nine hours- twelve hours from help.

As I prayed, I remembered when I was a young teenager, a midwife telling me a story of a baby who was stuck. I was able to apply what she had done and rotate her just a little bit, and she was born quickly. But as I looked at her limp little body, I knew something was terribly wrong. I checked for a heartbeat, and there was none. Her cord was lifeless and disintegrating. I realized it wasn't just my lack of experience and inadequate equipment that had kept me from hearing the heartbeat during labor. This baby had been dead for a while. I gently wrapped the baby girl in a towel. I felt really shocked. I was relieved that I hadn't had anything to do with her death, but felt really sad and shocked.

The reaction of the mother, aunties, and grandmother, was really eye-opening. There were no tears. They seemed to have the attitude- “Oh, this one isn't going to live...”- not in a careless way, but in a resigned way, as if they were almost used to stillborn babies. Later I asked the woman who often attends births here if stillbirths are common. She said “Yeah, plenty of babies are born dead- and plenty die soon after they are born, too.” As I held the baby and we sat there taking it all in, It started to rain- so we all headed for the smoky little palm roofed kitchen house. A big pig was asleep for the night in one corner with puppies snuggled up to her right next to a bed that someone sleeps on, and the rain dripped through the roof (so the ladies carefully arranged the best chair under a part of the roof that didn't leak for me to sit on), but we sat and talked as the mother washed up and had a bit of food at the house nearby. The ladies sat discussing why the baby had died. They said it was because the mother carried too heavy of buckets of water (It bends the baby too much), or maybe because she yells at her kids and gets mad a lot (that will kill a baby, they say), or maybe because she smokes (which almost everyone does, here- sometimes marijuana, sometimes other drugs, along with chewing betel-nut). Plenty of unmerciful opinions. I was glad the mother wasn't sitting with us- but I'm sure she'll hear them, too.

Later I went and checked on her in the house as she lay down to sleep with her four year old (her husband was in a neighboring village). I talked with her and prayed for her and tried to comfort her, but she seemed like a stone. Maybe her emotions are too deep, and I am a foreigner. Oh but my heart cried for her. After checking on her, I headed carefully down the precarious ladder.

Several of the ladies escorted me home on the dark paths through the rain. They stopped at a house to borrow an umbrella so I wouldn't get wet, but assured me they were just fine when I tried to share.

After I got home I took a shower, and tried to wash off the memory of a lifeless little body in my arms. I woke Tyler up and poured out the story to him, and he sweetly listened, and prayed with me.

I am so grateful for God' wisdom, and I need more of it. He has been so faithful to help me through each challenge.

I have been struggling a lot with exhaustion these last few months of pregnancy, and often feel like I can't possibly make it through another day with the many demands. This experience gave me a new perspective, and I am gratefully cherishing each movement of our precious little one.

The same day that this baby was born, some of the men from our village and the neighboring Bulu village held up (at gunpoint) a boat full of men and women. They had parked at a small Island a few miles from our village on their way to town.

The Bulu men stole what they had and violently abused the women before releasing them to continue their journey by boat.

It is unclear who all was involved as so far no one is talking much. The whole Island tribe of those who were mistreated by our people are up in arms, and threatened to kill any Bulus that they saw in town. Several of our neighbors' teenage children were in town at this point, and our neighbors called them with strict instructions to stay hidden at the house of their relatives and not to hang out in town.

Their has been much fear here in our village, not knowing what sort of backlash to expect.

There is a spirit of tribal violence that remains unbroken in the spiritual world here. It may look different than it did 50 years ago, but it is the same spirit. We pray God would heal this land of the spirit of murder and revenge.

One of the sweet blessings that the Lord gave us during this season was when a mother of five brought her sick baby to our home. She has brought this beautiful baby girl several times in the last few months for different ailments. I told her I had no medicine that would help her, but I could pray to Jesus for His help. She immediately assented, and said “When you put your hands on her, she always gets healed.” I said that was not because of me, but because of God's spirit of healing coming upon her baby. She agreed, and said we should remember to thank God. I was so encouraged to see her faith as we prayed together over the little one.

Another encouragement the last few months is two boys of around twelve and fourteen (from two different families). They both seem to have an earnest heart for the Lord, and we have had some neat times with them. One of them comes over often just to hang out with us, and the other, who is from a part of the village further away, often comes to our fellowship meetings, and eagerly drinks in everything. We pray that God would raise them up to be mighty leaders of truth and righteousness for their people.

It's been a blessing for our boys to have some boys around with a desire for what is good and right.

We have been earnestly seeking God's will for where to have the birth of our new little one (due the 18th of December). We've pursued different options, but after much prayer, have decided to come back to the U.S. for this next season of having a new little one join our family, and for a time of refreshment and ministry among our dear family and friends.

We are all very excited and looking forward to this time. The boys have been preparing Keen to go to “Big town”. All Keen knows is the town of Kimbe which is reached after many bumpy hours on a large flatbed truck full of people. So Judah has told him we will pay our bus fare to the boss crew of an airplane, fly through the air, and land in “Big Town” America.

I saw Keen's favorite little weed-wacker toy out in the garden yesterday, and he seriously informed me that he had thrown it out there 'cause we're going to America. He apparently felt that it was unneeded!

We are very much looking forward to good fellowship and seeing all our dear ones, cold weather (snow!), hamburgers, pizza, salad, and Mexican food!

When we first started talking more seriously (several weeks ago) about coming, I told Tyler it would take a large miracle for the doors to open financially, and for us to be able to do what we needed to here before leaving. Tyler responded we've been living in a miracle for a while now, seeing God meet all our needs! As we've committed this trip unto God, we have seen many miracles, and we stand in awe of our Father.

We recently had to renew our work permit here, and as a result all our passports are on the mainland of PNG. Please join us in prayer that they will be returned to us in time for our planned departure on November 18th, as we must leave the country no later because of my advanced stage of pregnancy. We plan to return to PNG in September 2017.

We would also appreciate prayer for our boys as they readjust to life in America.

May the Lord be glorified!

P.S. Please pray for Kendra because she is having some health trouble with the pregnancy and we need to get a medical clearance before we are able to fly.