Dec 20, 2017
To all you dear ones,
Praise the Lord for His mercies. They are new every morning. I am so grateful to have new mornings- they are a great gift from our Father. Today has been a challenging day.... between roller coaster emotions, a constantly chattering three-year-old, bickering brothers, miscommunications with my dear husband, etc... It’s time to recount some blessings, of which there are so many!
A sweet reminder of the Lord’s goodness came to me tonight from a certain little mischievous, tough, energetic, tousled blonde, almost four-year-old boy who happens to be obsessed with Giants, and is constantly comparing various things and people to determine what or who is the biggest and strongest. As we stood in our little tin shower room together and I washed the grime of the day off of him with fresh, cold rain water (of which there is an abundance as we go into the rainy season), he pelted me with questions ranging from “Why did God make mosquitoes to bite people?” to “Is Uncle Nate (his hero) bigger than Giant Despair?” (Giant Despair lived in Doubting Castle in Pilgrim's Progress).
As I racked my tired brain for good answers (“ask daddy later”, or “that one you should ask God when you get to heaven!”), he made a statement that scattered the clouds of discouragement that had built up all day; “In Heaven, everybody is bigger than us... (in his vocab, bigger and stronger are interchangeable) Jesus and God are bigger than us. Giant despair is littler than Jesus ‘cause everyone in heaven is bigger. So Giant Despair is like this big (wet little fingers held a couple inches apart) compared to Jesus!”
Salem - after a church meeting
Tyler and I have both faced some big spiritual battles since coming back here, but we have seen Jesus prove to us over and over again that; “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”.
Several weeks ago I was under extreme spiritual attack for a few weeks. It felt like a dark cloud was trying to completely choke out the sunshine in my soul. It got so bad that I wasn’t sleeping well, and one night I hardly slept at all, tossing and turning with dark thoughts and crying out to the Lord for mercy. Early the next morning the Lord impressed on my heart to call a sister in the Lord to pray together. I headed down to the beach in the early morning darkness to where we get cell service and rang up a dear prayer warrior. We prayed together for a while as I sat in a little thatched shelter watching the day wake up and the fish jump. By the end of our time together the devil had fled. Praise Jesus for his power!
Last week I was laid low with extreme fatigue, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, and felt dizzy and lightheaded to the point of feeling as if I was about to pass out often. I could not carry Salem much for fear of falling with him and had to direct the boys in chores and the little bit of school we fit in from a hammock or chair. Days turned into a week, and I seemed to be getting worse. My wonderful husband was so sweet to me, cheerfully shouldering a lot of the home front load. He spent a lot of time making meals that were a little homier to try and tempt my lagging appetite.
Sunday night after a busy day with church meetings at our home I was really exhausted and dizzy. Tyler and I talked about going into town the next day to see the Doctor, but decided to spend some time more earnestly seeking the Lord about what to do. As Tyler and I sought the Lord for His will that night, my sweet Lord kept reminding me of something I'd said a few times when all my guys were sick for a few weeks recently; “I'm so tired I wish I was sick so I could rest.” In a joking sort of way, but with a bad heart underneath.
The Lord convicted me of my lack of gratefulness for the amazing strength He had given me in that season. Also, the Lord showed me that I was also having a bad attitude during my sickness, because in the midst of feeling sick I had needed to continue to help run the home from a sitting position and really wanted to escape all the needs to just curl up and rest. Self-pity was talking loudly and I had listened to his lies. I had grieved my Lord with my rebellious attitude. Monday morning during our family time of seeking Jesus, I confessed to Tyler and the boys and asked their forgiveness for not serving them more willingly and with thankfulness during that season of their sickness. They graciously forgave me. We all prayed for the Lord to raise me up and to rebuke the devil, and my dear husband anointed me with oil as he prayed for healing. I began to rapidly improve and within hours I was able to get back to work. The LORD is so good and merciful. He is a very good Shepherd to our needy souls! I'm so glad He doesn’t leave us alone, but continues to speak to us, convict us, shape and mould us!
We have been enjoying lots of cool (75-80), rainy weather around here. It feels a bit like home! Tyler recently built school desks for the boys on our porch, and it looks like a real school room! We've really been enjoying it. The porch is such a nice, breezy, private area to school. We also changed our schedule around a bit and are now doing school in the afternoon instead of the morning. It's working so much better as we are able to complete chores in the morning and the boys are able to work with Tyler as he works on well drilling or projects around here, and we are more available for drop in company, which is most common in the morning. Then in the hottest time of the day (the afternoon), Tyler spends time studying, working on projects, or seeking the Lord with Peter, and the boys and I do school.
Tyler is continuing to teach through Matthew 5-7 and the Lord is doing really neat things in people’s hearts. We are encouraged to keep sharing the Word, for it is a living seed. A few weeks ago he was sharing from chapter 5:38-48 on loving one’s enemies and blessing those who curse you. In this revenge- driven culture, it struck a very deep cord, and the whole air seemed heavy with awe at the word of God. Nothing happens by “chance” here, and whenever something bad happens, people seek for the reason, often using sorcery to try to figure out who is to blame. In the courts, medicine-men (witchdoctors) testimonies are taken into account as credible evidence. There is always reprisal to the one who did the wrong. Right now there is a battle going on between our tribe and a nearby island tribe. I don't know who “started” it, but our people are wanting to revenge the deaths of three men from Bulu who were killed last April. One of our friends (whose grandson was one of those killed), was recently telling Tyler of his determination to kill those who killed his grandson. Pray that people would repent and that they would be filled with the love of Christ, which enables us to forgive.
Our area of the village has been relatively quiet the last month or so. Although, yesterday there was another holdup on one of the trucks we take to town. No one was killed, praise the Lord! It's so sad to see people wasting the precious life God has given them! He has such good and sweet plans for those who surrender.
One of the young teenage boys here in our part of the village has a fear of God and seems to be seeking him. He has been over nearly every day since we got back here, and he and the boys have a great time together. Today I was washing laundry under our house as the boys taught him how to play Go Fish and Spot It. It was so hilarious! They were talking a mix of pidgin and English, and all five of our boys and Meli were quite entertained for at least an hour. Lately the four big boys and Meli have been keeping busy in their spare moments building little houses back in the “fort area”, (as we call the shady piece of land behind our house) that is designated “boy territory”. This is where most the hole digging, tree chopping, fort building, well drilling, and canoe carving takes place. They are getting quite skilled!
Meli and Keen
While I was sick, the young mother I asked for prayer for went into labour. I was unable to respond to their call for me to assist her at the birth (although I prayed for her!), but it went well, and she delivered a healthy baby girl. The first few days the baby barely nursed at all, so she brought her to our house. I taught her to sterilize a spoon to feed the baby her mama’s milk, as she wasn’t strong enough to suck well. She fed really well with the spoon, and gained enough strength to nurse within a few days. What a precious little soul in the sweetest little body! A rosebud mouth, chubby cheeks, soft black curls all over her round head-life is such a miracle!
Recently two brothers in their early twenties (young men are called mangis here), that live a few miles down the beach came to talk with Tyler. They had some good honest spiritual questions, and seem to be seekers. He had a wonderful conversation with them. They said that they are confused about truth. I wish you could have seen the earnest, hungry expressions on their faces as Tyler shared with them. This is the first time I can ever remember young people coming just because they wanted to talk about spiritual things. We are so encouraged, and continue to pray for the Lord to stir up a deep hunger for himself in this place! They asked if he will come preach at their weekly ball games (starting in the spring), when nearly the whole village gathers together. We appreciate prayer for wisdom on that. Their Dad introduced the Seventh Day Adventist denomination in Bulu, then later joined the Bhai religion. Before we had left PNG last year, Tyler had met him and had several good conversations with him. Tyler had felt the Spirit leading him not to try to argue about Christianity versus Bhai with him, but just to simply ask if he has found freedom from sin in his religion, to which he admitted he hadn’t. Tyler then shared the power there is when the Spirit of Jesus enters a human heart, and the freedom he has found walking with God. The man was deeply touched and wanted to hear more, and invited Tyler to come visit his home sometime. Please pray for the Lord to lead the way and timing on that.
One of the young couples in our community have been coming regularly to the meetings on Sunday. We have also been spending time getting to know them during the week. They are almost the same age as Tyler and I, and have four precious little ones (one of which is in heaven). We are really enjoying their friendship, and have been so excited to see signs of the Lord’s work in their lives. Please keep them in prayer as you think of It! Their names are Tuka and Balu.
Judah and Salem Celebrate Their Birthdays At the Vanderdecker's House
Tyler, the boys, and some of the guys here have just completed another well. It is in an area of the village with exceptionally poor water, and they deal with a lot of sickness as a result. Peter and Tyler are planning to have a big “bung” (gathering) the day that they put the pump on the well- both to lay down the laws that the community has decided on for well usage, and to have an opportunity to share some living water! Bulu people love to bung, so it'll be fun. Please pray that the Lord will anoint the time with His sweet presence.
May the Lord build up his kingdom!
Nov 20, 2017
Dear Family and Friends,
How we appreciate you all and your love and support of us. You are a big encouragement to us! We have had an eventful reintroduction to PNG. The Lord has been so faithful.
Our first six weeks here were pretty busy with getting settled back into our home- cleaning out mice and cockroaches, repairing things, setting our solar and water pump back up, and doing a few home improvement projects. The most wonderful one was a dear little kitchen Tyler made for me in a little room under our house- complete with a double sink, a gas stove (!), and a hutch. He also built a big family sized table for under our house-right outside the kitchen. It’s been so homey and nice to cook over gas with my little boys playing under the house, instead of bending over a smoky little fire in the kitchen house with a dirt floor. I’ve never gained much proficiency at fire building! The ladies here are much relieved for me- I think they agonized for me with my awkward village cooking skills! =)
Josiah House Building
Tyler shared in his last e-mail about our neighbour who broke into our tool room and stole some things. He also mentioned how his wife was unable to walk because of a lower back injury for a month or so. We went to pray for her and to share that we cared for them. We also brought them a gift from America. Within a few days she was able to walk again, for which we are so thankful! The village grapevine is a very effective newspaper, and a lot of people were saying that she was suffering this pain because of stealing from the “wokman bilong bikpela” (God’s worker). Several of our neighbours were upset that we gave a gift to this family because they had done us wrong, and did not deserve it. We were able to share that Jesus tells us to do good to our enemies, and to bless those who curse us. It is a new thought- so contrary to our natural inclinations, and has prompted some good discussions.
Salem at the Guesthouse
Tyler has felt led to teach through the sermon on the mount, with emphasis on the fact that we- in our flesh- cannot obey the teachings of Christ. But we have been promised a Helper, the Holy and Faithful One- who is ABLE to live His life through frail human vessels. It’s been a great blessing to see God stirring, convicting, encouraging and challenging through His word. We have been encouraged lately that the Word of God is living and powerful- it is not our poor little word, the seed is the Word of God, and it WILL NOT return void. All we must do is be faithful to share His word with much prayer “If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” being sensitive to His Spirit, and HE will give the increase. It is not our work, It’s HIS. It’s not our burden, it’s HIS. We are just to follow and obey with childlike simplicity. Thank you Lord that your burden is easy and light!
We have done pretty well for the most part in adjusting back to the tropical climate. Salem has had the hardest time, and has gone through malaria, amoebic dysentery, skin problems, and many low grade fevers as his immune system gets accustomed to all the new bacteria and viruses. It’s been such a blessing to have only one sick child instead of four! Tyler has also struggled often with not feeling well. I am very grateful that I have been strong and healthy and able to take care of the boys when he’s not well.
One of the highlights of the last few weeks was drilling a well about one and a half miles up the village from our home. It will service at least one hundred people. The boys enjoyed helping Tyler immensely! It is such a great community project, with lot’s of people involved. Tyler was excited to be able to drill it in one day with the new hand drilling equipment we got while in America. They struck water at four meters down. The next step is to pour a cement pad and put in the pump.
Salem Culture Learning
Recently one of our neighbours took a trip up to the lake in the middle of the peninsula. He stayed for several days and came back with seven baby crocodiles he had caught to sell. He had also killed a medium sized one to eat. They very generously shared part with us. We enjoyed it immensely for dinner that night. Later I was helping Keen write a letter to some of our family, and he was telling them about the crocodiles. I asked him to explain to them what it tasted like; “kinda like turtle!” was his enlightening comment.
The man who gave us the crocodile has a grown daughter (maybe twenty), who is married and lives a few miles away. I had helped her last year when she gave birth to her second child. She has a two year old, one year old, and is expecting another little one soon. Her husband is young and not at home much. She has not had much help with taking care of her little ones and so moved into her parents house for a season while she waits for her baby. They live in a house about 8’x10’. After she’d been there for maybe a week they told her she was not welcome anymore, so a friend of mine who is our close neighbour (and her cousin), invited her to move in with her and her husband and their three little ones (in their home which is about 10x12). They are a sweet family who we have really enjoyed getting to know. I would appreciate prayer as I may attend her birth, and want to show the love of Jesus to her. Also for health for her and the baby.
Morning Fishing with our Neighbors
The last week or so we have battled with a severe virus sweeping through our home. All the boys have had their turns, with the highest temperature reaching 103.9. A bit scary, but the Lord has helped us through, and they are all on the mend now. Tyler was hit really hard, with what seems to be malaria on top of the virus. We decided to evacuate the village when we’d toughed it out for a few days in the village, but I had a hard time finding transport to get us out of there. The public transport taxi (a big flatbed truck) that we usually take is undependable right now for multiple reasons. On Tuesday Tyler was really weak and I went down to our next door neighbours house to talk to them about the status of a boat to take us to town. While I was there talking to their adult daughter, her brother came running up the path- both of us looked at him apprehensively as he had been upset the last day or so and had been destroying things around their property. In the past we’ve witnessed him acting in extremely bizarre, demonic ways, and we are really praying for him. He came running straight towards us with three huge rocks in his hands. He raised them threateningly towards his sister, who was holding her baby. She ran and hid behind me, hoping he wouldn’t dare throw them at her if she was behind me! I was holding Salem, so quickly passed him off to Judah and sent the boys off to the house. Thankfully he threw the rocks at the house behind us instead of at us. I am so thankful that the Lord has promised to send His angels to keep us in all our ways.
We were finally able to secure a little motorboat, and loaded up with a group of others from our village for the 1 ½ hour trip to Kimbe. The boys were quite entertained to watch flying fish sailing through the air alongside our boat as we bumped along. Close to town we ran out of gas, but it was a blessing that it happened right near the road, and a few of the guys in the boat were able to catch a PMV to town to get more gas. We were really grateful to be able to rest in a shady spot and renew our strength before finishing the trip on the boat and then cramming into a minibus taxi for the remainder of the trip.
Josiah, Berean, and Keen making pizza with Pam Van Der Decker
We are now resting up at a guesthouse at the New Tribes Mission base. We hope to return to the village in 2 days from now if we are all feeling well enough. Our good brethren (The Van Der Decker Family) have been kindly looking after us while we are here. We appreciate the fellowship that we have together in Christ.
Tyler and Kendra Schones
Jul 18, 2017
Greetings fellow brothers and sisters,
I recently heard a story of a missionary couple who were serving in China in the 1800’s. The wife was recounting of how many times they saw the Lord answer prayer. Her husband (Jonathan) was having a great struggle in learning the language. His colaborers in the gospel were able to communicate much better than he was. Jonathan was really struggling and felt discouraged and was concerned whether or not he was going to be able to live in this area and be able to successfully communicate the gospel to the Chinese people. One day they went again as usual to preach to the people but this time it was different. Jonathan was able to speak very well. He sensed a great anointing and blessing from the Lord. After the preaching the people were very touched and were asking him many questions. He was so impressed that he made a special note of it in his journal. Meanwhile back in their homeland of England there was a band of believers who had had a special burden for the work and especially for Jonathan. They banded together in earnest prayer for the work. They had such a distinct burden and blessing in prayer for Jonathan that later they decided to write and ask whether or not there was some great thing that happened during that time. The events corresponded exactly. It is amazing how the Lord chooses to use us together to accomplish His purposes.
The Boys are Enjoying Their Friends Here in the USA
To those of you who pray and intercede - thank you. Kendra and I cannot recount how many answered prayers we have been privileged to see and benefit from. Prayer is a language of dependence and our whole life and ministry is one of needing Him and receiving from Him. We are learning that our wise father is pleased to use his body to accomplish His work. He does not just call 1 or 2 to do it all. We have felt our great need while living in PNG and are convinced that the Lord has designed for His body to function together – each part functioning in health and doing its share. For those of you who are stirred by the Lord for this work that he is doing please realize that you have an important vital part.
Berean With "Papa Paul"
We have been encouraged in this season with fresh vision for the work and rejuvenation in our minds and bodies. The Lord has been very good to us. As we are approaching the planned departure date to go back to our home in PNG (September 10th) we are sensing more and more of our great need for help. We are simple little children that, by God’s grace, are obeying his call. All we have to offer is our broken and contrite little vessels for Him to take and consecrate and fill and use as He sees fit. Praise the Lord for His grace and willingness to use us.
We Are All Enjoying and Loving Our New Little Addition - Salem Valiant
Some Prayer needs:
- We are praying for the Lord to clearly manifest His light in the darkness of PNG and to raise up His city on a hill. There is much darkness that stands against the truth. The Lord knows just how to accompish his purpose and we want to be in tune with him.
- We need encouragement to consistently be in prayer as a couple. If we are too busy for prayer then the Lord needs to help us and some priorities need to change.
- Pray against the devil’s lies. He wants to discourage and seeks to paint a black picture before us. We need to trust in the king who said “Lo I am with you always”.
- Emotional/Physical strength – Life in PNG is hard and stressing on the body and emotions especially for us as foreigners. We need extra strength from the Lord. As we left back in November 2016 we were very tired (especially my dear wife) and now we are returning with another child.
- Wisdom: a.) We are presently seeking the Lord for clearer vision and to know our specific assignment. There are so many needs and we need wisdom and the burden to know just what the Lord has for us to focus on. b.) We are deciding on practical things to bring for the ministry and gifts for people. We don’t want to cause offenses with the gift giving (it could cause a lot of jealousies and strife if the Lord doesn’t lead us)
- Please pray as we seek to establish our homeschooling “program”. We need the Lord to help us in this so that we can still function with our schooling in the midst of so many other needs. With that we are needing wisdom how to practically direct our boys in productive healthy life-training activities within our context.
- Pray for our family relationships that they are strong. The devil tries to divide the family. We need help and wisdom in order to nurture each of our children properly with their different needs and responses to living in PNG.
- Pray for practical provision for the work.
- We still need to get the governmental visa for Salem (our 5th boy). It is in process.
- Pray about all the travel arrangements and details to still be figured out.
Thank you and may our father direct you in His service,
Nov 1, 2016
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.
BEREAN AND A BABY
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.