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Even So… He Sees

We got up before the sun, even though our flight left in the afternoon. An hour hike up the mountain, waiting for a bus that ran on a sporadic/no schedule, a half hour bus ride into town, and then another bus out to the airport left me feeling exhausted long before the plane’s tires   kissed the runway goodbye. I stayed awake for the two complimentary cookies and plastic cup of juice before my eyes closed for the rest of the 45 minute flight.

During our three week stay in my husband’s village, our landlady had sent us a text saying that her house, where we had been renting a room, was currently under foreclosure. “Please send someone to collect your belonging and pick up your car.” So we did, and kind friends allowed us to keep our things in their house until we made it back to the capital city.

We’ve been working with widows in the city of Port Moresby since April seeking to encourage them and help with their physical needs as we are able to, but it’s ironic how often the widows we work with end up helping us. Before we left to visit my husband’s village, one of the widows we had recently connected with offered to let us stay in one of her rental properties. A god-sent, as it turned out, since apparently our current housing accommodations were no longer an option.

We arrived from the airport to our new home which had been furnished with new sheets, pillows, dishes, some cooking pots, and even a warm meal of chicken and chips (French fries) from Big Rooster (Papua New Guinea’s version of KFC). After an overly steady diet of sweat potatoes that meal tasted heavenly.

I recently finished reading, “The God Who Sees You” by Tammy Maltby. I didn’t even know I owned the book. My husband must have downloaded it on to the kindle during the days when we had high speed Internet and downloading free kindle books was a fun rainy day activity (those were the days…) I never cry when I’m happy or when something really just touches me. Ask my sister. One of my favorite activities is making her cry during those happy/sweet movie endings that bring softer souls to tears. Not me. I’m a die hard dry eye, but this book literally made me weep in spots (I blame pregnancy hormones of course).

Taken from the story of Hagar in Genesis chapter 16, the idea behind the book “The God Who Sees You” comes from Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in the desert after she ran away from her abusive mistress Sarai. The angel meets her in the dessert, acknowledges her pain, promises that the baby she is carrying will become the father of a great nation, and encourages her to return to her mistress. In response, Hagar refers to God as the God who sees saying, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13 ESV). From then on the well where she encountered God was called Beer-lahai-roi which translates—the well of the Living One who sees me.

It’s interesting to note that God did not remove Hagar’s difficult circumstances, in fact He told Hagar to return to her far from ideal life, but He promised hope. First, he showed her that her circumstances had not gone unnoticed; and secondly He promised that good would come to her life. Her descendants would be so numerous that they would be uncountable. Not a smooth ride, her future. It required returning to a hard situation, but now it was a situation with purpose and promise in the midst of difficulty.

Sometimes all we want is the smooth ride, the easy “blessed” life, but, God, He wants more for us. He wants to write a story in our lives. He wants to build a nation and our little troubles are just a part of the bigger picture designed to bring Him glory. But, that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t see us in our struggles, from little things like exhaustion to bigger things like abuse and sickness. He sees us. He knows us. He carries us through often using small gestures like a meal of chicken and chips as a reminder that He’s got us. We did not know that the house where we had been staying would be taken over by the bank while we were away, but He did; and He already had a perfect solution in place through one of the very ladies who He had sent us to this country to help. It’s mind blowing sometimes to take a step back and look at all those “little” things. They aren’t little of course. They are big reminders in an often unstable world that He is God, and He is the God who Sees.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

So lovely to finally have a home to hang up this precious engagement gift. It has traveled from Northern Ireland to Kenya then to the US and Australia. Now it is finally out of its box and on display in Papua New Guinea. It is hand painted and made from slate from Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland the place where my husband and I first started to get to know each other.

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The Unexpected

“Keep an open mind and ‘expect the unexpected,’” my brother-in-law phoned to tell me the night before we flew out. I’d heard this motto before. Papua New Guinea is nicknamed The Land of the Unexpected, and it’s a fitting phrase for such a diverse nation.

Even though I’d heard so much about my husband’s home country I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve spent a lot of time in Congo and Kenya and was familiar to an extent with their language and cultures, but this was new territory on the complete opposite side of the world from the places familiar to me.

As our short flight from Brisbane glided toward the island’s coast, I was amazed to see so much green and so many mountains jutting, it seemed, right from the ocean’s coast. We landed and entered an airport that was clearly under construction. In fact the whole city seems to be under construction. With the South Pacific games set to be held in Port Morseby, there are construction projects happening all over this costal town. As we have driven by the several unfinished stadiums several comments have been made as to whether all the project will be finished on time, but no one seems too worried.

A giant television screen in front of what will be the main stadium counts down the days, hours, and seconds until the opening ceremony on July 4th. Billboards around town proudly announce that Port Morseby is “games ready.” There’s an atmosphere of expectancy mingled with a touch of uncertainty, but it’s clear that Morseby is a growing town egger for growth and opportunity.

There has been so much growth in this city that one of the city’s biggest problems is housing. Even for a small place, rent is high. Some people live in what are called settlements—crowed, make-sift communities known for higher crime rates. Thankfully, through one of my husband’s friends, we were able to rent out a spare bedroom in someone’s house for the price that I used to paid in the US for a two bedroom apartment. But, it’s in a safe area and our little space has a beautiful view looking out over the sea.

I must admit things haven’t always gone as expected. I was hoping for our own place—a place to finally unpack our five suitcase. I was hoping to finally have our own kitchen and bathroom something we haven’t had in our almost six months of marriage. I was hoping to set up a warm environment where we could have people stop by and just chat over a cup of tea. Maybe that will come someday.

For now I’m learning to be thankful—thankful for the friendliness of people I just met allowing us to stay in their home. I’m thankful for a safe place to live, and I’m thankful for an unexpected beautiful ocean view.

For now those other dreams will have to wait. It seems like there is still some more living out of a suitcase time that needs to happen in the mean time.

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From the Other Side of the World

0956603-R3-E037 The last several weeks have been a blur—traveling to incredible new places all over Australia while silently wishing I could be on the other side of the world attending my Grandpa Pontier’s funeral. And yet, I’ve felt so wonderfully full making new memories and meeting new friends that it’s hard to even process everything. My childhood dream of seeing a koala came true, and as I stood gazing up at the furry gray ball sleeping away in a gum tree I couldn’t help but smile at the richness of it all. Life- it’s but a moment. I tried several times to blog about my grandpa after hearing that Alzheimer’s had taken its toll on his life, but words eluded me. It didn’t quite seem real until I saw the pictures posted of my mom receiving the flag that had draped his coffin. When I saw my Grandpa last he seemed frustrated. Ready to go home as he put it. Lonely for his wife, whom he had loved so faithfully, and ready to meet his Savior. He’s home now. Knowing how much he longed for that I’ve found it hard to be sad. He was a strong man, principled and very much in love with his birthplace, Congo. Even when Alzheimer’s set in and he would tell the same stories over and over, I still loved to hear his stories. There was the story about when he shot an elephant with a single shot, stories of frog hunting with his best friend, stories about his time in the US army, and stories of how a tall Texas gal had captured his heart. During my time in Kenya I saw a classroom building and house that he had built years before I was born. I smiled when I saw his work knowing that his labor as an engineer and builder was still being enjoyed not just in Kenya but in other parts of the world as well. I’m thankful for his legacy and thankful that I inherited his red hair as well as his love for Africa. I’m grateful to call such an amazing man my grandpa with all of his accomplishments and even with his flaws I loved him dearly. He taught me about faithfulness, and about the beauty of holding your partner’s hand no matter how old you grow. He taught me about the art of telling a good story, and he taught me to appreciating a country that is different from the one your passport reflects. I’m thankful for the life that he lived and even from thousands of miles away I was there in my thoughts as he was laid to rest—happy and finally home. IMG_5677

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Some Day I’ll Go Back

I remember where I was sitting when I heard the news. He’d been killed—the little boy I used to play hide and seek with. Him, his mother, brother, aunt, and cousins. They had been our neighbors when my family lived in Congo the family of my dad’s very good friend Bura.

Bura had moved his family and his brother’s family into town where he thought they would be safe. He had stayed with the house sleeping in the shamba (garden) at night incase of house to house attacks. The house to house killings happened again, but this time in town not in the village. All but one of his sons was killed.

I’d been reading a Redwall book, a fun little series about mice and various other animals who lived in an abbey. With each book some greedy rat pirate or fox king would attack the abbey and an unlikely hero would rise up and save the peaceful inhabitants from the evil that threatened them. Well written books but at times violent. I couldn’t finish the book after hearing the news. I picked it up several times, stared at the same page for awhile, and then eventually returned it half read to the library. I was in jr. high and learning quickly that the world can be an ugly, uncertain place to live.

Awhile ago a friend of mine recommended that I read the book Stringer. A journalist’s story of living in war torn Congo. I’m at the part of the book where the journalist is arriving in Bunia not far from where I grew up.

Bunia—the first place I remember lying awake at night unable to fall asleep because an occasional truck would rumble down the road. To me, a girl who had been living in a rural mountain village, it felt like a big city. It was the first time I remember sleeping under a mosquito net, and it was where my brothers and sisters and I read Calvin and Hobbes comic books for the first time.

Now I think about Congo, and while I long to visit the places where I grew up, I know they wouldn’t be the same. It’s still a war torn country corrupt and broken. A country full of natural resources but constantly under bad leadership. It’s a forgotten country. The holocaust of my generation ignored except for the occasional news story. But, when I read about names of towns and statistics of rape and death I don’t just see numbers and maps. I see people I knew and loved. I see places full of memories.

Some day, God willing, I will go back. I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t given up hope of again seeing the place I once called home. Congo is always on my heart. It’s pains affect me. Its stories have changed me. I haven’t forgotten. I can’t never forget.

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They’ve Come from Far

“They’ve come from far,” she said. It was 4 a.m. We were sitting on the couch drinking ginger tea and talking until the sunlight slowly crept through the windows. The caretaker’s wife had had an asthma attack in the middle of the night and had knocked on the window of the children’s home asking to borrow money so that he could take his wife to the hospital.

I was glad Margaret had decided to spend a couple days at the home. She and her husband had started the Crying Children of Africa project after growing attached to a group of children living in IDP camps. Most of the kids lost their parents after the political violence which took place in Kenya back in 2007. It has been a long time coming, but the children were able to move into their new home in January.

Abba’s House, a beautiful home with a bright red roof and seventeen precious children living together as a family. Most of the children lost their parents during the political violence. A couple of them had parents died from AIDS. Two of the kids are from Picot a very remote area in Kenya. They were found abandoned after their fathers were believed to have killed their mothers. The one little boy was found trying to nurse on his dead mother. Stories that break my heart and make me squeeze the kids just a little bit tighter when they want a hug.

With the caretaker and his wife safely on their way to the hospital, Margaret and I stayed up just talking. She told story after story about how God had lead her and her husband through the process of starting this children’s home. I listened amazed at how God has worked through this Kenyan couple bringing people along the way to help them during the journey and providing what was needed at just the right time.

“They have come from far,” she said telling me about how James used to take off his gum boots and hug them to his chest when he walked through mud because he didn’t want to get his precious shoes dirty.

Later in the week Alyssa and I took on the project of organizing the kids shoes. Charity still has the shoes she came with. A pair of sandals made out of an old tire. Now when I look at their shoe shelf I see rows of neatly stacked shoes with polished black shoes for school and a variety of gym shoes in various stages of disrepair. Now our project is to get all of the kids gym shoes that fit, have laces, and are in good condition so that when they play outside they will not get any foot injuries (we had four foot injuries just last week). My church back in the states just collected shoes and is sending out two suitcases this week stuffed with shoes, clothes, and other goodies.

It makes my heart happy just being able to be a part of these 17 kids lives, and I’m so thankful for everyone else who has taken an interest in them as well. These kids are going to go even farther in life. I see it in their eyes and in their love for God. I’m just thankful that I get to walk along side them on this incredible journey.

Charity and her tire shoes

Charity and her tire shoes

Washing shoes

Washing shoes

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Please Send Me to Africa…

Africa

It’s a little bit scary seeing a dream come together. Part of me is so excited it feels like a dream and the other side of me is scared out of my mind wondering if everything is really going to work out.

I’m excited about moving to Kenya and working at the Riziki Children’s Home. I can’t wait to begin working with Kenyans who are building into their communities and tackling tough problems. I don’t want to be the pushy American who thinks they have all the answers. I want to support the work that is already going on. I want to learn. I want to help where I can and be a part of something bigger than myself.

The plane tickets are purchased which is so exciting. This trip is something I have wanted to do for so long. Now it is finally starting to feel real, and that is an incredible feeling. I get to travel on the way out with one of my best friends who is coming out for a short term trip to also work at the orphanage. My friend has always wanted to do an overseas mission trip, and it’s been such a pleasure doing trip planning together. Well, except for the shots which are scheduled for a week from next Friday. That part I’m not looking forward to, but I told my friend that if she gets me through the shots. I’ll get her through customs and airport security.

So we’re going to Kenya with an eleven day stop in Europe. I’m so blessed to have friends who are willing to host my friend and me. If everything goes right we will be able to spend time in London, France, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and possibly Germany. Even writing that sentence scares me a bit because at this point I don’t really know how I am going to pay for everything. But this is such a once in a lifetime experience, so I’m just praying that everything works out.

I’m scared because I’m the type of person who likes to have everything planned out. I budget, I write lists, I want every detail set before I take the first step, but at this point I can’t have that. It’s a one day at a time thing. Planning what I can but learning to let go at the same time which is something I’m not very good at.

So…. I especially appreciate prayers right now. Prayers for wisdom with trip planning. Prayers for finances, prayers for time management and prayer for just a sense of peace because so many times I just don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

But, as I think about going to Africa for 6 months to a year, my heart feels truly happy something I haven’t felt in a long, long time. I feel like in away I am returning home. It’s where I grew up, it’s where I feel comfortable and welcome. As they say, “you can take the girl out of Africa, but you can’t take Africa out of the girl.” I know I’m American, but a piece of me still feels very at home in Africa. Growing up, the song Please Don’t Send Me to Africa had it’s popular streak to the point of being annoying. In the song the songwriter pleads with God to honor his one request and never send him to the continent of Africa. My siblings and I wrote our own version of the song, “please send me to Africa I don’t think I have what it takes to live in suburban America I miss my spiders and snakes.”

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