Monday, January 30, 2017

A Day in the Life: The Saga of the Oven

Well, we have been requested to do a “Day in the life” type blog posting. 

In trying to collect pictures for this blog we quickly concluded that the delayed writing of this post is a great example of what often makes a typical day…
So, without ANY MORE delay here is the first installment of a day in the life of the Larson family in Ukarumpa!

We have a very nice oven, particularly for PNG.  Most ovens here are tiny but this one was imported by the former owners of our house in 2007 and it is large enough for me to make 6 loaves of bread in one go! However, not long before we left on furlough in 2014 the thermal coupler needed to be replaced. Since it is not a typical oven for this country the part had to be ordered from Australia and ended up getting installed after we left.

We returned to PNG right before the departments shut-down for Christmas holiday (all the departments in Ukarumpa close for 2 weeks for Christmas and New Year, including the CAM (Construction And Maintenance) department which helps us when our appliances don’t work.
About a week after out arrival I realized that though our stove-top could be manually lit, the oven would not stay lit. This realization came after I mixed up two pans of banana bread and then couldn’t bake them.  So I went across to our friends’ house with pans in hand begging to use their oven.
When the departments opened I had the appliance man come and inspect our oven.  He repaired one component and we thought that was the end of it. The time came for me to bake a birthday cake for a friend and as mine wasn’t yet fixed I baked it in their oven.

The CAM man came again and thought he fixed it.

 I proceeded to bake 4 loaves of bread. 
Prep for bread a pineapple. Because we have pineapples in our garden.
Kneading on the floor because the counter is too high
Unbeknownst to me, the pilot light turned off after 20 minutes. We had partially cooked loaves of bread and couldn’t get the oven to relight once it was hot.
Genius, outside-the-box thinker of a husband that I have, we finished cooking one loaf by making French toast, and steamed a second loaf on the stovetop.   The others we left in the warm oven and they cooked just enough to eat.
French toast!
Steamed bread
Another week goes by as Evan tries to fix the oven. Then we call the CAM man again. Several hours and several trips back and forth from CAM to our house later it was found that there was both a broken regulator valve at our propane tanks and the thermostat on the oven needed adjusting.
End result? A month back in PNG I have a working oven!  … Almost.  It was working fine over the weekend but today when I needed to make a cake for a birthday and dessert for Bible Study tomorrow, things did not go as planned…

Today reminded me of this book that the boys have where every page went back and forth starting with either “Fortunately…” or “Unfortunately”.

Fortunately, the oven was working this morning so I went walking to visit a friend and then go to the store…

Unfortunately, Evan had to go out on a rescue so I had to get home early to pick up Julien from school and didn’t get to the store….

Fortunately, a friend gave me a ride and we all went to the store to get supplies for cake making…
Unfortunately, the oven stopped working partly through cooking. Checked all the usual subjects, out of gas? Nope. And  attempted to relight the oven to no avail…

Fortunately, I was able to run next door with the half cooked cake and finish it in a friend’s oven before Liam needed to be picked up…

Unfortunately, as I was walking out the door with the piping hot cake, the pan slipped, burned my arm slightly which caused me to startle and drop the pan. Cake was tipped out all over the floor.

Fortunately, I can try to make another Wednesday for Sandra’s daughter…

Unfortunately, I still need to figure out what I am doing for dessert tomorrow…

Fortunately, I can be grateful the stovetop still works and eventually we will have a working oven (which is especially good as we have no microwave) because we have both expatriate and national people who work in the various departments helping us with the things we don’t know how to do.  In the same way we work to help others with the tasks they do not know how to do. 

10 Favorite Things

Now that we are starting to settle in…I heard recently that when a major move happens it takes two years to actually settle in, so my question is, if this is true, are any missionaries actually settled ever?
ANYWAY…I have a few ideas for more regular blog updates in a lighter vein…said the person who has probably 1/3 of her house unpacked and organized but has enough done that everyone has things to cook with, eat on and doesn’t smell musty…  So we are good for now.

BUT I would love to hear what YOU want to hear about.  E-mail or comment on this blog with ideas!

So, for the first installment I present: A few of my favorite things about Ukarumpa/PNG
…dahdah, dah, dah-da …and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles…um. Yes, back on task. 

Incidentally, musicals are one of my favorite types of movies…but that is another topic.

Stay on target…

Here goes in no particular order other than the one I thought of them in 10 of my favorite things about Ukarumpa living:

1.       The kids being able to walk to school “on their own” – for the moment I walk them a bit down our hill and they go the rest of the way to the school gate while I stand where I can see them enter the gate.
Walking to school

Special treat of riding in an autoshop truck to school
2. The school and how much my kids are loving it right now. Everyone from the maintenance staff to the teachers to the administration work hard to provide safe, healthy and fun learning environment for my boys.

Outside Liam's classroom on the first day
3.       The breeze that blows through the louvered windows of my house on a hot day --- except perhaps when the grass on the nearby hills is being burned off.  ;)
Burning off of grass during dry season, to help it rain, prep garden ground or just because someone was bored....

4.       Fresh, like literally out of the ground yesterday or today and to my table fruit and vegetables.

Market day

5.       Friends for the kids and for me and Evan. For some friends we are back just in time to say goodbye as they take their furloughs.  But we are grateful for the time with them and look forward to their return.
Liam playing with his friend Heidi back 2012 - she is in Julien's class at school but is soon leaving on furlough 
Evan with a group of people from Ukarumpa exploring a cave back in 2013
Liz going down the "homemade" water-slide last term with friends (photo courtesy of Tanya Lott)
6.       Our Bible study; we rejoined our former Bible study when we returned and we love the support and good study we get from it. We are also grateful that the attitude of the folks who are still a part of it are welcoming and open. This means that we have recently had to “multiply”, that is break into two groups so that we can continue to invite new folks to join. We are looking forward to getting to know people as with the recent split Evan and I have ended up in a group with people we were not previously friends with.

7.       “Ukaweb” is the craigslist/ebay/community bulletin board of Ukarumpa. Those who are in Ukarumpa need items, wonder about how to do thing, or just want to know what’s happening, Ukaweb is there to help connect the community and one is likely to find answers within a day. Even if what you need is a rubber chicken, there is a probably someone here who has it…

8.       Praying people all around you…on above mentioned Ukaweb there are a few boards devoted entirely to prayer of various groups, people with the community, friends and family of community members. It is a privilege to be able to pray with fellow believers about needs in the community and around the world. It was a blessing during one the most difficult times in my life – when Julien was ill (back in 2013 and we had yet to determine what was wrong).  Fellow community members would come up to me as I went about trying to have normal life; they would tell me they were praying for him and for us. To be at the clinic and have medical and administrative staff pray with us was a real comfort and help during an incredibly stressful time.

Little boy in a big bed - Julien in Brisbane for testing back in 2013 - He had lots of people all over the world praying for him. He is happy and healthy now.

9.       Third-culture living; coming as we do from so many cultural backgrounds and melding, but without assimilating into any one existing group, we benefit from new perspectives and a common purpose:  Bring the word of God to those who do not have access in their mother tongue. We get to experience a little of what it is going to be like when we get to Heaven as it says in Revelation 7:9

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb

!0. Letters and "Golden Tickets" - Everyone the world over enjoys getting mail. But I thinking living in a place where sometimes we feel a bit cut-off and out-of-touch, it is comforting and spark of joy when we open our post box and there is something waiting for us. We are remembered. We are loved.
The "golden ticket"
 Now you are probably thinking: I get the letters but what are 'golden tickets' about? I refer you to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. In the story the holders of the golden ticket were provided access to a world of fun, delicious treats and recognized as special. 

The same thing happens when we missionaries here in Ukarumpa unlock our box and see one of these lucky little pieces of bent, scribbled and tired pieced of yellow cardstock waiting for us.

It means there is a package waiting just for us at the postal desk and all we have to do is present the card...the grown-ups can sometimes be even more excited than the kids.

Like this post? Let us know, we can do more "Favorite things" or "Day in the life" posts...We want to write about what you want to hear.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tips for sending mail to us...

In looking for a picture for the blog posts (which I promise are coming in fact I am working on them right after this) I came across a couple of blogs of friends which were very comprehensive and helpful I thought in giving information about mailing to us in Papua New Guinea.

I have largely copied and pasted with some little changes here and there to match our family. I hope since I admitted to lifting it in large part I won’t get in trouble for plagiarism J.

Anyway, I thought rather than posting it on facebook I would put it here on the blog for reference for any folks who wanted…

Also as a point of reference here is a link to our “How to bless your missionary” portion of our website,

Our address for mailing is:
PO Box 1 (384)
Ukarumpa, EHP 444
Papua New Guinea

For small items that just fit inside a letter-sized parcel, it should be fairly straight forward to just go to the post office counter and pay the correct postage to get it here.

Flat Rate Boxes through USPS:
USPS Flat rate boxes are usually the easiest and most economical way to send packages to PNG as it is a set price for up to a certain weight (the large boxes can hold 20 lbs at no extra cost). Also, it comes with free tracking. For a list of boxes and prices you can visit USPS’s website.

You can also send a few bucks by printing your own Flat Rate Postage
{Purchase Flat Rate Postage}

Of course you can use any box you like. :) 
Books Only:
If you want to bless us with some reading material, we have idea lists for books for the boys and us grownups. But you are always welcome to pass along a favorite of yours. One great site for books that I always recommend is Better World Books. It is a company that is dedicated to keeping books out of landfills, as well as promoting and funding literacy programs around the world. As a bonus, they provide FREE international shipping no matter if you are buying 1 book or 20. You can order from the site and have it mailed directly to us no dealing with customs forms or figuring out postage. We have had several orders shipped to us here in PNG no problems.

Customs Form:
You will have to fill out a customs form with packages at the Post Office. Each Post Office seems to require different forms and levels of detail on those forms. The one we have had success with is a white form (Form 2976-A) with carbon copies. You will have to list out the items you are sending, so we recommend writing out a separate list of what your packed and taking it with you so you aren’t left guessing at the PO.

Here are some tips on how to list things you are sending:
·         Food items should be listed as “culinary items”
·         If you send any kind of media (CD’s, DVD’s, flashdrives, etc…) list it as “entertainment media” or something along those lines. It will be less likely to be confiscated this way.
·         Group similar things under one heading (ie don’t list out all the medicines individually, just label them “medical supplies” and write a quantity.
·         General descriptions are fine, you don’t have to be super specific (although some Post Offices might be more demanding in this regard).
·         Some Post Offices are more strict than others. It’s possible they will ask you to list individual weights next to each item. In that case, you should be able to just put down estimates that add up to the total weight of the box.
Other information for the Customs Form:
All overseas mail is now airmail; you don’t have the option of sending by sea 
(rf. #6 on Form 2976-A)
Check the box for “Gift” on the customs form to describe the contents (rf. #5 on Form 2976-A)

Other Tips:
Please pack any food items extra well, as rats often can get to it before we can, especially if it ends up sitting in a hanger or Post Office somewhere for awhile.

Regardless of how fast you pay to have it shipped, there is no guarantee it gets here in that time frame. It will probably hit PNG shores in that amount of time, but once it is in country, who knows how long it takes! Packages tend to take 3-6 weeks to get to us. All that to say, please don’t spend extra money trying to get it here super fast!

It’s always fun to get mail, and some days a simple card or letter is a big encouragement. If you’d like to send a care package but have a little extra room, some extra fillers that we love would include:

·         * Seasoning packets (taco, dressings, frosting flavors, etc.) but please no MSG or high fructose corn syrup if possible, it really causes issues for us.

·         *Tea – Earl gray, English breakfast and peppermint are favorites

·         *Candy – dark chocolate, peanut/peanut butter m&m’s, peanut butter cups, sour apple rings, jelly beans, gum, lollipops, and life savers are favorites

·         *True Lemon or Stur water inhancers with stevia

·        * Dried fruit – like cranberries, cherries, and apple slices

·         *School/craft supplies

·         *Flashdrives, CD’s or DVD’s (you can can also load a flashdrive with funny or interesting YouTube videos, audiobooks, podcasts, music or shows!)

·         *Pepperoni or jerky (MUST be sealed and packaged VERY well, to deter rats and other critters)

·         *Parmesan Cheese (Not fresh!)

·       *  Granola bars

·         *Fruit snacks or other little packaged non-refrigerated snacks you would take on a hike,  road trip or put in your kids lunch boxes.

*Glow sticks or other glowy things like these finger lights, foam gliders, balloons or similar kinds of things that Liam and Julien can share with their friends or we can pull out on hard days to give them a smile! 

·       *  Small notebooks, sticky notes
      As always we thank you for being a part of the ministry and taking the time to read out posts, pray for us and support us. We could not be here without you all.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Evidence Not Seen

 A bit ago my mom gave me the book Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose. For those unfamiliar, it is Darlene’s story of her time in a Japanese POW camp in (at the time) New Guinea (now the area she was imprisoned at is part of West Papua – the Indonesian side of the island).  The effect it had on me was one similar to when I read The Hiding Place.

I experienced confirmation and encouragement during at a time that has been, to put it mildly, strenuous, for our family. For those who don’t know, Evan has been working 6 day weeks off and on (more on than not) for a couple of months. This is due to continue through June. We are also marking a bit over a year of being on furlough, several months longer than we intended on being here. We know that we are still in the US because it is not right time for us to return, though sometimes this knowledge isn’t enough to stave off the feelings of frustration and sadness we feel at not being able to get down to work with the ministry in PNG.

We also are reminded almost daily, we are the parents of two amazing TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) who, the longer we live in transition between two worlds, bring even more challenges into our lives. When Liam tells me, “I miss my PNG friends, but I know when we go back, I will miss my American friends.” Or when Julien says “I want to go on the jet plane to Uka-grumpa (Ukarumpa) today. Why can’t we go today?” My mama heart just breaks and struggles to know what to say.

All this has been compounded by my health struggles which remain, so far, partially a mystery to us going on for a year and half now.

Being in this place of feeling two steps forward, three steps back, it was uplifting to read such insights as: “I was to discover, however, that when I took my eyes off the circumstances that were overwhelming me, over which I had no control, and looked up, my Lord was there, standing on the parapet of heaven looking down. Deep in my heart He whispered, ‘I’m here. Even when you don’t see Me, I’m here. Never for a moment are you out of My sight.’”

What a comfort! It is an assurance I am working on adding to the running loop in my head of heartening thoughts to turn on in times of doubt.

And what a joy it has been to be able to continue to have opportunities open up to us to share with folks here, why we are working so hard to return to a place and people we love, despite the wounds we have incurred (some we are still healing from), while serving there.  Often, after sharing the beauty and the pain of our first term,  I am asked, “So, you’re going back because…?” The first response that pops into my head was reaffirmed in Darlene’s book. Being where God wants us to be is better than being where we are “safe”. Because the reality is, bad things happen everywhere; and bad things happen even when you are walking in obedience to God. But walking the road that is covered by His Will is the best thing for us all, regardless of the risks and perils. For us, we believe, that path leads to returning to PNG to come alongside God’s people there in their journey of holistic restoration to Him.

Thus, I will try my best to live in the moment and place God has asked me to dwell in now, and learn, so that I will be truly ready for the day when I rejoice with my Papua New Guinean sisters and brothers like Darlene when she first came into the valley of the people group she and her husband were to serve: “I raised hands, waving to the people. My cheeks streaked with tears, I started running down the mountainside, singing at the top of my lungs, ‘I’m home! I’m home!’”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Whom shall I fear?

For a couple of months I have been wrestling with fears. Fear of not ever getting back to PNG, fear of going back “too soon”, fear of being a bad mother or a bad wife, fear of being a bad missionary, fear of letting go and holding on.

I have never been a soldier in a war, and I certainly do not claim to know what it is truly like. But from talking to, listening to, and reading accounts of veterans from different conflicts, I have gotten the sense that, at least in one respect, being a missionary is the same. You will never be the same person you were when you went as when you come back.

I am beginning to realize that for my situation, it has been ultimately for the better. I certainly did not feel that way many times while in the midst of circumstances that were cracking, breaking and at times completely shattering me. But in the end I have emerged feeling very much like a piece of kintsugi pottery; Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repair using a lacquer mixed with gold, silver or other precious metal powder. It is done in this way so that not only is the broken part not hidden, it is emphasized as a part of the object’s history of its existence; accepting that flaws and imperfections are a part of life and part of the story.

In the same way, we, the vessels of God do not come through life unscathed. And rather than hide the wounds, we ought to allow God to purify them and repair them, acknowledging the process and the end result as part of who we are now.

To that end I wanted to share a song and scripture that have been a help to me during these last couple of weeks as the pace of our journey back towards PNG has picked up. We usually attend both a Sunday and a Wednesday night service.

Firstly, where I got the title of this blog from:
The Chris Tomlin song: Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)
Every time we sing it in church I feel encouraged to continue on, to not let the fears hold me back. 

So, when I was looking up the lyrics to post here, I was delighted to come across a video where Chris Tomlin is talking about writing this song, and there were two parts that really hit home for me. First, he said that he had decided he wanted to write a song with his friend, Ed Cash (whom he has written with before). When he texted him, Ed texted back how weird it was for Chris to ask because in the middle of the night the previous night when his wife had woken him up asking for prayer because she was feeling as if there were things coming against her. While he was praying he felt inspired to start singing a chorus that came into his mind. And in the morning he had thought he should send the portion of the song to Chris. So, they worked together and what resulted was Whom Shall I Fear. Secondly, Chris went on to say how some songs, like this one, are inspired and are like prayers. 

Both of those points struck me and are true in my life. I have more times than I can remember, woken Evan up and asked for him to pray for me, for our family. And, though I make absolutely no claims on being a great singer, when I do, often it is a prayer, a cry to God to work these things in me. Give me strength, faith, endurance, courage to continue to step into this life I never imagined having, but choose out of obedience to Your Will.
"Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies)"

You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light

Whom shall I fear

You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still

Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I'm holding on to Your promises

You are faithful

That is the point isn’t it? We are showing our brokenness on the outside, where people can see, relate, and hopefully feel that if someone doesn’t have to be perfect to be a friend of God, all of us should be encouraged to seek Him too.  And it goes further than that.

In 2 Kings 19 Jerusalem comes under siege by the Assyrians. Before this happened King Hezekiah, who knew the Assyrians were coming, had the part of the spring of Gihon which was outside the city walls be blocked off and routed through the west part of Jerusalem in a tunnel (which still exists today) so that when the siege came, the people would have fresh water. There is reference made to this in 2 Chronicles 32:30. Even with this, Hezekiah needed encouragement, which he got in the form of a prophecy sent to him, recounted in 2 Kings 19: 32-34.

I believe that God doesn’t just come along at the end and repair us. He is with us through the times where we are getting tumbled, trodden and beat. He has provided us with an internal spring, a river, like the spring of Gihon that continually offers us refreshment, comfort and solace when we need it. And when we are not in dire straits our gates should be open to offer it to others.

Last night I was listening to a sermon on the book of Nahum. It has been such a cool thing to dive into the “sticky parts” of the Bible as the pastor likes to call them; because they are the portions which don’t get much read, much preached on, so the pages aren’t ever broken from their sort of stuck together state that all the pages start out like when the Bible is new. But I have come to realize, they are sticky for another reason. Sometimes the truth that emerges can be tricky and hard to know what to do with.

In Nahum 1:3 it says “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.”
At first I was only struck by the second part. In Papua New Guinea, the skies are so big. When a storm or wind comes through our valley it is indeed awesome, and the clouds are immense. When the dry season comes and there is dust everywhere, and there is need for rain, there are fires lit in the tall kunai grass on all the hillsides. Unconfined fire crackling and being whipped up by wind, it is the first time I could truly visualize “tongues of fire” spoke of in Acts 2:2-3. It is tremendous to know that a God that is so big, so powerful, He is greater than all these things, and is IN those times where we are feeling surrounded in the midst of a storm.

I pray you are blessed and at peace. Thanks for reading.