Monday, April 10, 2017

I go, i kam

The title of this blog comes from a phrase in tok pisin (aka Melanesian pidgin – the language we most use to communicate here) which can be translated as “Going and coming” or “going back and forth”

Living in Ukarumpa, we live in a place that is both settled/permanent and transient. There are families like ours who live and work in Ukarumpa full-time. Other families, such as two who are in our Bible study, live part of their lives in the village where they are doing translation work. A final group of people are the short-term workers, who come for 1 or 2 years and then return to their passport country, sometimes they come back, sometimes they don’t. The community is constantly in flux as new people arrive in the country and others leave, either to return again or not. Those who leave on furlough sometimes, unexpectedly, end up not returning for various reasons.

A few weeks ago I got the privilege of sending off on furlough, a family that is very close to ours here in Ukarumpa. They will be gone for 10 months and then God willing, they will return to us who will in the meantime miss them very much. This is the first time their two youngest children have ever been to America. They were born in the Philippines and PNG respectively). Then the following week we said goodbye to another very close family. They will hopefully returning in about a year.

A crowd to say goodbye. We will miss the Albright family very much as they are close friends...we don't know where we will be spending Christmas day this year as we have always spent it with them every year we have been in PNG. Jim and Michelle were MK's in the Phillippines and have great perspective to give on missionary living.
Little ones contemplating their exciting plane ride

Clare is Andrew's wife and my very good friend. She is from the UK
and Evan says he can always tell when I have been hanging out with her lots
as my pattern of speech and inflection changes to be more"British". 

Amazing to get smiles out of these guys. Andrew is a small engines mechanic and indepesible at the autoshop. He is also an awesome friend who keeps us laughing. He is an American MK raised in Peru. He has served in PNG for over 10 years. 

It is a tradition and a way of easing the pain of saying goodbye to go to the airstrip with your friends and wave them off.

It is way more fun to go there when they return. Or you are having people come visit.
Grandparents [Liz's mom and dad] come to visit in 2014 - Liam went straight for them...Julien was more interested in trying to get a plane ride (:

We are still learning the value of “saying goodbye well”. For us, this means when you say goodbye, you don’t know if you will ever see this person on earth again, even if plans say you will. So, you try to hold that relationship somewhat loosely, while cherishing it.

Liam still talks about a friend he made in preschool, who was from Sweden, here on a short-term mission with his family. We talk sometimes about maybe visiting one day. But the reality is that we may never see him or his family this side of heaven again. This is the case with at least a 1/3 of the friends we make on the field or in passport countries.

One of the benefits is that there is always a “new kid” at school and at work, so the children and the adults are more aware and more welcoming than our more insular passport countries can be.

There are of course the possible “downsides” that we as parents to third-culture-kids need to watch for and help guide our kids through these transitions as they come. Sometimes kids who grow up in environments such as ours can have struggles when moving between cultures in growing friendships and maintaining ties to family. Fortunately, now more than ever before there is information and people who are experienced in ministering to the parents and the kids themselves and more and more parents are cognizant of the need to shepherd their kids through concepts of grieving, transition, and all sorts of cultural/worldview mind-shifts that are becoming ever more relevant in our shrinking world. Technological advances in recent years for video calls, texting internationally, blogging and so forth have helped, but has also put pressures on missionaries and their families to keep up with everyone “back home” and keep everyone informed as well.

I suppose the main point I would like to make here is that one of the things that makes this community special and wonderful can also be a major stressor in our lives, and one that doesn’t really get easier or let up. We are constantly saying goodbye. But that means we are also frequently saying hello. Pray that we that while we can continue to say goodbye well, we can also say “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here” just as well.


In learning more and more about the education system in Papua New Guinea, and also having experienced different sectors of the American school system while on furlough in the US I am in awe and also so very grateful for the school my children have the ability to go to here in PNG.

Our oldest son, Liam, attended two years of preschool here in PNG. He still talks about and recognizes his first preschool teacher, Mrs. Raube. In his 4 years of schooling he has been “the new kid” 5 times.  Evan and I are learning to help guide our boys through each new transition with the insight and support of fellow parents of MK’s, adult MK’s, and a myriad of media resources now available to parents of Third Culture Kids. 

This is part of our continuing education as adults.

Ukarumpa International Primary School is where both our boys are where we send our boys. I have written before how much I appreciate all the hard-working staff and the welcoming students who make up the body of the school. There are fun school events that bond the community as well as make learning fun. 

One of these is the annual book fair. Two weeks of reading goals and activities, culminating in a “book parade” and carnival type day for the kids and their families.

The book parade is the highlight for the students as it allows them to dress up as a favorite person or character from literature. Each year there are characters ranging from real life people who have been written about to completely fictional individuals. This year was the first time our boys were old enough to participate.

One of my favorite things to do is sew and create things for my children. I am also a “bookworm”, one who loves reading, literacy, and helping others to enjoy reading and learning. To be able to combine these two interests was a real pleasure. It was quite the challenge, however, as I didn’t have my sewing machine here (it is on a container hopefully arriving and being released by customs very soon in the port city of Lae) or very much of my crafting items unpacked yet. But, my boys had chosen their characters and were eager to participate. So, on the community forums and through friends and with the aid of trusty safety pins, I begged, borrowed, bought, cut, glued, and “sewed” together a Buckingham Palace Guard (Liam) and Paddington Bear (Julien).

Julien is front row, second from the left

The book parade and similar community events reminds me that there are opportunities to help my kids to learn how important reading is to their lives. Being able to read and write well will serve them their entire lives. Learning new skills, being able to share stories and information are all vital to successful and enjoyable work and play.

I am having another snapshot of the school life for our boys as I come in three mornings a week to tutor Liam in the Barton Reading & Spelling System. It has been challenging for both of us but he is progressing and getting more confident in his reading. We are trying to stay on track during the month long school break. I am also grateful for the assistant teacher in Liam’s class, Miss Natalia, who has generously volunteered to meeting with Liam over break to be able to keep him up on all of the new concepts he has been tacking since our return to PNG. [An update on this. A spot has opened for Liam to be tutored by one of the teachers. I am very grateful for this as it gives me more time and energy to be mom.]

In an attempt to get a handle on what jobs here would be a possible fit for me, since I have not worked in my field since university (10 years next month) I am going through some career guidance newly offered here by some members of our human resources team. It has been an insightful and interesting experience. I hope at the end to have a more specific direction to set my sights on. It may require some satellite education but being in school was an enjoyable experience for me so I wouldn’t mind. (:

I will get to “go back to school” for sure in another way at the end of July into August. There is going to be an anthropology course open to the community that I am eagerly anticipating,
Here is the write up for it:
Did you know that your grammar and phonology studies can lead to a deeper understanding of your colleagues' worldviews, resulting in more effective and rewarding teamwork?

The Applied Anthropology workshop will focus on linguistic and cultural emersion, a synergy-like aspect of cross-cultural experience. 
Speaker: Dr Eloise Meneses
                 Theological and Cultural Anthropology
                 Eastern University (USA)

I am sure some of you just banged your head on the keyboard as you fell asleep. But I am just thrilled to bits to get an opportunity to expand my knowledge in an area I have been unable to really pursue in earnest since university days. I miss “getting my hands dirty”.

Drooling over the restoration room in a Roman museum on my honeymoon in Germany 

I am praying that the course will help me to be able to direct me in how to better serve here in Papua New Guinea. I am also praying that is will not be overwhelming for me as it will be the first time that I have been back in the school setting for a number of years and I am also already having struggles with maintaining a healthy schedule and boundaries.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It is Well Part 1

We are in the midst of our biennual conference held at the mission center where we work. The theme this year is “It is well”.

Here is a youtube video of the song that inspired those who were planning the conference for the theme. The original hymn that inspired Kristene DiMarco of course is a very old one, but one that I feel is just as potent today. Both songs are beautiful offerings to the Lord, who, though we are at times walking or crawling through storms and up mountains, is always with us.


A sentiment which, for anyone who is familiar with the origins of old hymn from which those three words are derived, can feel the weight of what it means to be able to speak just those words, without conditions or caveats.

To be able to say it is well, for each of us, means different things. I won’t try to speak for others. It requires a personal conversation with God and maybe even a breaking and/or handing over your own will in submission to Him.

What it has meant for me is the daily recognition and surrendering of me and how much I am able to handle physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes that means doing much less than I wanted to accomplish that day. Sometimes it means despite my emotions and mental state to take a leaf from those who survived the Blitz:

Except instead of an earthly king or queen I am listening to God as He takes my hand and helps me to take on more than I in my finite self believe I am capable of. God is always able.
Finding peace in accepting whatever capabilities I have.

There is nothing like having a message being very gently but firmly repeated to you in different ways to help you move from the place where in your head you are claiming acceptance and surrender to where your whole heart and soul are actually accepting it.  I am still working on it, and depending on the day I will be more or less open-palmed to God with my desire for control. But, over the last couple of months, and in particular during conference I have heard this message becoming more and more clear and been more and more willing to listen. IT IS WELL.

When we returned to the field in December, it was very hard for me. There still is much uncertainty to our future in PNG. But, with Evan being the strong, Godly man that he is, it is easier for me to continue stepping out. We continue to move forward through opening doors. It is difficult, because we really don’t know if these plans are going to pan out. We are trusting that as we walk forward God will protect us from smashing our noses against a closed door.

One place where I have been earnestly trying to tell God it is well and really believe it is with our finances. I want to feel comfortable and “secure” in our finances. To me, that means that we have enough not only to meet our immediate and future needs but also are able to save for those things that we want (like a trip somewhere for Evan and I for our 10th anniversary). The way things are in our finances at the moment, while not technically at 100% of our budget, our needs are being met every month. We just don’t have extra. And that is okay. We have our manna for today only. I need to continue to speak and hear myself that it is okay. It is well.

One passage that was talked about on the very first day that has stuck with me and I hope will continue to buoy me when I feel low.

Clive, our speaker, used the illustration of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus said: “Let us go over to the other side.” Among other things, he made a humorous but profound point. We must pay attention to Jesus’ words. He said they would go to the other side, he didn’t say “Let’s go halfway and sink in the middle.” An important distinction.

Part 2…coming soon…

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.