Over the last couple of months, I have been really struggling with what we term as “finishing well”. Finishing well means to be in the moment right up until you leave the country, to not be daydreaming all time about when you get to [fill in your passport country], how much better it is going to be. Because the truth is no matter where you are, Satan will try to kill, steal and destroy every good thing. And you are called to be here, therefore you owe it to God and to yourself to serve with your whole heart right to the last day in-country. I know this and trying to practice it, even going to the extent of sharing my struggle with our very supportive Bible Study. Despite my effort I found myself, after Evan reported the latest in a recent conflict between two language groups, putting my head in my hands and saying “I wish we could all go with you to Thailand because that means we leave here a month earlier.”.
I don’t write much about certain aspects of our life here in the Eastern Highlands Province (EHP) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) for various reasons. One of the most prominent is that frankly, if I did it would scare some of you. You would begin to question why we have our children here and such like.
So, I will start by stating some points. Yes, PNG is sometimes a dangerous place to live. Everywhere Evan and I have lived with and without our children has been sometimes dangerous to live in too. We both believe that the best place for our family is under the umbrella of God’s will regardless of where that is geographically. We believe us living and serving in PNG is God’s Will. That does not mean we live as if nothing bad could ever happen to us. If we ever felt that our lives were in true immediate danger we would not hesitate to do anything in our power to get away from that danger.
I also want to reiterate (as I state in the “About me” section of this blog) that the words that are expressed herewith are mine and mine alone. They are not to be affiliated with any other person or group.
First I will start with some general things that contribute to my almost daily prayers to God that He help me to be joyful in my day and His light here in PNG.
1. Theft and other destructive behaviors: We, thankfully, have never had even an attempted break-in of our home. Probably aided by the fact we have a very large German Shepherd in our yard. However, we have some friends here who have had repeated successful or attempted break-ins of their homes, things stolen off their wash-lines (that only happened once to us) and other wanton persecutions that make me at one time angry and heartsick for the salvation of this nation.
2. “Askims” – a pidgin word meaning someone asking for money or favors because they claim to have some kind relationship with you, but in reality it usually is someone who is being lazy or irresponsible and they want a quick buck from the “rich” white person.
3. No vehicle – My four-wheeler has been out of commission since April because the parts have to come from overseas. Which means weeks of waiting only to discover that while that part was broken, there is another part or two that also needs to be replaced that you didn’t discover until the first part was replaced…) On the positive side all the walking is good for my health. And it will help me to even more grateful for my “wheels” when they are fixed. However, it makes me more reliant on other people and in general restricts my movements because I cannot always go somewhere walking that I could go if I was on or in a vehicle.
4. Unpredictable and limited hours for all business activities: A regular schedule goes something like this: Monday – Wednesday and Fridays all departments (includes: store, hardware counter, post office are open 9-Noon and open again (mostly) 1-4 (except for those things like finance (where we get our cash) and the post office service window which are only open in the mornings) Thursdays they are open at 9:30 or whenever the department finishes devotions. Of course, if someone is retiring/leaving, there is staff meetings or trainings that need to be done we will usually be told the night before that it will open late or close early. Then there are the periodic stock-takes which close the department for a week or so. When on top of this, it takes my entire morning to accomplish three errands, I get a little graceless about the lack of time-awareness that is PNG culture. How I long for a place that is open when it is advertised to be open and is open on a weekend at all.
5. Having “things” (medical, vehicle, house issues, or trips or…) come up that we just don’t have the money for because we have never been funded to the point where we can save a whole lot (plus we have had partners end their regular support in the last few months) and we have to appeal for more. Sometimes it is just hard for me to not be a little wistful for the time when Evan was making enough we had savings and IF we needed some extra that month he could work a little overtime. Here he works overtime A LOT and our income is always the same…right on the edge between making it and not.
Those are some of the things that have contributed to the wrestling in my mind and heart over finishing well during the last few months. Now a conflict has arisen that is making the struggle even harder.
Two of the largest language groups in PNG are fighting and it doesn’t look like it is going to end anytime soon. All because of someone throwing stones at a passing PMV. This kind of idiocy is making me very frustrated and grief-stricken. Frustrated because it makes it even more difficult to function in the day-to-day. Grief-stricken because this lunacy shows the kind darkness that has this country gripped. It is why we are here of course, but where is the light at the end of the tunnel?
There has always been tribal tensions, fighting, killing (often in the form of “pay back killings” – meaning someone in your group has done something to someone in our group therefore we will find ANY person from your group and seek our revenge….). Laws of course have come into effect at different times in hopes of curbing this kind of stupid behavior. Because that is what it is, setting aside the morality of murdering another human being, going back and forth killing people (think Hatfields/McCoys or Capulet/Montague on a country-wide scale) rather than resolving things in a sane and mature manner.
No, not every National does this. In fact there are plenty who deplore the mindset. We are friends with several who are among the most intelligent, Godly and amazing people we have EVER met. But, mob mentality and a few thousand years of tradition very often outweighs a calm, well-thought out response.
The common way to get around the country is in public transport vans or trucks known as PMVs. They run from all over and depending on how far you want to go, you pay accordingly. One such PMV was traveling from Mt. Hagen to Lae last week. On the way through Kainantu (our closest tiny town), they picked up a passenger. For reasons unknown, a drunk man threw some stones at the vehicle. The passengers from Mt Hagen then realized one of the passengers was from Kainantu, blamed him for the drunk man’s actions and proceeded to torture him until he died somewhere along the road to Lae. When they reached Lae they dumped the body at the morgue. Another passenger from Goroka stayed with the body and went through the dead man’s phone until he contacted a family member.
The shockwave that has followed these actions, riot and destruction in Kainantu, road blocks (they are stopping all passing PMVs and making people speak in their tok ples (the language of their tribal group to determine if they belong to one of the offending groups), burning of PMVs…
Since this feud involves the largest and seventh largest language groups in the country (out of approximately 800) it could go on for a very long time and result in many more deaths.
I wish for no more deaths, for cooler, more rational heads to prevail and for peace to come again to the valley. I love this country and its people and pray for peace and joy to reign. I wish to only have my “daily struggles” to bring before God.
For those who wish for it, below is a link to a news story about the above.