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!’”