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.


Education...


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.



IT IS WELL.

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 making...plus 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:
SIL
PO Box 1 (384)
Ukarumpa, EHP 444
Papua New Guinea

Letters:
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.