Our little 3 foot Christmas tree has been put away, along with all the special decorations that have stories and memories with each one. We were grateful that Pastor Rob brought us new Christmas lights, as ours had all reached the max life stage which was less then 1/2 to no strand working status. The tropics having played its humid torture to yet another electronic thing in our home. January 3rd was when life finally calmed down enough for Darron, the boys and I to enjoy a simple family Christmas. It was complete with Doritos from Singapore and a Christmas pudding from Australia. I think all of us appreciated this Christmas family time even more than Christmas’ past because……..
Perhaps I should back up and pick up this story from where my last blog left off. Remember, Andrew and I were landing into Papua after an all night flight from getting Andrew’s visa in Singapore.
We arrived into Sentani and went directly home at 7:30 a.m.. Honestly, I thought I was going to explode from fatigue, the pressure of turning immediately around and needing to catch another flight to head interior, and hoping everyone had all their stuff packed and ready. Ashamedly, I hit our home frustrated and a wee bit angry. Yep, being a missionary can pull the most unbecoming qualities out of me. Aubrey took the brunt of my anxiety and handled me calmly while I flew around the house switching 1st world gear for 3rd world interior gear. 40 minutes later we were back in the car heading to the airport. At this point, I let our a huge sigh. Recognized my poor attitude. Repented to my kids and God. Grace is a beautiful thing. I asked the Lord to strengthen me for what lay ahead as I didn’t have it in me and I drank in the grace extended to me.
The airport was crazy with Christmas travelers. When we checked in, they informed us that our flight was delayed. Due to no information when our flight would be, we decided to wait it out. 3 hours later we boarded. As usual the tropical terrain out the airplane window was breath taking. 30 minutes later we began our decent into Wamena (the largest city that is air supplied only). Pastor Bahasa picked us up in his truck along with KD and Erin. As we began our drive to Heberima I was surprised at the stone walls and countryside that was a mixture of tropical and almost England. I was startled by how much it reminded me of England, minus the sheep. I was enjoying the relief from the pressing humidity and anticipation began to fill me of the adventure of it all.
When Darron saw us pulling up, he ran/danced from the church building sight. His body language said it all. He was thrilled that his family had arrived. I think the image of his joy in seeing us will be replayed often in my mind. It was the sweetest welcome greeting ever. It spoke volumes of love. Darron’s JOY was a Christmas gift, of the finest quality, to me. I enjoyed being shoulder to shoulder with him, as often I stay home.
We quickly settled our belongings and joined the group to go to a village traditional feast given in part to honor us and in part as an offering of gratitude for a “new” vehicle that the village had obtained (it was only 24 years new). My boys and Darron have been to many traditional feasts, but this was my first one. So despite the rain, I watched the village women in complete fascination. They started removing layers and layers and layers of weeds and grass from a large hand dug pit. Then they were down to the edible greens. These were laid on the rice sacks and banana leaves. More layers of weeds were removed, along with hot rocks. Out were pulled dozens and dozens of cooked chickens. These were also laid on the ground. Skinny, hungry village dogs began to sniff around and were shooed away, if they were noticed. More rocks removed, more weeds, discarded, more cooked greens discovered. By now all the village people had gathered. People broke up into clusters. A pile of hot cooked weeds and chicken were laid on a banana leaf and everyone started digging in with their right hand, squat position. Honestly, the greens were delicious. They had made a spicy Indonesian like hot sauce dressing and bathed it over the ferns. Ferns are incredible!!! Talking with all the village women and girls was beautiful. They had a unique wave, which in American culture was more like an handle gesture that would mean, come here to me….I want to talk with you. So any time one of the ladies would wave to me, it went through my American filter and I would find myself taking steps towards them.
The nights were cold and cuddly. It was REFRESHING to FEEL cold and WANT to drink hot drinks. Something we rarely or perhaps never feel in Sentani. “
My three girls had taken the cooking in stride. They had adapted to what the situation handed them. They made adjustments and went with it. I was thrilled at their ability and ease at which they served many many people. Also Darron’s secretary, Erin, and a new Indonesian nurse that has joined our team, Afri, were there. They also cooked delicious Indonesian food to keep tummies filled. So I played in the kitchen, rather than led. One day I made steamed cinnamon rolls, and another day steamed garlic bread. It was fun to utilize tricks that I had learned my student mission year in the jungle of the Philippines more than 22 plus years ago.
Another favorite memory of mine was Sabbath morning. After waiting for quite a while for our ride to church, we began to walk. The countryside is gorgeous and it was downhill to the main road. Many of the village women and children were going to church also. They walked barefooted, saving their best shoes for in town. Its now Christmas Eve day and I’m loving these people.
Christmas Day. The group knows we need to work because all the village people want to join us and help. For days our group and many others before us had been mucking around in the foundation. Moving huge rocks. Leveling dirt. Building ditches for foundations. Overwhelming piles of dirt, dirt, muck, more dirt, wet dirt, mud, stick to your shoes, stick to your clothes, DIRT. This was our quirky Christmas. When I was squatting in the bathroom, I realized that Mary probably didn’t realize the circumstances under which she would deliver this baby placed in her womb by God. A stable???! This truth became so real to me and something I had never pondered. It was a precious spiritual nugget on Christmas day, that I will carry with me the rest of my life. Life is not always comfortable. Gorgeous things are born in discomfort. If God’s own son was born into very very humble circumstances…..who am I to think I deserve or should have more? Maybe not Jolly thoughts, but good ones. There were sweet Christmas treats (Puppy chow and fudge, thanks Wendy).
I think finally on the Tuesday did the building start going up. It lifted the moral of the group to stop doing dirt only. Now it was dirt and steel.
Wednesday night I left to get a 24 hour head start on the group arriving back at our home. Not a time to hit the massage parlor and put my feet up, but rather time to hit the kitchen to prepare for 9 extra mouths, post interior hungry. What a treat to spend the night with a lovely missionary family who live in the town of Wamena, before my early morning flight. I was served their left over Christmas dinner on special Christmas dishes. I was teary all evening with gratitude or maybe it was just the hot shower that kept leaking out of my eyes. Arriving back into Sentani I was blessed that people helped me shop at the market, my baker showed and a friend came to chop veggies for different dishes for 3 hours.
Friday, the group arrived back in three different time slots. Each with their back packs full of dirty clothes and all longing for a hot shower. And so meals were produced and bellies were filled and stories were shared and growing was done. The house became a constant stream of young adults with my own family mixed somewhere in it all. Saturday night was much anticipated as there is NOTHING like an Indonesian New Year. We stayed up very very early, watching in AMAZEMENT once again, a firework display that goes and goes and goes until the smoke in the air is so thick that it blocks out the more distant fireworks. Unbelievable.
Sunday, New Years Day, we were slow to get going from our lack of sleep the night before. Shortly after our late breakfast it was decided that rather than go to a beach we would do a more local activity. The waterfall was the destination. I decided to stay home and try get things straightened out. A few hours later Darron calls to share that one of our visiting young adults had taken a 100 foot fall at the waterfall. His toes were clearly dislocated and a large gash was in his knee. He felt that Jordan was making slow but steady progress out and to be ready to meet them at the clinic later.
An hour later, Darron calls again. This time there is more urgency in his voice. Jordan is no longer able to move as well. Could I send a stretcher in? And more clean water? At this rate, it was going to take 5 hours to get out to the main road, is how Darron felt. I know many details happened at the waterfall and on the trail that I don’t know of. People running the trail and a car sent to the clinic and phones and people left at the base of the trail and one phone up with the group helping Jordan.
Meanwhile I make my way to the clinic. I am so grateful that Dr. Di and Alicia were there, as my mind was not as clear as it usually is in these type of situations. It was being muddled with the feelings and emotions of responsibility and this was one of “our” kids. With anticipation a medical back pack was loaded with splints, pain meds, slings, gauze and more. A team of the most ripped and eager college guys was rounded up to go carry Jordan out. Prayers were uttered and answered.
To Jordan’s aid came Papua guys who piggy backed him out of the jungle waterfall trail. By the time my muscle team arrived, this other group almost had Jordan down to the easy part of the trail and road. It seemed like very little time on our end at the clinic, and the team….with Jordan…..was there.
Again, I am so grateful that Dr. Di and Alicia were at the clinic. We went to work, cleaning, assessing Jordan and his wounds. It wasn’t long before Dr. Di felt the damage was significant enough that it warranted Jordan leaving the country early and getting to Singapore for surgical care. She carefully placed a drain in the wound (made from a foley catheter) and we put a boot on Jordan’s foot. Pain meds and antibiotics given and then we took him to our home to arrange flights and insurance coverage and keep Jordan comfortable. Meanwhile, mouths were fed and many needs were met and tickets were purchased. This is where my stress level really rose, because our internet has been almost non existent again. Also trying to get a phone line out of the country was extremely difficult. So trying to contact insurance companies for flight and hospital approvals bogged down into poor poor, hour after hour reaching out and getting almost no where communication. It was one thing to have an emergency on our hands. It was a whole new level, having an emergency and not being able to make appropriate phone calls and get approvals needed. We decided to move forward despite approval or not.
Nick, another one of the short term guys, committed to traveling with Jordan. This meant cutting his time short here in Papua (and with his girlfriend, Paige) short by 24 hours. At 11:40 the following morning Jordan and Nick were Singapore bound. At the time of his flight, we had insurance approval, thank you to a team in America…..working hard. The whole group was somewhat deflated after that. Even though Darron and I just wanted to crawl into a hole, we put on our happy missionary faces and got everyone excited about going for some beach therapy. It really proved to be good for all of us.
The group left the following morning. Their testimonies were sweet. Their lives had been impacted. Papua now a part of their heart beat. As it is ours. We tried really hard to disconnect and be a just a family for the next 5 days. And that is how long Jordan was an in patient at the hospital in Singapore.
It was a Jolly Quirky Christmas indeed. One that will not be forgotten in a hurry. I think all of us appreciated this Christmas family time even more than Christmas’ past because….. we had given and we received much in our spirits in return. And that is the mystery of serving a God who seems to thrive in working in the most unusual, unique circumstances. A God that can use the most humble settings: like a stable and a squat pot. A God that chooses to use humans. Pujih Tuhan. Praise the Lord.