Saturday, May 20, 2017
I found myself early this past Monday dragging a small rolling suitcase through the non user friendly parking lot of our local commercial airport. My heart deceiving me. On one hand it is especially excited to be going to see Darron who has been away for ten days already and on the other hand it is reluctant to leave four boys alone. Also, usually I don’t struggle with aerophobia……but it was nagging in the back of my mind as unfortunately too many airplane mishaps happen to this particular destination. Yet I knew that fear cannot rule and deceitful hearts must be held in check.
So before I know it, we’ve safely touched down in Wamena. The largest city supplied by air only. Nestled by mountains on either side, this wide valley is an odd and delightful mixture of modern gas stations and a new hotel to within minutes of the city men in gourds and thousands of people living still very primitively. The cool air is amazingly refreshing after months of our normal tropical heat. I spot Darron easily in the crowd of people waiting for passengers. The excitement dancing in his eyes tells me that he was not struggling with any crazy emotions or a deceitful heart. Nope, he was purely delighted that I was stepping into his world of ministry. And I take a deep breath in and gain new courage as his hand slips into mine as we wait for my luggage.
Before long we are bumping along to Maima. This is a village where there is a thriving Adventist elementary school. Also Darron discovered an abandoned training center, with dorms and dinning area, etc. He now has a dream to re vamp these old buildings and bring them back up to a decent standard. Twenty-one lay workers from all over Papua gathered for two weeks of training. These are people who are committed to working and taking the gospel to remote areas. These two weeks of training include everything from practical classes on building rocket stoves and agriculture, to medical classes, to leadership and religious classes. Darron has a strong team working alongside him. Maima was only about a twenty minute drive from town, that included crossing over the ever changing vast landslide, which is not for the faint hearted driver. As we approaching the swift river, we had to park the truck and walk across the suspension bridge and up a steep gravel approach and down into the Maima valley.
Then I was able to see first hand everything Darron and team had been experiencing. How insightful to not just hear about it second hand, but to SEE it and touch and feel it. To partner with it. So for the next two days until late afternoon, we followed the program and interacted with the people. One husband and wife couple had walked over 12 hours to attend this program (along with their two small children). Darron had asked me to teach on Malaria and wound care. Two challenging topics when these students have access to almost NO medical supplies or medical access. And yet the more my mind wrapped around this fact, the more thoughts came on everything that could be done and at what point more action (getting outside help or moving the patient) must be taken. It was fun to teach with the two nurses that were already present.
Darron had been sleeping with all the people, in very humbling conditions (as he always does). I was willing to stay there also, but we recognized that we needed to step away in the evenings and take time to reconnect as a couple. So before the sun went down on the suspending bridge and landslide, we made our way back to the town of Wamena and the MAF guest house. Complete with a hot shower and toilet, all things that were complete luxury to my hard working man. These evenings were a deep breath of refreshment to both of us. Allowing us time to discuss important events and issues, time to take walks in the cool air and time to eat some fun American foods that “our girls” had blessed us with. We are learning that to step away from ministry for short times of rest is actually very “God honoring” and we aim to model that in our marriage and ministry. It is easy in ministry to allow our own decietful hearts to tell us to never take a break and rarely create room or to worry about the expectations of others.
There is one part of my Wamena trip that we wish we could erase. Yet we have to trust that it is all part of this story and our time there. Graciously, the Adam family allowed us to borrow their motorbike for day number two of adventures. It was more like a big dirt bike. I will confess that Darron and I are beginning to enjoy biking in Papua more and more. It is the only place that public sitting close, arms wrapped around waist and legs tucked in close, is appropriate. Also that it is cool enough, with the breeze of movement, to be that close. Wamena did not disappoint us for a scenic drive. Going to Maima early on Tuesday morning we had no issues. Once we reached the river, I jumped off the bike so that Darron could drive it up the steep ramp onto the suspension bridge.and I continued to walk across the bridge and the gravel road up and steep gravel down into Maima.
After a day of ministry it was time to repeat this process, in reverse. I set off on foot, expecting Darron to catch up with me soon. My heart became a bit concerned when there was still no sight or sound of Darron at the bridge. I started to walk across it when I noted four young adult Papua guys all standing at the opposite end of the bridge. Feeling like I didn’t want to walk into their midst I turned around and waited at the top of the bridge for Darron. Again, I felt it was odd that he hadn’t arrived or passed me.
Within two or three minutes he came zipping along and slowed in his approach to the steep ramp. He made it half way up and then the engine stalled. Darron struggled to hold the bike. I heard him gasp, “Oh no.” With that he lost his balance and toppled over and then fell off the bridge a good seven feet and landed on his back. Seconds later the dirt bike went flying after him. It was like watching a disaster in slow motion, and being powerless to do anything about it. The bike miraculously didn’t hit Darron and didn’t splinter into pieces. Of course, I’m shouting, “Are you Ok? Are you OK?” while scurrying down to Darron as fast as possible. Meanwhile he pops up onto his feet and says he thinks he is fine. Six Papua guys appear from no where and pick up the bike. It appears a little dinged up, but drivable. They push it up the steep ramp and Darron takes over forging across the bridge, clearly shaken up, but ready to “get home”. Meanwhile I’m processing all of this steps behind him and glance up to see this stunning double rainbow spanning the swirling brown swift river. I felt like God whispered into my heart, “It is OK Ruth, I’ve got you and Darron. It is OK.” Of course, the rest of the evening we had such mixed emotions of relief of protection and providence combined with the remorse of borrowing something and having this incident happen. Mercifully the Adams extended grace to us and the damage that was done is being made right.
Early, 5:45 a.m. early, I am sitting in the Wamena airport ready to end this interlude. I noted an American looking couple that I had never seen before…..but didn’t think too much about them.
Interestingly, thirty minutes later I am boarded and sitting right across the narrow aisle from them. They had been visiting some friends who run a mission with a helicopter. Now they were in route to Raja Ampat (a famous dive resort in Papua). They had a five hour lay over in our not so glamorous Sentani airport. I felt a nudge that I should invite them home, but the thought of having to drive all the way back to the airport later that morning was not part of my plan. My deceptive heart telling me I didn't have time for such entertaining that day. We land in Sentani and try to find our luggage on the unmarked four carousels. After an hour the hundreds of people were all gone and our luggage had not arrived. Fascinating. OK. Come on foreigners, come with me…..I’ll help you with language to try and figure out what the plan is. We learned that our bags would be on the next flight. Clearly we were together now! And I had to return to the airport later. So to almost complete strangers, I invite them home. Realizing that I was being more than asked to do this. I mean in my mind it was more than coincidence that my luggage didn’t make it on the plane, along with theirs and that more was at play than I understood. They accepted my invitation. And off we went on our Sentani adventure.
They were totally blown away at not having to sit in the airport for 5 hours and that I would take them into our home and feed them a Western breakfast. Meanwhile I chat away about the Lord, and ministry and missions and my kids and husband. We get to watch a large helicopter take off at Adventist Aviation. Soon it is time to head back to the airport and YES our bags had arrived. I showed them where to check in and we said goodbye with only one-and-a-half hours left for them to wait. I’m not sure what that spontaneous interactions was all about, but I’m pretty sure it had elements of divine moments splashed all in it.
So there you have it. Romance and crazy adventures that we are having here in Papua. I'm so glad that my decietful heart was held in check. Since coming home, Darron has had even more adventures, but those are his stories to tell. For now my heart tells me it is good to be home and fulfill the stability of having a parent in the house. Yet my heart is looking forward to my next adventure with Darron in ministry, as long as we can mix a little romance in there. Do you struggle with mixed emotions? With being torn between your kids and your husband? Between work and rest? Between fear and peace? Adventure and trying to maintain control? I rest in the fact that the Lord knows our hearts and can speak into them and guide us, as long as we are listening to His voice. May you be led out in peace.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
This has been the school year of GIRLS! Which has been quite a contrast to our houseful of boys. Little did I know last summer when Darron told me we would be having three student missionaries how that would impact me. Oh, I knew that there would be time investment involved but I had no idea how it would look and flesh out into reality.
Now that OUR journey together in Papua has come to a close, I must reflect. Lately I have likened the girls to being here like wearing a pair of warm gloves on a winter day. At first putting the gloves on felt cumbersome and unnatural and it limited my motions and took lots of extra time. Now I hardly think as the girls slip in and out of my days. The glove of them just slides right on and right off again. When plans get changed and they don’t show up in our normal routine, I find myself wondering about them and praying……..as If I’ve misplaced my gloves and it is cold.
Predictably spring has arrived, so quickly, and now it is time to launch the girls back to that distant first world, America. Even as I write they are hurling in a metal tube through the sky towards a land and people that they were home sick for and we talked about much. The winter gloves will no longer be worn as they will not show up to my house on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. I will no longer find them standing on the side of the road, waiting for a ride each morning. No longer will their long blond hairs grace my floor after each of their visits (a foreign object in an almost all male home). And who will I share those few reprieves of watching babies be born on the show, “Call the Midwife” a for “GIRLS ONLY” program. And chocolate, Cadburys, after long grocery shopping trips, is always better shared with a girl, or two or three.
I have witnessed “our” girls and OUR boys go from stiff conversations in August to anything goes conversations by May. The laughter and teasing and tormenting and stick togetherness has all been there and it has been good for our 5/6ths male home to experience “sisters”.
I have watched these girls blossom. When they first arrived they did not know how to get around town, eat out, shop at the market, buy data for their phones and electricity for their house and a gazillion other things. Now they have emerged into doing all of that and so so much more. They have made friendships with Indonesians and expatriates that will be remembered into heaven. AND they have become my friends. So even though I am old enough to be their Mom, I have delighted in the friendship of each unique girl and her challenges and gifting. Even though at times I have interacted with them out of an empty cup, they leave me with my tea cup FULL and my winter gloves folded beside. Reminding me that good comes from things that are perceived hard.
As I have given to them, they have so given back to me with their girly beauty and journey’s and willingness to serve in a land like none other. We are bonded for life and I love “our” girls.
May the Lord richly bless you, each one (Paige, Ashley, K.D.), as you move on in new chapters of your stories and recover from the piece of your heart that you leave here in Papua. Thank-you for infusing your beautiful womanhood into our BOY Boyd home this year, you are family now!!! And as you have changed, I have too. A part of my heart goes with you.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
I sat with pen posed this week while listening to Kathleen and Afri, our Indonesian nurses. I anticipated that I would jot just a few notes from their observations of their two weeks interior, hiking through 28 villages. Two hours later, my blank page is filled with tiny scrawl and my heart is moved, beyond what I expected, to see the immense needs through their eyes. I can’t hold their report to myself. I must process the information and share it with you. We have to formulate plans and goals of how we can impact people groups who have little or absolutely NO access to health care. Please listen with me, as I recreate their conversation:
“Mam Ruth, we are so confused how to teach health care prevention in these far places. We thought we would teach them the importance of washing their hands, before they eat. Yet they have no water anywhere near their houses. The people have to walk maybe thirty minutes to the river, before they can wash their hands. By the time they return to their homes, their hands are dirty again. And we tried to teach them to brush their teeth. They were eager to learn, but they said, ‘Where are the toothbrushes?’” (My mind is racing. Building churches and schools and clinics is not enough. They need water piped into their villages. We don’t need other countries to buy toothbrushes. We can purchase them here for .15-.50 cents a piece, we just need toothbrush sponsors. Brushing teeth alone can extend ones life over 5 years).
The brave nurses then went onto tell me about being in one village with a beautiful clinic that was built over a year ago. The village people clean it often faithfully. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for workers. Waiting for medicines. But it stays empty, because nobody comes and they continue to suffer for nobody is there to help. Pregnant hopes. Pregnant anticipations. Pregnant needs. Unfortunately, this scenario is all to familiar in Papua.
“Mam, in two weeks we saw 400 patients. The most common medical problems we saw were wounds, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, worms, respiratory issues, and skin diseases. Also many of the men were smoking. They grown their own tobacco. The hiking was very difficult. Often we had to cross over rivers where there were only thin pieces of wood.” At which point the conversation digresses into laughter at Afri who was so scared and often would forge through the river instead (A woman after my own heart. I have a strong aversion to balance beam bridges……ugh). They then showed me many little videos and pictures of extremely difficult places they had to cross. And they shared how they ran out of food and medicines and……
“And Mam, the babies. The babies were just kept in the nokins (a traditional Papua woven bag). When the baby goes to the bathroom the Mommy will just use part of the bag to wipe the baby clean. Then the baby and the dirty clothes are just repositioned to another spot in the nokin. This will go on like this for several days until all the clothes are dirty and there is no clean spot in the nokin left. At last, the baby and dirty bag and clothes are taken to the river to be washed. Then the process will start all over again. Infant mortality is high. One lady we talked with stated she had nine children, but only two currently alive.”
“One village we stopped in there were no patients, because there were six witch doctors. Except for one man, forty years old. A tiny hut has been built for him. A month ago he got sick and now he cannot walk or control his bathroom needs. He has large decubitus with necrotic tissue and foul smell. He is constantly wet. The village people believe he is sick like this because a curse was put upon him. We want to send in rubber mats for him so that he can stay more dry.”
“We need small scissors, that we can boil in water to sterilize. We took stiches out of one Papua person who had left them in for over one month. We need more gauze and ace bandages and Vaseline gauze. We need a thermometer and a glucometer. We need waterproof raincoats and ways to keep our medicines dry.” Yes, pregnant needs. Not selfish wants. NEEDS.
“Look at these children, Mam Ruth. They are using a wheelbarrow bucket to ride down the hill. But at the bottom of the hill where they stop is open toilets. All this area, in the tall grass is where they use the bathroom. No hole or water. Just the open tall grass.”
“We came to one village where there was a school, but no teachers have been there in five years.” Pregnant learners, waiting.
Its almost too much to process. To think that just a few mountain ridges away from my comfortable home are tribal group after tribal group experiencing all of the above and so much more. Please pray for wisdom for us, that we will know how to help most effectively. Pray for laborers. Pray for funding and supplies. Pray for the health and safety of the brave hearts that are serving.
I can’t imagine sitting in any first world hospital board meeting and hearing a medical report that was so moving, compelling, full of need, and pregnant hope. Through their eyes I saw great need.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Wow…..I’m really not sure where to start….except I think so often in missions we/I portray the mission glamor and not the struggle. I hadn’t really thought about this until today. Today has been a STRUGGLE. With ALL CAPITAL letters. Actually for me, personally it hasn’t been to bad. I awoke at 5 a.m., had a great quiet time with Jesus, did the whole get 4 boys fed, supervised lunch making, filtered about 40 different messages from them and sent them out the door by 7:05. Then I ran for about 30 minutes on the run way, made some scones (comfort food), bathed, gathered last minute teaching material together, greeted my house helper, sent some emails and ran out the door by 8:45. At the International school I mentored a high school girl for 45 minutes, and then taught a class 4th period on what Seniors should expect in the medical world upon returning to America. Yep it was a 45 minute fire hose of information on everything from deductibles, co pays, HIPPA laws, 911, power of attorney, Emergency rooms verses walk in clinic verses family doctor verses Walgreen pharmacy and so much more. ALL things that we do not have to think about here. Oh and they consumed about 80% of the scones. Now its 11:00. Time to zip home because friends are coming for lunch. Meanwhile my mind does wander to Darron. He has been gone since 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, when he left to go on an exploratory trip down the crocodile infested Nambramo River. My friends arrive by noon. We enjoy a simple lunch and great fellowship and prayer until 1:45 when it is time to head back to the school for our weekly Mom’s prayer group. See, its a nice day. Not too much of a struggle. A bit busy, but really special in many ways.
(Photo by Pastor Jasper)
Three quarters the way through praying for the school my phone becomes very active. Messages keep pinging in and someone keeps trying to call. I give in and glance down to catch a glimpse that Darron is trying to get a hold of me and so is his secretary. Something does not seem right. I excuse myself. This is the first that I have heard from Darron since he left and I could tell right away that there was trouble. Through a broken connection and texting the story begins to unfold (sort of). Apparently, Darron and 3 other pastors he is traveling with, took a smaller boat today on a side excursion, asking the larger boat to wait for them and then they would continue down river. Upon returning to where the larger boat should be waiting, they discover it is GONE. With all their food and drums of fuel. Big problem. A real struggle. And then begins the communication between the pilot, Gary, and I and them…….to come up with a plan. At first they feel they just need to abandon the rest of the trip. With no fuel or food, how can they go on? Yet by the time the sun is beginning to set new plans are emerging in their struggle.
A boat has been located that will continue to take them down the river. Could I send food and cooking pot/utensils plus 20 kilos of rice? Why, sure I can. One of aviation planes will swing by tomorrow in Dabra, where the guys are. Pastor Jasper will be picked up. He is there, filming and wanting to capture not just the glamor but the STRUGGLE in missions. HAHA. Glad we could drum some of that drama up for you Pastor Jasper!!!!! And food will be dropped. I mix up a batch of granola and put it in the oven. I put supper on the table and inform the boys that I need to go shopping for the guys. To town I head for the third time today. I wade through the Asian colorful plastic dishes….looking for cheap plates, cups, bowls and a cheap cooking pot. I then head to the grocery store and try to find non perishable things to send that are also light and not super heavy (like Ramen noodles not canned goods). Finally I am home by 8:00 p.m. The kitchen has not been cleaned from supper and the granola is not finished baking because the oven was accidentally turned off. My KP duty boy gets into gear with a not so gentle reminder from the beginning to struggle Mom. The oven is relit and more messages flood in from the sporadic struggling with signal communication by the crocodile river shores.
Conflicting messages. As the team that has been violated with their fuel and food stolen grapple with what is the wisest plan. Maybe now they should just go down river and fly home on Thursday, don’t send food. Really? I question. More messages. At last at 9:00 p.m. the plan is that they will stay in Dabra and await the plane from here. They will make sure Jasper gets on the plane to return here and get the food that I will send in. Great. I message if their plans change to let me know.
Meanwhile, I come to my room to start writing this blog. I was sure that I had turned the oven off, and left a pan of granola in the oven to just finish off lightly browning as the oven cooled. Thirty minutes later I opened my bedroom door to discover that I failed to turn the oven off and now I had a tray full of burnt granola. As I pulled the hot tray from the oven and the smoke poured from the charred oats and nuts, I decided it was a perfect ending to our day of struggle.
Missions is far from easy or glamerous. There are so many stories, experiences, day to day happenings that cannot be shared. But today may you catch a glimpse and know that we covet your prayers. Struggle is not bad. It can be very clarifying. Good and hard can co-exist. And I am learning that we can find God in the midst of struggle and suffering. I am anxious to hear the rest of Darron’s story when he returns home……whenever that will be. Because I have NO DOUBT that he will have seen God at work in the midst of todays STRUGGLE. I am believing that the same is true for you. Courage my friend. Thank you for reading and believing.