Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wamena: Part 4. "You Are Wanted Here"

“You are wanted here. You have to know that.” She told me. Her words weren’t in response to anything in particular, just kind and encouraging words spoken as we said goodbye.

We would leave the following morning to return to our home in Sentani and begin the second unit of language study. You are wanted here. Her words echoed in my mind. 

Before we left the US several women told me that the hardest transition would be for me. Ben, in his work as a pilot, would experience all the glory of life in Papua on a daily basis. It would be hard work, but truly rewarding work. I had no such glorious task awaiting me and it was my transition to watch out for.

The awareness of a difficult transition didn’t hit until this week in Wamena. Back in Sentani I have a “job” to do and I’m good at it. Learning the language and culture are both tasks that I thoroughly enjoy. But as I stood in our future house in Wamena, realizing that I would be here alone with Isaiah while Ben was out flying, reality suddenly hit me. What do I have to contribute?
All my assurances were gone. 

Earlier in the day Ben had joined another pilot on his last flight out to the interior. The pilot and his family are returning to Switzerland after 5 years in Papua. Their flight was primarily a medevac bringing in three people in need of serious medical care, but had also included visiting and dropping off supplies for some of the international workers in the interior. Ben returned from the flight so enthusiastic for the work he would soon be a part of. I celebrated with him as he talked about the trip.

After the flight we stayed with the crew for the Swiss pilot’s goodbye party. “Why am I so emotional?” Ben said, “I don’t even know these people.” I had to agree.

Listening to Indonesian, Papuan, and expats tell stories about the family my eyes also stung with tears. One man spoke of how the Swiss pilot had visited his village and how much that meant to him. Another spoke of how much he admired the pilot’s hard work and sense of humor. Story after story included not only the pilot, but memories of the couple’s children and admiration for the wife who had supported her husband. 

“How are you adjusting?” The Swiss pilot’s wife asked me. “I remember those days. They were very hard.” She said and gave me a hug. “We’ve all been through what you are going through.” Another expat told me. 

For me the hard days have not yet come in full force. This short trip to Wamena provided a glimpse into the challenges that lay ahead for our family. One thing is certain. While my husband is out flying and supporting the front line operations, I will be in the company women who not only experienced these hard days, but conquered them. 

I too will find my place.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wamena: Part 3. Injury and Gratitude

I sat on the porch chatting with a neighbor and enjoying the cool morning air when I spot Ben and Isaiah approaching from around the corner. Isaiah in Ben’s arms with his head buried against Ben’s chest. Oh no, he must have gotten hurt. And I’m up out of my chair to see the damage.

“It’s pretty bad.” Ben called out, still a little way off. “I didn’t see it happen, but he must have face planted really hard.” 

Our active boy is no stranger to accidents. New scraps and cuts, bruised legs, even teeth through lips and black eyes are nothing new. 

Isaiah turned to look at me and for the first time, I was scared by the amount of blood. The neighbor got up, “I’ll get the nurse” she said and quickly went to the adjacent house for help.
We brought Isaiah inside and I tried to clean away some of the blood with a tissue. There were two cuts, a U shaped deep cut on his chin and a smaller cut just under his bottom lip. He was bleeding inside his mouth as well and I prayed that his teeth were still intact.
The nurse arrived and although she was kind and tried her hardest to calm Isaiah, the trauma only increased. “It should have stitches, but at least it’s clean and not gaping.” She remarked and Isaiah went into a full blown panic attack as we tried to clean the wound. I worried he might actually vomit from the stress. One thing was clear, stitches would not be possible. Oh well, I thought, Better a deep scar than a traumatized child. I hope it heals well.

Fully recovered, let the fun continue!
Injuries in the US or the UK are difficult enough to experience. Here in Wamena with limited health care serious injuries are evacuated out by air plane to the Sentani and at times to Jakarta or even Singapore. Stroking my son’s hair and looking into his tear filled eyes I was filled with gratitude that the damage hadn’t been worse. His teeth were still intact, but the nurse warned they may become loose after the swelling goes down. The cuts were deep, but clean.

Later that day Isaiah slipped and his chin, swollen and bandaged, came only an inch from smashing into the tile floor. My heart stopped. My expat friend exclaimed, “Praise God! Wow that was close! Thank you Jesus!” Yes, I silently agreed in prayer, Thank you Lord. We would never make it without you.

Tomorrow: Part 4... "You are wanted here."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wamena: Part 2. Finding Home

“This is your host family” we were introduced to the Indonesian couple we would have lunch with, “She’s a doctor.” Thank you, God. I silently prayed. While the rest of the group ate lunch my Nasi Goreng stared back at me. I’d managed two small bites before my stomach began a mighty protest.

“What’s wrong?” the doctor asked and I explained my symptoms. “You need an antispasmodic” and she promised to bring me some from her pharmacy later. 

After lunch we checked into the guest house and I slept the rest of the day. An expat friend brought over chicken soup and crackers and Ben and Isaiah went to an Indonesian friend’s house for dinner. I’m missing everything, Lord. I whined from my bed.    
Isaiah opening the gate to our home on the "mouse road"
The next day another expat friend came to pick us up for a drive around town and to see our house. Fully medicated, I held my stomach tightly while we drove. This town seems so foreign. I thought, It’s not at all like Sentani. The thought made me sad. I had expected to feel some sense of “home” in Wamena. After all, Sentani was only a temporary stop for language learning. Surely my heart would know the difference. 

We found our house, tucked behind a gate on a “mouse road”, a small narrow unpaved road with
room for only one vehicle at a time. The gardener opened the gate for us and we walked towards the back garden. Washing lines were hung high and I imagined the previous residents must have been much taller than me. There was a tree house and Isaiah wasted no time climbing up. A small chicken coop sat tucked in the shade beneath it. The garden was small, but bright with tropical plants. Parting a few tree branches I stepped onto a small hidden patio where the previous residents had set their chairs for morning coffee. Within a few seconds the mosquitoes chased me out. I wondered how to make the space usable and still avoid itchy bites.

Quite a tree house!
The house itself was quite large. A long house with living room, dining area and kitchen all as one straight line from the front of the house to the back. Six small rooms, four off one side and 2 on the other, flanked the house. What will we do with all these rooms? I wondered. 

I stood in the middle of the house trying to imagine living there. Trying to imagine feeling at home there. The house and the garden were very nice, no doubt about it. But it was also much different than my small modern apartment size home in Sentani. 

The neighbors were different too. Wamena Papuans had much darker skin and hair than my Papuan friends in Sentani and I hadn’t seen any Indonesians in the neighborhood at all. There were no familiar features or faces. These people seemed rugged and tough. An expat friend had once described Wamena as a bit like the “Wild West” and I was beginning to have that sense as well. No, this definitely does not feel like home, I concluded. My stomach roaring in protest I look for a place to sit down.
Our Wamena house

It doesn’t have to feel like home, I hear in my heart. I close my eyes and listen again. It doesn’t have to feel like home.

The words stick and I see my foolish expectations for what they are. No, Wamena does not have to feel like home. Perhaps it will, at some point in the future when I’m healthy and after we’ve moved in and settled, and I will welcome that feeling. But it doesn’t have to. It never has to. Because truth be told, none of this world is my home. We are mere travellers, living but for a few brief years before death comes to claim our bodies.

 It doesn’t have to feel like home. Expectations set right. Heaven is my home. I see Wamena with new eyes. Eyes that even sickness and pain cannot dim.

 But our homeland is in heaven, where our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is.
Philippians 3:20

Tomorrow: Part 3... Injury and Gratitude

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wamena: Part 1. Expectations Are For Fools

For a trip 10 years in the making I certainly expected to feel differently. After a decade of anticipation this was it, we would finally be in Wamena. I would stand in the Baliem Valley, 15,000ft mountain peaks circling around me, isolated tribal communities only a short helicopter flight away, and feel some sense of crossing the finish line. Some sense of fulfillment of desires long stirring in my heart. Some sense at last, after so many transitions, of finally being home.

Instead I arrived in a cloud of nausea and stomach cramps. I didn’t care where I was, just as long as there was a bed to lie down on. This was not how it was supposed to happen.

Our Plane To and From Wamena
I had begun feeling ill the day before our flight and hadn’t slept much at all the night before. Frequent trips to the bathroom, I wondered if I should get on the plane at all. Finding a Zofran pill I managed to let enough of it dissolve in my mouth before vomiting the rest and it eventually calmed the nausea. I could at least travel.  

We smooshed into the plane, my knees jamming into the seat in front of me, and I closed my eyes attempting to block out the world, if only for the short plane ride.

45 minutes later I woke with the plane bouncing down on the runway and squinted bleary eyed out the window. No deep meaningful thoughts only, Oh, the sun is so much brighter here. What a headache. The plane stopped and we shuffled along with the other passengers to disembark.

A Papuan man helped Isaiah down onto the tarmac and Ben and I followed with the hand luggage. Walking over to the airport terminal building, a small tin roof covered structure with chain link fence walls, I thought the mountains seemed so far away and ominous, much more distant than our close and faithful mountain at home in Sentani. 

Spotting our expat friends we walked over to say hello. A “Gourd Man” stood just in front of our friends waving and giving me an enthusiastic toothless smile. “Selamat pagi, Bapak.” I greeted him with a nod and weak smile in return.

After seeing so many pictures and videos of this type of traditional dress it was still a shock to see a man standing there with nothing on except a gourd somewhat covering his privates and a feather wreath in his hair. “He’s not a real gourd man” my expat friend remarked, “He’s a professional for the tourists.”  I managed another smile, thinking if I had felt better I might just have paid for a picture with him anyway, and we wandered off to find the luggage.

Baliem Valley and Wamena from the air
The luggage didn’t come, it would be on the next flight so we headed off, Ben and Isaiah both ready for adventure and I only wishing for a place to lie down. As we drove away from the airport, the vehicle almost bouncing down the road as we went, I prayed and cared only for one thing, a well body.  

10 years in the making. I had hoped and even expected to arrive in Wamena with some great sense of burden for the people we would soon live among. I anticipated some powerful and meaningful revelation. Some deep knowing way down inside that this was home, the place I was meant to be. Instead, my only thoughts were for myself, for my nauseous, cramping stomach and pounding head.
Driving through the streets of Wamena I prayed for recovery and clung to the hope my expectations would eventually be fulfilled. Foolish girl. I know better. Expectations, especially in the life we are living, are emotionally dangerous things. 

Tomorrow: Part 2... Finding Home

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wamena: The Intro

What a week! I have been both challenged and blessed enormously by our time in Wamena. The chance to glimpse into the future and see what it will be like to one day live and work in the Baliem Valley was very good to experience. We returned to Sentani with a clearer vision of exactly why we are learning the language and culture and are looking forward to starting class again in the next few days.

I journalled a lot this week, sorting through emotions in the midst of illness and the realisation of the tremendous changes that will occur when we move. Over the next few days I'll share a 4 part journal about our time in Wamena. But before we tackle everything that went on under the surface, here are some pictures!

Skateboarding with new friends at the airport
Family shot with one of the helicopters Ben will fly...New prayer card photo??

On a walk down by the Baliem River
Pic Ben took while out flying in the helicopter. Clearly helicopters are necessary here!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


The week leading up to our one month language evaluation I slipped into insecurity. The previous joy filled weeks learning Indonesian on our neighborhood streets quickly gave way to self doubt and Can I really do this? Maybe I'm really awful. What if I have to repeat unit 1? Oh man, I bet I am really awful at this. Look at all the mistakes I make! What will our agency think when they find out?

Insecurity and I have a long history.

"It's ok. Don't worry too much. I'm sure you'll do great!" words attempting encouragement spoken over and over again this past week. I wasn't feeling it.

The day of the evaluation came and I mustered as much confidence as possible. Here goes nothing. I thought as I headed into the room. Over the next two hours Ben and I took turns separately evaluated on conversation, pronunciation, writing, and comprehension.

In the wake of all my insecurity this week I am reminded that the battle against insecurity is not really about insecurity at all. It's about doubt. And the thing about doubt is it's not really about doubt, it's about fear. And the thing about fear is it has no place in my heart because: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

And all at once, I am free.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easy Offences

"Some people were upset..." he told me. I hung up the phone, explained the situation to Ben and retreated to the bedroom. I felt as if the wind had been kicked out of me and from Ben's face I could tell he felt the same.

I sat on the bed praying, Lord, really? People we don't even know are upset about something we haven't even done? It's not fair!

Offences are so easily taken up.

"We'll have to get used to it." Ben said, "This won't be the last time it happens."

He's right. It won't be the last time. One of the main reasons people leave this kind of work is because of interpersonal relationships with other expats, not because they are dissatisfied with the work itself.

Jesus talked about this. A short time before he went to the cross, bloodied for the wrongs of the world, Jesus washed his disciples' feet and urged them towards love. Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.

Easter approaches. Forget bunnies, colored eggs and candy. I'm hanging my heart around an empty tomb. Around the promise that love covers offences and rights relationships.

This is the kind of love we are talking about— not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.  

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.

1 John 4:7-12 The Message 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Giving Up Guilt and Cooking

Of course I'll make food for my family, why wouldn't I? Then I moved to Papua and stopped cooking.

Like so many other "normal" things, cooking changed when we arrived in Papua. Western products are expensive and I don't know how to prepare Indonesian meals. Dairy, a major part of our normal diet, is hardly used here at all. Top that off with the exhaustion of language school and cooking felt down right impossible.

So we did something I thought we'd never do. We hired a cook.

While my brain is turning to mush everyday learning new words and phrases in class, our neighbor Oma is happily preparing mouth watering Indonesian lunches and dinners.

Oma's food is absolutely delicious and I felt guilty with every mouthful.

Guilty because this is supposed to be my job, but I can't hack cooking here. Guilty because people might think we're being frivolous with donations.
Guilt, that old unwelcome friend.

Truth is my job right now is to make it through language learning and adjusting to the culture with my family intact, not be wonder mom. Truth is Oma's food is delicious and it's less expensive than buying imported western products.

Truth is when "Mommy, please can I have more bean sprouts and tofu?" became a regular part of my three year old's dinner conversation, I knew we'd be just fine without my cooking.

So I kicked guilt to the curb and enjoyed another bite of Oma's lemon ginger steamed tofu. 

Oma's home cooking. One of my favorite meals.
"Selamat Makan!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ginger Tea: Try It. You'll Like It!


With so many delicious new foods and drinks I want to share some of our favourites with you over the next few weeks. So head to the grocery store international food isle or buy it online at and Try it. You'll like it!

Jahe Wangi Ginger Tea

I arrived at my Indonesian friend's house car sick from the ride in the taksi. The taksi wasn't well ventilated and after breathing in fumes while sitting on the very bumpy back seat I was on the verge of loosing my breakfast when the taksi stopped and I tumbled out.

"Do you want some ginger tea?" my friend asked. "It's what I drink and always calms my stomach."

I sipped the tea and discovered that in addition to helping with nausea it is absolutely delicious. Much better than any ginger tea I'd tasted before.

It's sweet and spicy. The kind of drink that lights up every single taste bud and then bites you in the back of the throat on the way down. I love it and I bet you will too.

Try it. You'll like it!  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

No Ordinary Pencils

It was only a polite passing conversation, but it stuck with me. Before moving from Florida we ran into a graduate from the flight school at Target and got to talking. He was flying for a company that supports the offshore oil and gas industry. Everyday he transported engineers back and forth to oil rigs off the California coast. As we caught up he remarked, "So you guys are still going to do the flying for charity thing? That's great that there are people like you in the world."

This conversation has happened so many times, especially over the last year. Thank God there are people like you and Ben in the world. It pains me every time.

It pains me because the work we do is not more valuable than your work.

"Hey, I'm thankful for offshore pilots!" I responded. "I am so thankful for what you do. How could we fly for charity without you supporting the oil and gas industry? We rely on the products you have a part in bringing to the market."

He nodded, "Yes! You are right. I'm so glad you see it like that. We all need each other. Each of our jobs is important." And they are. They really really are.

No Ordinary Pencils
Many years ago I read Leonard E. Read's famous economic essay I, Pencil. In the essay an ordinary lead pencil begins, "I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, merit your wonder and awe, a claim I shall attempt to prove."

The pencil goes on to describe the millions of people who played a part in it's creation. Everyone from the Brazilian coffee farmers who produced the coffee drunk by loggers who cut the trees to the legions of people involved in shipping the materials needed for manufacturing and mining for graphite.

Like the pencil, fighting poverty, both physical and spiritual, is much more than those on the front line. It's even more than the organisation's office workers and generous donors. 

If you tell me that you are thankful for people like me I will respond in all honesty that I am thankful for people like you.

Your work is valuable. Do it with confidence and integrity. You are changing the world.

"I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth." - Leonard E. Read 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

We've Made Changes, Not Sacrifices

The electricity went out before I'd woken. A major storm had passed over during the night and we wondered if this outage was due to damage from winds or rain rather than the usual system overload.

By mid-morning Isaiah and I had grown restless and although it was still raining, decided to put on our boots and go for a walk.

"Let's climb the hill" I told Isaiah and so we set out, splashing in all the puddles along the way. We'd tried to climb the hill before, but the path stopped at about 75ft up and we couldn't see how to get to the top so had walked down again.

View from the top with mountains in the distance
This time when we reached the end of the main path a Papuan man saw us and asked where we were going. "Kami mau jalan kaki ke atas." I told him "We want to walk up to the top." I understood only a small bit of what he told me, but after a great deal of hand signals we found a small foot path.

The path was slick and muddy but we made the 300ft climb easily while holding hands. Reaching the end of the foot path Isaiah and I stood at the top looking down at Sentani. Even with the rain and clouds we could see quite far in the distance, all the way down to lake Sentani and the mountains beyond.

I thought about a book I'd been reading, Prophecies of Pale Skin, as we stood looking out at the lush landscape. In the book, a missionary couple named Scott and Jennie, make a long and arduous hike through jungle terrain even crossing a treacherous vine bridge and risking health and life to reach the remote Dao community. After the first contact and an invitation by the Dao leader to live among them and learn the language, Scott and Jennie moved in with the Dao full time. They were barely out of their teens at the time.

Our family has made great changes to be here in Papua, but I can't call these changes "sacrifices" because they really aren't. We have given up so little and gained so much by being here. When we move to Wamena we will have the privilege of providing aviation support to those like Scott and Jennie. Men, women, families, who daily live a scripture penned by the apostle Paul during great hardship. A scripture I understand so little about.

 To live is Christ, to die is gain.
Phil 1:21 

Want to read about Scott and Jennie's work among the Doa? 
You can find the book on Amazon
It's well worth the read!

Prophecies of Pale Skin
The true story of a young couple who stumbled across a fierce, murderous, stone-age people group in the remote jungles of Indonesia only to find that they were the fulfilment to prophetic dreams given to the tribe long before their arrival.

Scott and Jennie also have a website where you can read their regular updates:

Friday, April 11, 2014

And Then There is Us. The Newbies.

The expat community here in Sentani is much larger than I thought it would be. The first time we attended an expat meeting at the international school we were overwhelmed by the number of expats living and working here in this town.

Just who is here in Sentani? There is a teenage musician who writes songs about love and God. There is an Australian athiest who on a whim decided to attend a church service and 40 minutes later left radically changed. There is an man who came as an insecure 24 year old, doubting his abilities to make a difference. He stayed and now encourages others in their insecurities. There are former youth pastors. There is families so large they were discouraged from coming because it just wasn't "practical'. There is a family that survived a machete armed robbery in their bedroom in the middle of the night. Suffering from PTSD they chose to stay when everyone would have understood if they'd left. There are men and women who have tirelessly worked alongside the people of this country for decades.

And then there is us. The newbies. Fresh faced and full of hope.

Friday night "Skate Night" at the international school

The Better Way

"Which way did you come?" Our neighbor asked, looking down at our muddy feet.

"Up the red road. The way we always come." I responded, self consciously scraping the mud from the bottom of my sandals.

"Up the red road? No, no. That's much too muddy. There is another way. I'll show you."

For weeks, several times a day, we walk the red road. After a rain shower the pot holes fill with water and the mud is unavoidable. I stand at the edge of the largest puddle and try to decide whether to jump, hoping I make it to the other side and risking a very muddy splash if I don't. Mostly I just tiptoe across on discarded water bottles and whatever other garbage pokes above the puddle's surface.

Following our neighbor, we walk to the gate on the other end of his garden. "This is the better way" he says, swinging the gate open.

The better way is a small sandy path with homes crowding in on either side. Trees shade the path and neighbors we didn't even know we had sit or stand together in afternoon conversation.

We follow the path and our neighbor shows us where it comes out to the main road. Walking back up he points out the opposite end, which stops just before our home.

The path was there all along. A better path, free of deep mud and red clay, right in front of us. We didn't find it ourselves, it took a neighbor to show us the way.

So much of our life right now is a muddy red road. As we spend time with people, trying to build relationships, we are shown new paths. Dry, shaded paths, leading us right into the heart of our community.

The dry path, as it disappears under the tree between houses.

Ben Came Anyway

I hate sports. I'm uncoordinated, slow, and weak. Worst of all though, playing sports makes me feel very insecure.

Language learning, now that's my thing. I can "feel" the meaning of the words and they stick easily. I don't mind messing up because after all, "you have to murder it to master it".

Ben is good at sports. He's coordinated and fast and all smiles.

He hates scripted afternoon language practice. The words take longer to learn and the awkwardness of not being understood is so uncomfortable.

But here's the thing. If someone said to me, "Go live in that country and help those people. Oh and you have to play sports everyday until you are great at it." I would say no. Plain and simply, I would not go.

Ben on the other hand, came anyway. It's tough and discouraging and frustrating. Sometimes it's the awfulness of insecurity.

Ben came anyway! I am so blessed to have him. I wish I was more like him.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wow! You really can't speak Indonesian!

I managed to arrange with the Pastor's wife to bring me to the women's meeting. Now, there I sat, staring at sunshine yellow walls, trying to think of sentences in Indonesian.

"Nama saya Anisha. Saya barisol dari Amerika Serikat." I began, and explained that my family was here studying Indonesian. "Im sorry" I said, "I only speak a very little bit of Indonesian." And in enthusiastic unison all the women replied, "It's no problem!" Which actually only made me realize all the more how much of a problem my lack of communication skills really is.

At the end of the meeting the food was served. Delicious chicken, jackfruit, rice, chips, and watermellon. "Do you like the food?" asked the Grandmother who had prepared the dinner.

Now I have to tell you, I know what I meant to say. I meant to say, "Enak" meaning delicious. But instead and just as enthusiastically as I would have said delicious said, "Tidak!" meaning "No!". Grandma stared back at me in shock and my friend burst into laughter.

"You told her no!" my friend said through fits of laughter. I was so embarrassed. "Maaf Oma! Sorry Grandma!" I apologized, "Enak! Enak sekali! Delicious! Very delicious!" But the damage was done. Oma smiled at me and nodded her head as if to say, Wow! You really can't speak Indonesian!

And off I go to practice more conversation. Hopefully without insulting the excellent cooking of another kind grandmother.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Puffed Chest Bully Drunk

The man standing in the middle of the road was obviously drunk. Not the happy, everybody is my friend kind of drunk either. He was puffed chest bully drunk.

The drunk man put out his hand and our taksi driver stopped and opened his window. Oh no! Why is he stopping? He should keep going! I thought. Our driver spoke a few calm words to the drunk man and then started to pull away. Whap! The man's fist came down hard on the hood. The driver stopped again, this time he offered the drunk some money. After a bit of arguing back and forth our taksi driver gave more cash and the drunk man stumbled off to harass another vehicle.

I looked towards the back, my fellow passengers all shared the same sombre expressions. Their faces downcast with sadness. What on earth was all that about? I wondered.

I told this story to an expat friend who explained, "Oh the people here hate confrontation so much that they give in to the drunks. If a drunk person comes to a restaurant they would sit them down and give them food rather than throwing them out."

This kind of treatment of angry addicts is completely contrary to that of my own society. An aggressive drunk wandering into a restaurant in the US would be thrown out and if they didn't go willingly security would be called. A drunk on the road would be ignored and quickly driven past, despite any attempts to stop the vehicle. I had no reference point for the kind of response given by my taksi driver.

A few days later I told a Papuan friend about what happened. He replied, "Yes, I know it's bad. All the people feel this situation is bad. You see, alcohol was introduced here from the outside. It did not exist in Papua. The people do not know how to handle it." He went on to talk about peace, and hospitality, and avoiding unnecessary conflicts. "If you come to a drunk person, just try to make it smooth. Don't cause a disagreement. It is better this way."

Later that evening, still mulling over the conversations with my expat and Papuan friends, verses like Proverbs 19:11 came to mind, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." And Proverbs 20:3 "Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel."

It is so easy for me to jump to the comfort of my own personal and cultural response. To think, That person is in wrong and they shouldn't even be given the time of day! Or get them out of here! Someone call security! But now wonder if I wouldn't simply fall into the "any fool will quarrel" category.

I recently wrote a post about walking in Post 7, a neighbourhood notorious for problems with drunks, against the advice of other expats. Our strategy then had been to avoid any signs of trouble. We would turn around and walk the other way. We would have left the situation, not indulge or engage it.

I have no insight and make no claims for or against my own personal or cultural response. What do I take away from this? Only that I exchange the comfort of self righteous judgement for the sadness shared by my fellow passengers. Perhaps together we will find a way.

What would you do?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Big Wins are Expensive

The days at home, just the three of us and maybe a couple kids from next door, those are the best days. The easy days. We clean house, I journal, Ben catches up on Twitter, all of us take naps. Life in Papua is good.

These days are necessary, we'd loose our sanity if it wasn't for quiet days. But we also don't make any progress in understanding the language or culture on those days.

Then there are days like last Sunday. We won big on Sunday. We won by going to an all Indonesian speaking church in the morning. We won by exchanging phone numbers with a new Indonesian friend. We won by arranging to go out with Indonesian and Papuan friends this week. We won by meeting new neighbors and beginning new relationships. We won by going to an expat meeting and hearing from people with vast experience living and working here. We won big on Sunday!

The win was also very expensive. Isaiah had a meltdown at church. Ben got a headache at church, the kind that had him bolting for the door as soon as the service was over. I walked too far to buy food for lunch and felt sick from the heat. Isaiah had another meltdown. Ben felt insecure about speaking Indonesian and I lost my patience. I got a migraine and had to battle hard to keep from throwing up. It was a physically and emotionally expensive day for all of us.

We are learning the meaning of balance. We are learning that if we want big wins, we need to be sure to have enough emotional and physical cash saved up to pay for it.

Sunday ritual. Circling the words I understand on the back of the church bulletin.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Aku Papua

"I will sing it for you and then I will tell you what it means."

Our Papuan friend began singing, Tanah Papua tanah yang kaya, his voice soft and sincere. So moved, without even understanding the words, I began to cry. I wondered what he sang about with such love, pain, and hope. Eyes heavenward he continued, Hitam kulit keriting rambut aku Papua.

Even a brief reading of Papua's history will reveal the deep wounds this land and the people who live here have suffered. Wounds that endure today. My friend's song, Aku Papua, was written during a time when the people felt defeated by the county's circumstances. Aku Papua, meaning "I am Papuan", reminded the people of their heritage and value.

"Your song made me cry." I told my friend. "Yes, when this song came out it made many people cry. Let's sing it together." So the three of us sang, and I cried again, understanding a small bit more about this land and it's people.

You can listen to Aku Papua by clicking the picture below:

Aku Papua

Song Translation:

Papua Island, rich island
A little heaven fallen to the world
As wide as land, as much as honey
Precious hope

Papua island, ancestral island
I was born there
Together with wind together with leaf
I was looked after

Black skin curly hair, I am Papuan
Black skin curly hair, I am Papuan
Even though the sky may split
I am Papuan

Friday, April 4, 2014


I can cope with the big things. I can deal with power cuts, water shortages, new foods, mosquitoes, dirty feet, and the stress of language learning. I am prepared for the big things.

The small things are the real killers. Merciless assassins quietly stalking my morale, cloaked in shadow, taking aim, and firing when I least expect it.

It’s dropping laundry on the dusty ground just before hanging it on the line. It’s my laptop restarting in the middle of a journal entry because it decided, all on it’s own, to update all of Windows. It’s Katadyn filtered water tasting like plastic, but we have to drink it because the other option is typhoid. It’s the endless sweeping because dusty roads lead to dusty floors.

These are the real killers, but I am not defenseless.

My defense is the gospel. The love and grace that covers and compels me to action.

My defense is you. You, the individuals who generously give, regularly pray, and actively encourage. I wouldn’t make it without you.

My defense is choosing to live in the reality that none of this is about me. It’s about the sick child receiving life saving medical care. It’s about the village damaged by the mudslide. It’s about treating and stopping Aids. It’s about making it possible for international workers to live and be effective in isolated jungle communities.

There may be morale killers here, but I am well armed and you’ve got my back.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Papua Morning

The sun is up at 5am which wakes the roosters which wake the neighborhood. By 6am there is usually a knock at the door with a small voice calling, "Isaiah!" The boys are ready to play. The construction equipment starts running soon after and the men outside resume building the houses across the way. I am still trying to clear the cobwebs from my head. My only thought is for the strong coffee that I know is waiting for me when I get to language class.

The three of us walk down the red dirt road that tends to flood in the rain, dodging puddles and mud. "Selamat pagi" and smiles to the children walking to school and the adults heading out to work. The sun is already warm, but the air is still cool. Our mountain a faithful, awe inspiring presence.

At the main road we scan the traffic for a taksi, motioning for a pickup when we see one. "Ke Lapangan Theis?" we ask the driver. Climbing in, greeting our fellow passengers, and we are off. A new day, guaranteed to bring us both great joy and fresh challenges, begins in this beautiful country.