Thursday, May 29, 2014

Missing Andi

Sweet and silly!
This little guy. Five year old Andi has lived next door to us since we moved in. He and Isaiah became fast friends. Andi became my little language helper as well.

After Isaiah’s afternoon nap we’d go outside with the scooter and skateboard to play with Andi. In between taking turns, he would come and sit next to me, checking out the homework I’d brought outside with me. 

On hot or rainy days Andi would come over for a movie, to color, for a pillow fight, or to cause some kind of little boy ruckus. The boys played well together and also fought well together. Sometimes I would reach my limit and kick them both outside. “Main ke luar!” and I’d open the door and throw the soccer ball out after them.

Once, Andi helped me with putting Indonesian words for things around the house. “What’s this Andi?” I asked pointing at the sink. “Tempat cuci piring.” And so up went a little sign with Andi’s words every day reminding me the Indonesian words for ‘sink’.

We hadn’t seen Andi for a little more than a week. Isaiah would go to his house calling, “Andi! Andi!” but no little boy came to play. The adults didn’t offer any clue as to where Andi had gone either. In fact, Rafeli, an older 8 year old Isaiah also plays with hadn’t been there either. Where are the boys? We all wondered.

Rafeli returned a couple days ago, but still no Andi. “Where’s Andi?” I asked him. I’d asked before but was only told, “Di rumah” (at home). This time I got a more complete answer. Andi moved to Abe, a few towns away. He isn’t coming back.

We are all sad. Isaiah keeps going next door calling for Andi, even though I’ve explained he doesn’t live there any more. 

I hope Andi will come back to visit, after all his grandmother still lives next door. In the meantime, we all miss him very much. 

Afternoons spent getting dirty outside

Monday, May 26, 2014

True Friends

"What is 'syg' an abbreviation for at the end of her text?" I asked my teacher, reading aloud a text message from a Papuan friend that I didn't completely understand.

It's hard enough to work out the straight Indonesian words, but can you imagine trying to figure out text message abbreviations? Yeah, that's a whole other thing.

"It means 'honey'. It's something women use for their true friend." he responded and I couldn't control the sudden eruption of joy.

I threw my hands in the air and gave out the most satisfied, "Yes!" of my life.

Amused, my teacher smiled and commented, "That makes you really happy, huh?"

"So much! I always wonder if the friends I am making here really like me, or if they are just being polite to the foreign lady. I always wonder if I am really making true friendships."

It was all joy overflowing for the rest of the day. Even now, thinking about my Papuan friend who I very much enjoy spending time with and realising she also genuinely enjoys my company, it's beyond meaningful to me.

I used to struggle hardcore with rejection. Fearful of not being accepted, even to the point of walking by a group of laughing people and concluding that they must be laughing at me. I constantly wondered what people really thought of me and mostly determined I was not all that likeable, fun or interesting.

Then I met Jesus and read His words about me. I began to understand that my identity lies in Christ and to trust Him even with my personality. I am the way that I am by design, not by some failure. As these truths rooted deep within my heart the fear of rejection largely became a thing of the past.

Then I came to Papua. Navigating a culture very different than my own and trying to make friends with limited language, that old fear of rejection came creeping back.

As I sat in class, beaming from ear to ear, I realised I'd given way to a fear long since conquered.

The truth is, my identity as a loved and cherished child of God doesn't change with my location. It doesn't change just because I dont understand the cultural cues around me. It never changes.

I breath easy again. Feet once more planted firmly on the unshakeable rock of Christ's love for me. Secure in the knowledge that this love that heals and sets my heart at peace, exists not just for me, but for the whole world.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Teething Pains

"So how's it going? You guys transitioning well?" A friendly expat I'd just been introduced to asked me.

"Well, we are angry and tired a lot of the time. I've started swearing. We don't understand most of what goes on around us and have to relearn even the most basic things. But the people are really nice and the food is good too."

She probably would have understood because she has been right where we are now, but it's still not really appropriate 'nice to meet you' conversation. So instead I gave the code words for oh man this is hard, "Pretty good. But, you know, we've got teething pains."

Teething pains. A tight smile and knowing nod. She understood the message loud and clear. "You guys will get there, don't worry." and the conversation moves on to kids and school and normal mom stuff.

It's a hard slog and the joy of making progress is all tangled up in pull your hair out frustration. But the thing is, it's frustrating for reasons I never would have expected.

Like envy.

When we were in Wamena and I stood in our future home thinking about how Ben would be out flying and saving lives, and that I would be at home with no specific role or glorious task, envy overwhelmed me and it wasn't nice at all.

What about me? Nice for Ben, he gets all the glory. It doesn't matter whether I'm here.

And here in Sentani, while Ben battles to put together four word sentences and make friendships, which come much easier for me, envy rears it's ugly head.

What about me? Nice for Anisha, this is easier for her. It doesn't matter how hard I try.

Envy. I hate it.

For the last decade, we have worked and supported each other so that we would one day achieve the goal of living and serving in a developing country together.

Envy has no place in together. So we link hearts and arms and kick envy in the teeth. We admit our struggles and frustrations and give preference to each other.

We stick together and conquer envy with love. And man, does it feel good. 
 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Check out Velvet Ashes this week's topic is Marriage.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Scatter Comes Home

Monday morning as I stood in the kitchen at language school making a cup of coffee before class, Isaiah burst in yelling excitedly, "Mommy, come see! The puppies are back! The puppies are back!"

Turns out that the day before two of the puppies had been found. Unfortunately, Jake wasn't one of them, but the return of two puppies meant Isaiah would be able have a puppy. We took one home the same day and Isaiah decided "Scatter" was the perfect name for his new puppy.

Like so many other times, I am amazed at how our story is turning out. At just the right time something will happen to lift our spirits, but I'll tell you more about that in another post. For now, we'll celebrate bringing Scatter home and how much this means to us, especially to Isaiah.

"Ok, Scatter. Set your markers. Ready. Go!"

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Inside Beach

I didn’t realize how much I missed the ocean until I smelt the salty air. After living in Florida for a decade it is strange to be away from the water. And it wasn’t until we’d boarded the ferry to take us across to ‘Inside Beach’ that I realized just how much I needed a break from the day to day challenge of learning to live in a new culture.

The last time we were invited to the beach we couldn’t go because I became very ill the night before. This time, I had worried the trip would again be cancelled as it had rained all night and was predicted to rain all day. Still, our friends came anyway and we all drove off to the beach hoping for the best.

Only about 16 miles away, it took almost an hour and a half to get there winding our way around small poorly maintained mountain roads. Still, the trip with small towns followed by dense jungle on either side, was a beautiful one.

The rain stopped, but a light cloud cover remained. The day turned out perfect. Warm sun, cool shade from the clouds, and crystal clear water. We had the beach entirely to ourselves save a few local people out fishing or hunting for mussels.

Inside Beach is the kind of beach I’d only ever seen in pictures or in movies. A white sandy shore lined with palm trees then quickly turning into dense jungle as it climbed up the mountainsides. The beach is along the inside of a bay where in the future there will be a cargo port. For now at least, the spot is absolutely perfect. And for the first time in a year, I felt like I could finally breathe.

The boat dropped us off and we spent the day swimming, snorkelling around the coral reef which felt like swimming in an aquarium, playing with sea cucumbers, crabs, and starfish, eating chicken with jack fruit and rice, walking, collecting shells, and laying in the shade. Isaiah of course loved every minute and is already asking to go back. I can't wait to either.

Swinging and singing

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dear Isaiah: A Letter to My Three Year Old

Dear Isaiah,

We've travelled a lot over the last year. More than 14,000 miles until we arrived at our new home here in Papua. I've felt the travel, but didn't understand it's affect until one day when I told you we were going grocery shopping and you asked, "Will it take a big air plane or a little air plane to get there?"

It's happening so quickly. The way you see the world and understand 'normal' is changing.

'Best Buds'
Three years from now, when we return to the US and UK for our furlough your normal will include rice and noodles eaten with your hand or a spoon, rather than spaghetti and meatloaf with a fork and knife. Instead of apples and grapes, your favourite snack time fruits will be papaya, pineapple, and any of the other tropical fruits growing abundantly on our island. You'll be used to only speaking English at home and having best friends that all look very different from you. You won't know that mail can be delivered directly to your home or that Walmart stocks 50 different types of cereals.

I don't know how you'll feel about all of this when you are older, but I think about it all the time. Will you consider your life richer for having grown up overseas or will you resent it? Like every other parent since time began, I wonder - Am I doing the right thing?

You are growing up with the title of "Third Culture Kid". You are one of thousands of children living in that "third place" in between cultures. As your Dad and I try to balance teaching you about the US and the UK while embracing the culture we are now living in, one thing is so clear - You are a remarkable boy and we are with you all the way. We so blessed to be your parents.

All my love,


More thoughts and love for and from Third Culture Kids over at Velvet Ashes this week.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Puppy Thief

Even before we arrived here in Papua, we made plans to have a family dog. Dogs are important here for protection from potential intruders. A good bark will both scare away and warn us of anyone who might attempt to break in.

Beyond the practicalities, I especially looked forward to the companionship of a family dog. An animal lover at heart, it could only be a matter of time until our home included a furry friend.

So when the language school director’s dog had puppies and she offered one to Isaiah once they were weaned, I was ecstatic. Yes! A puppy!

Isaiah talked a lot about bringing ‘Jake’ home when he was big enough and had learned everything he needed to know from his mommy. Jake, a very cute brown puppy with a white stripe on his nose, was an absolute love. The sweetest of the bunch and always keen for a cuddle, Jake was my pick of the litter too.

Each day, as we arrived to the school, we would make our way to the back where the puppies were. Giving cuddles and receiving many puppy kisses in return, visiting the ‘babies’ quickly became a favourite break time activity too.

Today, as we opened the school gate as usual Isaiah said, “Mommy, let’s go see the babies first. Then go inside.” I persuaded him to go inside with the promise we’d head to the puppies as soon as we said good morning to everyone.

“I have some sad news.” The school director told us. 

On Sunday someone had set out poisoned food. Another of her dogs and their cat had eaten the food and both were dead. Then someone, presumably whoever set out the poison, broke in and stole all the puppies. Only the momma dog was left. The poor sweet momma was now in pain as the puppies had not yet fully weaned and she could no longer nurse.

“Let’s go see the babies!” Isaiah tugged on my hand and pulled me towards the door. “Come on, Isaiah. Let’s go to where the puppies usually are. I have something sad to tell you about them.”

Ben joined us and as we sat on the step near where the puppies would play we told Isaiah what had happened. Of course, it’s hard for a three year old to understand what poisoned means or why someone would steal all the puppies, especially his Jake. 

I am both angry and sad. Why would they do this? They are so awful! 

As we walked home at the end of class, I remembered my own past and my heart turned. I’d like to meet the thief one day, I thought.

What happened is terrible and I am very angry and sad about it, but I truly would like to meet the thief because this doesn't have to be the end of the story. 

I’d like to tell them about a teenager who habitually stole jewellery and clothing from stores until one day she got caught. I’d like to share my own story. And I’d especially like to tell them about how great Jesus’s love is, even for a thief.

Isaiah and the puppies last week.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wait, What's My Message Again?

It is the end of the week here in Papua and I am exhausted. It's been 100+ degrees every single day and with two nights in a row without electricity and therefore without a/c I haven't been sleeping well. Our bedroom, with no window ventilation, easily reaches 90degrees on hot days even with the a/c on. The wall next to my side of the bed is hot to the touch in the afternoon sun.

Mostly we've adjusted to the heat well, but night time is a different thing. It’s hard to sleep when it is so hot. We toss and turn on sweat soaked sheets.

Last night Isaiah didn't sleep well either and so when my lack of sleep encountered his lack of sleep, we had a major blow up. He was ridiculously whiny, I was ridiculously short tempered. Lots of time outs for both of us.

I'm sure our neighbours heard everything. The same walls that let the heat in, let the sound out with the same ease. So when we have one of those insane yelling fits that Christians aren't supposed to have, everybody knows it.

Attempting to keep up appearances is hopeless. When you live this close to your neighbours, they are going to see your worst days.

So while I'd like to be the shining example of “Hey, look how well I follow Jesus! He’ll change you too just like He changed me!” I instead have a knock down drag out fight with the question Does my life match my message?
By Otto Koning
If you’ve never heard The Pineapple Story it’s one you must hear. The story takes place in Papua New Guinea, where a missionary has his crop of pineapples stolen day in and day out by the people he went to serve and spent years in angry yelling chasing thieves. One day he finally prayed, “I give up! These are YOUR pineapples Lord!” and stopped trying to stop the thieves. After a wacky chain of events that followed the people noticed a difference and in one humbling encounter told the missionary, “We figured it out! You are not angry any more. You must have finally become a Christian!”

Can you imagine? You move across the world and your daily life does not match your daily message. That’ll break your heart.

What is my message and does it line up with how I live my life?
This is a very real and ever present struggle. One that forces me to lay my heart bare and ask for correction and forgiveness nearly every day. Perhaps the only message I have is, I know a radical Love that reaches into my mistakes with compassion and forgiveness. If you’ll let me, I’ll tell you all about Him.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Used Up Words

It's hard when the novelty of being a westerner wears off. I've used up all my words and any new conversation is tedious. The neighbours have seen in my home. They see how we dress everyday and see what we eat. They've heard our tone of voice when happy or upset and know our weekly schedule. Our daily habits no longer as interesting, our interactions reduced to "Good morning" and a friendly wave.

I told my teacher I'd run out of conversation and he simply replied, "Yes, but you still have to try. You are getting better."


I am so eager to learn. Eager to move past the surface level conversations and talk about deeper things. I want to connect and build real meaningful friendships.

But when people stop trying to talk to you because it's just plain difficult and takes forever to communicate anything - What's a girl to do? Even a girl who is eager to learn?

Ben, Isaiah and my frustrated language lacking self attended church on Sunday. Everyone smiled and shook my hand, but offered no conversation beyond the usual "Happy Sunday!"

After the service we stood on the church patio enjoying snacks and smiling awkwardly when my one English speaking Indonesian friend came bounding towards us. "You're back! How was Wamena? Did you like it?" We began offering answers in English and she interrupted, "When can we speak more Indonesian?" Ben and I looked at each other, "I don't have more Indonesian." I said with a shrug. "Well, everyone here wants to talk to you, they just don't know what to say!"

Wait. What? People still want to talk to me?

"Really?" I asked, not quite believing it. "Really!" she responded with a smile. And I quickly went over to Ibu Gembala to ask for a ride to the woman's Ibadah on Monday. Through limited words and mostly hand gestures I managed to arrange a ride.

People still want to talk to me. It's amazing, but she was right and so was my teacher. "You still have to try. You are getting better."

So I reach back into my brain and try to put my few words into new sentences. At the Ibadah I stumble through the sharing time and even add a request prayer. The women, staring at me with huge smiles, almost will the words out of me.

Turns out that even my neighbours, who had given up trying to talk to me, are still interested in conversation. I just needed to listen to my teacher and stop complaining about the words I don't have. Difficult or not, I needed to try again with the words I do have.

And you know what? I managed to arrange a trip to the salon this week with Ibu Gembala. If there was ever a perfect place for building relationships with local women, I'm pretty sure the salon is it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ripped Off

I love going to the market. Pasar Baru, the New Market, is only a short half mile walk away and teeming with local traders pushing fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, and a million other things. 

There's a modern supermarket in town and although it requires a taksi ride to get there, is much more convenient than attempting a big shop at the Pasar. Still, you can't beat the Pasar for fruit, veg, excellent street food, and interesting conversations.

Without fail, someone always rips me off. Today, the big rip off was a handmade bag.
My new bag: the rip off

A Papuan lady sat on her mat on the ground knitting bags. She had several on display as well as a few pineapples and vegetables.

"Berapa harga ini?" I asked her for the price pointing to the bag. "Dua ratus" came the response. I knew it was high. She was asking for 200thousand, about US$17 dollars, for the bag. I asked about the pineapples and she gave me a much more appropriate price. I picked one out and handed her the equivalent of about 40cents. Then I added the bag and paid the exorbitant price with a smile.

I didn't barter for the bag, even though it is culturally acceptable to do so, mainly because I'm still not very good at numbers. We deal in hundreds and thousands in this currency and mostly people just say the hundreds part, leaving me to guess whether they really mean hundreds or hundred thousands.

Besides this, I have many mixed feelings about what price I should pay.

Should I pay 40cents for a pineapple? Or 90cents for the watermelon I also carried home with me? This may be the usual market cost, but is this really a fair price for the local farmer?

Once, in Benin, I bartered hard for a beautiful wooden chess set. I wanted it as a gift for my brother and I didn't have much money to spend. In the end I paid so little that when I told a local friend he was actually upset with me. "That man didn't make any money on what he sold you. He gave it to you for cost." Is a tight fist really the impression of a Christian witness I want to leave? I have never forgotten that lesson.

I'll keep going to the Pasar. I'll study up on my numbers and get the hang of bartering. I'll eventually pay less than I do now. I'll chit chat with the women and look for new things to try. I'll keep walking the tension of what should I pay? And still, I'm certain, I'll keep getting ripped off.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reaching the Clinic

“Even with vaccines people get typhoid like illness. This sounds like that.” Dang, I knew it. I thought, staring at the e-mail.

I’d woken at 1:30 in the morning, my stomach gripped by painful spasms and spent the next 5 hours in and out of the bathroom. I can’t do this again. I’d been sick for the last week, but my symptoms had begun to improve. Now it was all back and even stronger than before. 

In between vomiting fits I’d managed to send an e-mail to the local expat doctor. At 8:30am I had an e-mail response with her suspicions confirming mine and instructions to get to the clinic for a blood test. 

Our driver licenses are still processing at the local police station so getting to the clinic wouldn’t be as simple as jumping in a car or on a moped. I texted an expat I thought might be able to take me. She responded that she could, but it would be later in the morning. Anxious for relief, I decided to make my own way to the clinic. I would walk to the main road, take a taksi to the bottom of the hill, and there hire a motorcycle to take me to the top where the clinic was. Easy.

I got dressed, filled my water bottle, and put on my back pack. I can do this. Ben and Isaiah prayed with me and I set out, only thinking of the medicine I needed to feel better.

I walked slowly to the main road and caught a taksi. So far so good. Getting out at the bottom of the hill near the clinic I looked for a motorcycle to hire. There were none. Perhaps if I walk up a little to the fork in the road I’ll find one. And I set out slowly.

The farther I walked, the more it became apparent there were no motorcycles to hire. Spotting some Papuan women, I asked for help. “You can’t get a motorcycle here” they told me. I thanked them and walked away in tears. The day was already heating up and what little strength I had was fading fast. I would not be able to walk up the 600ft hill to the clinic.

God! I prayed, because sometimes there just aren’t any other words.

At that moment a silver car turned the corner and my eyes met with the driver’s. It was an expat woman I did not know. Flagging her down I asked, “Are you going to the top? Can I have a ride to the clinic?” She smiled and let me in. Thank you, God! I silently prayed. 

I got out at the clinic and went in for the blood test. At the check-in desk a bright blue painting caught my eye. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, written in swirly cream letters. 

A half hour later it was confirmed; I had a bacterial infection similar to typhoid. I took the first double dose of antibiotics there in the clinic along with a deworming tablet for good measure. I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

With no ride back down the hill I put one foot in front of the other, made it to the bottom, and caught a taksi home. Exhausted and again in tears, I took a cold shower and fell into a long sleep. 48 hours later my symptoms were nearly gone and even now I continue to improve.

Of course, it’s obvious that I should have waited a few additional hours for a ride to the clinic. I would have returned with much less stress on my body. Next time I will. 

But now I know a little what it must feel like for many who become ill without the luxury of transport. I understand a little better how much emotional strength and determination it takes just to reach a clinic.