World Gospel Mission in PNG and the Christian Union Church of PNG are getting ready to celebrate 50 years of ministry and partnership. As part of the celebration, we will be posting prayer requests for the 50 days leading up to the start of the celebration on January 22nd, 2014. For those who may want to download the list of prayer requests early, I am attaching that list here. Maybe you want to make sure you don't miss a day. Maybe you want to print them off so your SS class or church can pray along with us. Maybe you want to save the list so that you can continue to pray for these requests even after these 50 days. Whatever your reason may be, we thank you in advance for your prayers for the ministry here in PNG.
It's been about two weeks now since my good friend, Rondy Kingal died. Her death was a surprise, so much so, that I still find it hard to believe she is gone. It was Tuesday morning when I got a text to call my friend Malin. When she answered I heard crying in the background. She was saying that Rondy was dead. Finding it hard to believe what I had just heard, I told Benji. He said not to get upset until we knew she was really dead. They have a way here in PNG of saying "dead" when they really mean fainted, sick, close to death or actually dead. Just a few minutes before the phone call, I had remarked to Benji that someone must have died because we could hear the wailing of a "haus krai" from inside our house. Now I knew it was true. I quickly changed clothes and had a bite to eat. I had no idea what I would find up in the village, nor how long I would be there. As I walked up to Rondy's house, I passed a few people on the road. They all knew where I was headed. It usually isn't safe for me to walk up the village road by myself, but on this day no one was going to try anything. Listening to the crying and wailing all the way, my thoughts raced. "Is she really dead? How did she die? What happened? Will the villagers and extended family blame black magic and punish someone for her death? What about her children and husband?" So many questions and fears. As I started on the path to her house the wailing grew. I had to stay focused on my feet as the ground was more mud than stone. I reached her home and found her niece, Christina holding onto the porch post crying. I went and hugged her and my tears started to flow. While we embraced she told me of how Rondy had come to her in her dreams while she was sleeping and said, "Sweet, don't you see that I'm sleeping?" Christina right away went to Rondy's home and found her dead in her bed. From that time until I arrived, it had only been about an hour. I worked my way to the door and slipped off my flip flops. The front room of the bush house was filled with women sitting on the floor wailing. I sat for a few minutes and then decided to go into Rondy's room where the closest friends and her daughter were gathered. As soon as I saw her, there was no controlling my grief. I joined the ladies in their wailing and moaning as I stroked her forehead and touched her hair. In that room we were all sisters, grieving the loss of an amazing woman and friend. I stayed until the air was too thick for me to catch my breath. Once outside I stood for awhile, trying to wrap my brain around the situation. There were all sorts of people already gathering. I watched as more came into the yard and I could see the shock on their faces. Women were covering themselves with mud and pulling on their hair. I have never felt grief in the air as I did that day. Eventually I sat in the mud and cried some more. After a while I decided to walk home. There wasn't anything else I could do. The next few days were a blur of mourning and surviving. We found out that Rondy was recently diagnosed with a heart blockage, and was scheduled to fly to Port Moresby for heart surgery the day after she passed away. Because most people knew this, there was no talk of black magic being responsible for her death. Rondy was buried a week after she died. The following Sunday was a difficult one. Two of her children played in the worship team, and they all sang a special song along with other youth. Most of the women in the church cried during the entire service. It was just so sad to see her chair empty, and her children worshiping as they always did with her.
Rondy was an amazing woman. As I have thought about her over these last few weeks, I realize that she was truly filled with the Holy Spirit. She went to her job early every morning and did not get home until dusk. She was extremely involved in church ministry, as a board member, leading Bible studies, and many other ways. She did a lot to bring the Know Your Bible studies into PNG and translated many of the studies into Tok Pisin. She raised her four children and helped pay for her husband to study in the Philippines. I never heard her complain. We held an English Bible study with one other woman on being an excellent wife. The three of us shared deeply during this time, but still she never had a harsh word to say.
I am challenged by Rondy's life. She did so many things, and she did them well. She did them with a good attitude. She did them in God's strength. Our pastor shared a brief sermon the Sunday after her burial on the vine and the branches. Rondy truly was abiding in Jesus, and He abided in her.
Last week, I was honored to attend the Regional Conference for the Christian Union Church here in PNG. I rode a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle or bus) out on Monday and returned to Mt. Hagen on Friday. The meetings took place from Tuesday through Thursday all day.
I really enjoyed being there with all of the pastors and leaders that we work with. Every day, I woke up to the sound of a group of the pastors praying (starting at about 5:30 and going until 6:30). Then the pastors would switch to singing for a while before hearing a short devotion. Then about 7:30, we would all head over to get our morning tea and scone (roll). The meetings would run from 8:30 to 12:00, when we would break for a lunch of kaukau (sweet potato), kumu (greens), and sugarcane. We would then have meetings again until about 4:30. Supper consisted of typical Mumu food (food cooked in the ground by hot rocks): Pig, kaukau, taro, kumu, and bananas (the kind that you cook). What followed next was the best part of the day. The pastors would go hang out in their grass houses (each district had its own house) and sit around the fire talking. Each evening I would slip off and join in with a different district in their house.
Sitting and talking with the pastors is one of my favorite things to do. It is the best chance for me to really get to know them and for them to feel connected to me. Many of them start out afraid to talk to me, assuming that I am so much different than they are. But as I sit around the fire with them, joking and laughing about things or talking about something out of the Bible, I become one of them. And that is the best way that I have found to be able to make a real impact on their lives.
Pray with me for the pastors that we work with here as I do my best to disciple them in the way that Jesus demonstrated and that Paul taught about in 2 Timothy 2:2.
One of the many things I love about our ministry here in PNG, is getting to travel. Not that the roads are good at all, but I still enjoy it. Just this last week I got to travel to Sumia (Past Mendi in the Southern Highlands Province). I went there to be involved in a meeting with the Regional Board of Trustees of the Christian Union Church.
When I travel out to Mendi, I usually ride in a pmv (bus). I do this for a couple of reasons. One, our vehicle is not able to handle the rough roads between Hagen and Mendi very well. And since I don't have money to constantly fix it, I just don't drive it out that way. Two, most of the pastors and church leaders that we work with have to travel by pmv because they don't have vehicles. I do my best to try to work under the same restrictions or conditions that they do, so that I can relate to them better.
So after riding the pmv to Mendi, one of the Board members who has a truck picked me up and we rode out to Sumia. The meeting was held in our church at Sumia, and the pastor and his wife fixed us a meal of chicken, kaukau, bananas, and kumu (greens). We started our meeting at about one o'clock in the afternoon (the pmv ride takes about 4 hours), and didn't get finished until close to six o'clock.
After the meeting was over at six, everyone was trying to catch a ride back to their homes. Several men were able to get a ride to Embi and Montanda, the guy from Kar just decided to spend the night with the pastor of Sumia, and the guy from Poroma was the one with his own truck. The two guys from Waralai had no way to get home, so they decided to spend the night at one of their in-laws place (Yagen) which was close by. Since I had no way to go home either, I went with them. Now, it is very common in this culture to just show up at someone's house and expect them to house and feed you. However, it isn't very common for a 'white man' to just show up at your house and expect those things. So the family was pretty shocked when I came walking up to their house with the two other guys. However, they quickly made me feel at home. We sat around the fire in the Haus Kuk (Cook House) for a while and then I headed off to bed. They actually had a couple of bedrooms built into this Kunai (bush) house, so they gave me my own room.
We got up the next morning and went out to the road to wait for a pmv to come along. It was about a 20 minute ride into Mendi. Once we got to Mendi, we went and hung out a Haus Kai (small fast food place) and got some breakfast. I had some broccoli and a fish flour (kind of like a big corn dog, but with fish in the middle). About eight o'clock or so, the pmvs were loading up to head to Hagen, so I jumped in one and made my way home.
That is what you call traveling 'PNG Style', and I happen to love it! If you ever make it over to PNG some time and want to travel with me, I will gladly take you along!