Monday, 31 January 2011

Heart warming

I want to re-introduce you to a wonderful project: Operation Warm Baby.  And to some very special kids who have taken it on...

Livingston Christians Schools is a pre-K to 12 school located in Pinckney, Michigan.  My dad's cousin Rachel is a retired school teacher from there.  When she heard that the school was looking for a mission project, she knew that Operation Warm Baby would be the right fit.  Rachel began visiting thrift stores and shopping at garage sales for baby clothes.  She contacted some local stores for donations.  The school kids sorted socks, folded baby clothes, stuffed zip lock bags, and colored pictures to send along with the packages.  I was able to visit the school prior to coming to PNG.  Wow, it was quite a production!  What an incredible way to get kids excited about missions.

The students--and teachers and administrators and parents--at LCS have continued to be involved over these past two years.  Just before Christmas, they complied another batch of Warm Baby packs.  Here are a few of the pictures...

Warm Baby packs are mailed to Oregon and are then sent on to PNG by the Nazarene Hospital Foundation.  Once the items make it all the way around the world, the nurses and I have the privilege of giving them out to the mothers on maternity ward.  It is so much fun "playing Santa" all year round.  (Though the big man in the red costume who travels in a car without wheels pulled by horse-like animals--that doesn't really translate to Pidgin.)  The mothers are so happy to receive a gift for their new baby!  Many hearts are warmed.

A few months ago, one of the Warm Baby packs caught my eye.  The bag contained a drawing by one of the children at LCS!  I was very excited to give away this special present, and I knew the perfect patient...  Lesi had just delivered her third baby.  She had previously carried two babies at home in the bush.  Both of them died at the time of birth.  This little one was her first living child.  And she was so excited about being a new mom!  What a blessing to receive a gift to help her clothe and care for her baby.

Rachel has also sent a few items for the nursery.  Premie clothes have been put to good use, as we have many low birth weight babies.  I recently gave the fuzzy elephant blanket to baby of Agnes.  The elephant is keeping her company as she grows toward the 2000 gram milestone

LCS has also been such a blessing to me.  I was surprised by a wonderful Christmas box with all sorts of wonderful goodies inside.  I have enjoyed emails and notes from the teachers.  And I so appreciate the prayers of the students.  Thank you for adopting me as your missionary :).

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me... Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
~ from Matthew 25

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Greater love

"My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one's life for one's friends."
~ John 15:12-13

This is my friend Jossina.  She is from the Sepik, a very far away river along the northwest part of PNG.  She came to Kudjip as a nursing student about 10 years ago, then stayed on to serve as a nursing officer at the hospital.  She is also raising her orphaned nephew, Joshua.  Jossina is a regular attender of the 10-toea sister Bible study.

Earlier this month, Jossina was walking home from work when she was approached by a stranger.  When she refused to go with the man, he pulled out a knife and cut her arm.  The laceration sliced through 5 tendons and into bone.  Jossina was rushed to the ER where she was stabilized and her wound temporarily sutured.  Dr. Jim and Dr. Steve did surgery the following day to repair the damaged tendons.

The hospital closed for 10 days because of the incident.  The community leaders offered Jossina what we call "compensation" or "sorry money."  But she declined--because she has given her life to this ministry and the people of the Highlands.  She left her family and home in the Sepik.  She has given up a better paycheck offered by jobs at government hospitals.  And now, she has literally put her life on the line.

I am blessed to serve with Jossina and many others like her.  Please continue to pray for harvest workers!

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Flipped Side: "Yes, Virginia..." (day 8)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 27, 2010

Awake at 6:45 AM to a chilly quiet house, the routine of the family animals was known since we could see the tracks to where the food was stowed.  (Hmmmm... not talking about just the domesticated animals--the new dog food bag in the shed was moved into a container so that the tracks to the hole in the bottom of the bag could be swept away.)  Quietly feeding tem before the others were up, the mind had a flash back to college days, where in my dorm room was a large postcard with a picture of Charles Shultz's Peanuts patting Woodstock on the head.  The caption was, "I think I found my calling."  [Come on back, Dad!  I'm happy to have you around feeding my pets.]

Looking out toward the west, one could see the lazy, soft, smooth fog below in the river valley.  I'm glad something else has a difficult time getting up out of bed in the morning!  Dr. Jim came to the porch and took 6 of the hanging neighborhood apple bananas.  There must have been over 60 in the homegrown bunch at the beginning.  Brutus was served 4 each morning with his food--the suspicion is more for the need of "filler" and making his bowl look full rather than for the love of fruit, but he will eat anything.  [Dog food is $40-60 per bag.  We try to make it stretch as long as possible.  And Brutus loves bananas.]  Jim reported the surgeries would start around 9:00.  Mom soon wok up but stayed in bed to rest longer since her throat decided to treat her to a full-fledged cold.  But as usual, she was a trooper and continued cooking and preparing meals and joining in other activities.

Even though the clinic (a.k.a. doctor's office) was closed again today (From December 24th to December 27th for Christmas), Steph scooted out the door a little before 8 for the short 5 minute walk to the hospital to do "doctor rounds" in the maternity ward.  This takes her about 1 1/2 to 2 hours each day as she visits the patients with special needs--the mamas and/or the babies.  She doesn't need to stop at each of the 28 beds or so.  The deliveries, mamas, and babies without complications are taken care of by the nursing staff.

Approximately two hours later, she was walking down Nazareth Street back toward home and met Dad looking out over the river valley.  They walked down the rocky rain washed lane into the river valley and past the incapacitated hydroelectric building (due to a flood), admired the local's gardens, crossed a makeshift 6-foot single bamboo pole bridge avoiding soft muddy ground, and finally over to the river where a mama and three children were doing their morning laundry.  Dad had a glazed, far off look with kayak reflection in each eye since a level two rapids was racing through a 24x7 scrubbing of boulders.

Upon returning to the house, it happened that an uncalled "iPod meeting" formed at the dining room table.  (The house comes complete with a flakey wireless network, but neither Mom nor Dad checked MVNU email the whole trip!  This "no checking AND no peeking" agreement was one of those common husband/wife unspoken agreements.  After all, we were on the other side of the globe--"how in the world" could email find its way here?)  The remainder of the morning was spent relaxing.  Marsha McCoy came bearing yummy gifts of Christmas jam--strawberry and papaya!  Both jars were completely devoured and scraped clean (by inserting the index finger in the jar then mouth) in three days.

After lunch, we headed up to the post office--a small 8'x20' building that included a "shed" portion.  A few had gathered since the neighborhood buzz spread the word for a holiday river outing.  The buzz was initiated by a Dokta Steph phone call the evening before.  Not seeing the inside of the shed before, we were very surprised when a large black inner tube came rolling out.  Then inner tube after inner tube rolled out the door--9 to be exact.  The urge to take a peek to see what other goodies were inside was placed on hold as the group quickly moved on to the circle near the junction of Nazareth and Knox Streets to meet other explorers.  This enlarged the group to 15-18 that included a few trail guides and guardians of smaller children who were to enjoy splashing in the water at the take out point.

The journey took us down the back lane into the Wara Kane river valley, past new housing units built by Work & Witness teams and the dam that washed out in a spring flood.  (This disabled the electric generation from the river.  The Kudjip station must now rely on unstable electricity that is expensive.  Please pray for funding for a new hydroelectric system.)  At the "Y" in the path, those with smaller children went to the left and the rest to the right including Kathy Radcliffe and Mom.  For the two ladies, there was some question about getting back.  But when in doubt, as noted in the first day's journal, the Radcliffes always go for the adventure.  So the two gals continued with the tubers.  The "follow-the-leader" single line gave us a feeling of bush adventure as we continued up the narrow river valley path, then made left and right turns through gardens and woods for a total of 30 minutes.

We finally arrived at the point where we left the main path that headed on over to the miles of unknown mountain explorations.  The river came in sight and was flowing quickly.  The entry point was a little difficult due to a large, flat, smooth rock that sloped into the water's edge.  Desiring a picture of "tube boarding," Dad asked Mom for the camera.  And you guessed it!  Within another step or two, the old gray haired guy found himself slipping and falling down with and instant slight shoulder pain developing.  The camera, upon finding new freedom in the air, looked around and decided to take the quickest path down.  It dove into the water with the old guy following close behind.  A quick searching grab under the 12 inch deep rushing water resulted in the magnificent catch of a rock, and then the camera with the hope that it might dry out someday.

A beautiful 5 foot water fall plummeted into a pool where 8 others were boarding their tubes including Bennett Isaac.  Bennett was on his first tubing ride and even though a native PNGer, he was a bit nervous about getting on.  Tim Radcliffe cam and assisted with his boarding.  Everyone was now sitting in their tube with legs, arms, and head sticking up and out.  Tim yelled out final instructions to make sure Dokta Steph and the old guy understood that the tail bone needed to be protected.

Then ready or not, all were whisked away by the rapids.  Almost immediately, the old guy's shoulder pain vanished as the body was twisted, yanked, and bashed.  Only one rock "bottom" tailbone hit was needed to send the urgent reminder of no sagging in the middle--the very opposite of bulging in the middle.  Trying to remember not to sag and not to bulge in teh middle was extremely difficult!  But experience is still the best teacher!

After the third rapids, several of the newbie tubies were ready for a timeout, but the request was immediately denied as more than 10 additional rapids came without a rest break.  The water was forceful and so strong that arms, hands, legs, and feet were needed in trying to steer around boulders and keeping clear of stony steep banks.  Every once in a while, a tuber hit a boulder and was dunked with feet and legs flying up in the air (including the dokta)!  We sure were thankful that the news of such an adventure came prior to our arrival and that we did special exercises for two weeks so that we would not be sore the next day... NOT!  The scouting reporter now believes that the rapids were no less than level 6 and possibly approached level 7 even though the scale goes only to 5.

PNGers waved and smiled at us as they mistook our flying feet and hands as a wave greeting.  We passed by some of the PNG men taking afternoon baths, women and children washing clothes, and a group of children in their birthday suits playing in the mud and throwing mud balls.  One child was a complete head-to-toe mud boy... probably a son of a tribal chief who gets painted up for traditional PNG festivals.  Tim, in his adventurous mind, coasted into the side pool and launched a few mud missiles to enter into the fun.  He had no concern that the tubers close to him didn't want to have a mud snack.  (A bit of Murphy's law was in effect here, as the only smooth water side pool was a kids' playful war zone so that no resting place was found there either!)

The other river obstacle was tall grass that hung over the river bank.  The bank seemed to be a magnet in attempting to pull the inner tubes under the low hanging grass.  With no bank to be found in which one could plant his or her feet for a push off, the grass was a scary thicket trying to award cuts, scrapes, and punctures.

Finally, the unimaginable wild ride was over and all 9 safely reached the very golden shore.  The Radliffes were chided for keeping such a fun secret for 25 years.  And "yes, Virginia..." missionaries do have fun!  [That is what you call serious fun.]

It was here that the "Kathy and Mom story" was proclaimed.  The path back from the entry point became a little confusing due to the fact that one garden looks like the next, one palm tree looks like the next, a blade of grass is not a good way to identify where a person is to turn left or right onto the next bush path, and bread crumbs just don't work.  They ended up wandering through the busy by themselves for one scary moment.  Fortunately, the found a helpful person and made it back to the meeting place at the river safely.  We were also thankful for the news that the surgeries were successful.  However, the patient with the very difficult surgery still had serious complications.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Sunday feasting of worship, dinner, and soap (day 7)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 26 was our first Sunday of worship.  We walked to the Sidney [and Wanda] Knox Memorial Church, just outside the station's gate, for an 8:30 AM service.  Fresh flowers adorned the front of the one room building.  Within 15-20 minutes of starting, over 200 entered and filled the environmentally cooled and heated church with the men sitting on the left and women on the right in camp meeting style wooden benches.  When it came time in the service to welcome everyone, Steph stood and introduced her "first time to PNG" parents.  The pastor continued with introducing many others (each family/area group) with the congregation giving a unified three handclap welcome.  A "1, 2, 3" countdown was led by the pastor.

During the sermon, we were the beneficiaries of old fashion, teenage note passing--Dr. Jim jotted down thoughts of the message in paragraph form and passed them back to us.  Two sheets of paper were in a loop as if attached to a moving string.  (Oh the things we do 50 years later!)

The message was on humility.  "Jesus and the Wise Men were humble.  The Wise Men were respected, rich, from far away.  To unbelievers, their journey must have seemed crazy."  (They, men from the East, even asked for directions!--editorial comment.)  "Christ was born in a lowly, smelly stable.  The Wise Men humbled themselves to show respect and worship Jesus.  We too should be willing to suffer ridicule to worship Christ.  The Wise Men humbled themselves before Jesus.  They recognized His greatness and Lordship.  We should not be fearful or ashamed to witness, testify, share a special song.  2010 is over, 2011 coming.  We need to be willing to be humble and obey God."

We definitely felt part of the community as we and others in the fellowship walked through the station gate and headed up past the hospital on the right.  A small group formed at the corner of Nazareth Street and Knox Street including the Radcliffes, Jenny Isaac (Peter, Jenny, and family are PNG missionaries to Vanuatu Islands and temporary neighbors to Steph), and a few others.  Dr. Jim shared the need of 3 surgeries on Monday (a holiday) and hoped there would be enough staff to perform them.  He also stated that one patient might not make it through surgery and asked us to pray.

We dispersed and headed home to finish preparations of a Sunday ham dinner.  This was Steph's first attempt to prepare a ham in PNG.  As we opened the door, the aroma in the house stirred our taste buds which sent text messages to our brains that registered, "This was going to be a lip smacking good meal!"  [A few weeks before, Judy was ready to cook the ham for our annual Christmas dinner when she discovered it was spoiled.  Spending all that money on a ham is always a risk.  Luckily this one turned out good... all the credit goes to Mom!]

Steph and Becky had invited Meti and her three children, Edna (senior in secondary school), Jeremiah and Leslie (two younger boys in secondary school) to join us.  Becky took "Herbie," her small, [somewhat] faithful, approximately 20+ year old white Suzuki SUV to pick them up while Steph and Mom finished meal preparations.  The scrumptious meal included green bean casserole with French fried onion rings.  Cupcakes sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy on top of chocolate icing completed the meal.  This meal was in stark contrast to the nightmares Dad and Mom had back in Ohio about being tied up and then forced to eat all kinds of strange animal parts and vegetable stuff from the highlands of PNG.  [For the record, we are actually quite civilized.]  Needless to say, having dinner with Metis family was the real treat for Mom and Dad.

Four o'clock soon rolled around--the announced time for the annual "Messiah" sing-a-long.  Steph and Dad joined a small group at the Radcliffes'--another enjoyable Christmas tradition of the missionaries.  We had a melodious sounding orchestra with a 200 voice choir for the six pre-selected choruses.  (Several of the Radcliffes sand with MVNU's December 2010 performance of which Dr. Jim had on DVD.  Jim did comment that his one and only goal during the performance was to make sure he didn't sing a solo during the cutoff at the end of the Hallelujah Chorus.)  To ensure the traditional even in PNG didn't las as long as the original performance, we did fast forward through the solos, including Ginny Cameron's--BUT PLEASE DON'T TELL GINNY!!  The chatter, clatter, and laughter after the short singing even were enjoyed by all.

Upon returning to Steph and Becky's, the stretched out dining room table from dinner needed to be pushed back together.  The previous routine of "The Closing" was to place one end of the table against the wall while a powerful shotgun shove was given from the other end.  Closing the table using two people was not recommended by either doctor since this would result in an injury.  Dad put an end to this nonsense with the almost extinct "Grandpa William Doenges Soap Trick" (circa 19th century but now ensured of continued usage in the 21st century).  Steph volunteered a motel sized bar of soap and Dad went to work on soaping down the table's wooden slide rails.  Bits of soap flakes floated to the floor with Brutus enjoying the manna feast of "crumbs" from the table.  [That dog will eat just about everything, except laulau.]  The result of "the soaping" was thrilling in two ways.  1) Steph no longer needed to purchase a 5 ton come along winch, and 2) Brutus could now blow bubbles!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Stephoscope: January 2011 Newsletter

Dear friends of PNG,

Attached is my first newsletter for 2011.  This edition includes stories about my parents' Christmas visit and the living sacrifice of my friend Jossina.

I have temporarily added a page 3.  It contains information about my home assignment for 2012.  I am working on my calendar now, so let me know if you are interested scheduling something.  I would love to share with you in person about what God is doing here!

January 21st was my anniversary of arriving in PNG.  I can't believe I have been here 2 years!  And still loving it :).

Hugs from PNG,
~ steph

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Christmas in paradise (day 6)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 25, 2010

What sounds would you expect to wake up to on Christmas morn... perhaps a distant jingle of sleigh bells as they "drove out of sight?"  Or, since the nearby Kudjip market was silent, would one hear the birds of paradise singing louder than ever?  How about a dad finishing a Christmas present to his children?  Scott had promised the tree house for Christmas, so the sound of hammering surprised several but was not long lasted as the project was completed and the three Dooley girls could climb up in their newly finished house.

We, on the other hand, enjoyed a 10:00 brunch and then read the greatest missionary story from Luke chapter 2 before opening presents.  Smiles were in abundance as gifts were opened and enjoyed by the foursome [Mom, Dad, Beck, and Steph--though Brutus and Sweet P enjoyed all the wrapping paper!].

In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of walking to each missionary's house and presenting a jar of hot fudge.  Mom had also brought gifts from Ohio for the Radcliffes since they were so helpful in keeping us on the right path to Nazareth Street.  Upon returning to the house, we were greeted with the aroma of beef cooking in the crock pot for the 4:00 Christmas meal.
The day was very relaxed (well, at least "very" for this unemployed kitchen worker who sat in the food line).  Christmas came and went without any snow or cold weather!  [Only in Steph's dreams!  It was sunny and 80 as usual.]  And by now we were getting accustomed to what paradise living was like--waking up to 60 degrees, elimination of the morning Waghi Valley clouds within two hours and the warming of the solar water tank on the roof.  Just about the time it starts to feel hot in the afternoon at just over 80 degrees, the clouds appear from the mountains and a gentle breeze starts to flow.  Also, two or three days each week, a soft rain falls from the clouds for a few minutes (better known as the "rainy season").  

In addition to the weather, there is the paradise electrical outage "entertainment"--guessing the time that the blackout(s) and/or brownout(s) will happen each day.  These usually come in the afternoon along with scattered internet outages.  The backpacker's headlamps did come in handy one evening as the three cooks reached for their head gear to finish supper preparations.  [This one's for you, Narn.]

Christmas day ended like many others--the black lab pup stretched out on the floor near the stove with his new Christmas bone nearby, the kitten placed in the laundry room, and all others in bed covered with a light sheet.  Not a creature was stirring.  Except the rat in the shed or in the rafters--not sure which... Mom didn't want to tell Steph about the noise in case she might be afraid... but no concern about Dad sitting up in the middle of the night, shaking Mom and frantically exclaiming, "what is that!?!"  [Steph would hot have been afraid.  Rats are part of life in PNG.  In fact, this one is most affectionately named "Squeaky."]

The impact of Christmas in PNG

During one of the evenings of our stay, the greatest missionary message of Christmas was freshly proclaimed as we watched a true classic missionary video entitled "Peace Child."  It took a couple of days after we arrived home in Ohio before the light bulb went on in my head (that's because my brain has slowed down to the speed of a 286 processor) and 2 thoughts came to mind:

1.  Why would Jesus Christ, the Son of God, leave the glories of heaven to be born in a stable and live among us?  Why would He leave his heavenly Family and come to the sinful world?  Why would He want to become our sin?
  • "God made him to had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." ~ Isaiah 53:3-6
2.  "Filmed in the unspoiled jungles of the Southwest Pacific (west of Papua New Guinea--but on the same island), Peace Child dramatically portrays the startling reaction of stone-age people to the Gospel.  Don and Carol Richardson respond to the call of Christ.  Careful preparation for their mission and a journey by dug-out canoe bring them to a remote rain forest inhabited by some of the world's most primitive people.  Painstakingly, they learn the language only to be shocked when the story of Judas' betrayal of Jesus makes him a hero to a people whose highest attribute is to be masters of treachery.  When the inter-tribal warfare breaks out, the battles continue until a warring chief offers his son as a means of bringing peace."  If the Peace Child lives, peace is guaranteed.
[One part of the movie is a bit gruesome.  Click here for content warnings.]

God sent to us our needed and necessary Peace Child.  Because He lives, we have a guarantee of everlasting peace.  

"For he himself is our peace."
~ Ephesians 2:14a

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Christmas Eve PM at Kudjip (day 5)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 26, 2010

Upon returning to the house, we were able to rest a few minutes before gathering with the missionaries and their families for the annual Christmas Eve walk through the hospital's four buildings, one for each ward.  A short service was repeated four times that included the singing of Christmas carols, special music by a quintet of trumpets, scripture reading while a new born baby "Jesus" and mother "Mary" walked down the center aisle of the ward followed by Wisemen bringing gifts for the King of Kings.  Then there was a closing prayer by a doctor of that ward.  

(There are no patient rooms in the hospital--all are lying on beds, three feet apart and in two rows.  There is enough room to squeeze three or four family members around the bed.  In over flow conditions, patients will lie on a mat in the center aisle.  Thankfully, fire marshals have not been invented here yet.)  

Finally, through the ministry of the many supporters of Nazarene work in PNG, gifts were given to each patient that included a stuffed animal for the children.  And candy canes were handed out to each person including visitors at the bedsides.  
By the fourth time that Mom and Dad looked at and attempted to pronounce syllables of the [Pidgin] Christmas carols, we were able to assist with singing the songs rather than causing mumbling sounds.  (At least we felt that we assisted, but who knows, maybe we sang "Joy to the pigs!")  It is likely that the patients in each ward heard all parts of the presentation two if not three times due to the closeness of the wards to each other as well as windows being open during the day.  

The group of traveling messengers then walked to the TB ward which is located in a wing of the old hospital.  However, the door was locked and it was speculated that all the patients were able to return home for Christmas.  

It certainly was a privilege to share in the Christmas activities of the Kudjip community!  

Speaking of community, it is appealing to come to a country where Sunday morning music once again calls out through open church windows to those passing by, where the open market is a gathering point as a near daily routine, where the neighborhood is filled with children playing--even in the rain, and where extra food is shared with neighbors.

[After finishing our caroling tour of the hospital, we hurried home to put pizza's together for dinner.  Stephen, the resident from JPS, joined us.  He and Dad readied the wood burning stove for an after-dinner fire.  The toast blaze lulled each one of us to sleep as we watched the classic "A Christmas Carol."  And thus, Christmas Eve came to a perfect close.]

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Christmas Eve morning at Kudjip (day 5)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 24, 2010

We woke to the buzz of a power saw cutting wood (music to Dad's ears) on Friday, Christmas eve.  Evidently there is no quiet time after daybreak around here.  Steph had to go to the hospital since there were two D&Cs scheduled for the morning.  Actually she assisted Stephen, the resident from JPS.  (Stephen became interested in PNG through Steph's Stephoscope.  JPS residents interested in international health are told of her newsletter.  Upon reading, Stephen contacted her to see if he could come to PNG.)  While the gals were away, we wrapped Christmas presents for Steph and Becky.  Dad actually saw most of the presents before distribution this time!  

Near the end of wrapping however, the sounds of a hammer, saw, and drill were too much to contain Dad to the house.  He dashed into the nearest booth and appeared as Super Constructor.  [Like Superman?]  The speeding bullet zipped through the small sub-neighborhood of four houses and stopped at the bottom of a gum tree where there was a tree house under construction.  Dr. Scott Dolley invited him up after he saw Dad's mouth drooling, but warned him the path up was not built for adults.  Taking that as a challenge, Dad casted off his fear of heights and took two steps up the foldable tree house ladder.  Scott, seeing that Dad was now shaking and hugging the tree with arms and legs, attached five safety ropes to him and placed an extra security net 2 feet below to encourage some relaxation.  Once up on the 1/2 built tree house floor, Dad helped nail additional floor boards and held the boards for sawing.

About 11:00, Mom and Steph came to see the construction as well as inform him that it was time to walk to the Kudjip market.  Scott once again had to coax Dad a little, stating that one can't continue to hug a tree with both arms while making any progress in returning to earth.  Mom was pretty embarrassed about him kissing the ground upon his two feet proclaiming, "We have touchdown, Houston!"

Our walk to the market consisted of walking a pattern in a narrow U shape--from the beginning point to the ending point of the U, where the Kudjip station gate is at the bottom of the U.  In going to the market, we were on the quest for some vegetables and also sugar for the hot fudge factory.  The market, a six out of seven day operation, is along the Highlands Highway but mainly down the side road to Banz.  It consists of people sitting and selling their goods, with most under an umbrella to provide shade from the hot sun.  It also has a large open air second hand clothes store where, after Mom took a picture of Steph and Dad, Steph's eye wouldn't let go of a skirt that was hanging behind them until purchased.  

Now add to the picture in your mind a local pig freely rummaging through vegetable and fruit peelings while pretending to ignore traffic.  Also, public motor vehicles (PMVs) are loading and unloading passengers.  PMVs consist of mini-buses, passenger vans, pickup trucks, and larger open air trucks.  

On the opposite side of the road to Banz, people were selling their chickens in booth line formation.  A store on this side of the road was disguised in a metal building.  By the time we bought a few vegetables, consumed a flour ball (yes Darren, we did branch out and try a few new things!), and located sugar at the Milo store, the sun was starting to become hot and we were thankful to get back to the shelter of Steph's house.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Kudjip community (day 4)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 23, 2010

The gals were able to push off to work around 8-ish (even with the adjustment of doubling the number of occupants in their home)--Steph to the Hospital and Becky to the Melanesia Field Office.  (Dr. Becky Morsch is the director of Community Based Health Care for the Melanesia and South Pacific fields.  she and Steph share a 3 bedroom house on the station.)  They joined us for chicken salad sandwiches at the lunch break.  

During the day, Mom and Dad worked on getting over jet lag and tinkered with the magic of our new MagicJack device.  A few calls to the U.S. with repeated delays of 20 seconds and the need of stating "over" when finishing a thought made us abandon the plan of using it instead of Skype.  (However, MagicJack is still very useful in sending a voicemail to Steph from U.S. cell phones w/o cost.)  

Christmas presents were wrapped and placed under the tree.  Mom also made her now "world famous" hot fudge for missionary Christmas gifts.  Knowing that the work bench is the most important space for dads, Dad worked on straightening up his new found territory.  [And he did a great job--it is so nice in there!]  It is located in the shed that could be entered by going through Steph's bedroom (abandoned in lieu of Mom and Dad's appearance) then through the laundry/freezer room.  There is also an outside entrance including one for the family rat which Dad met after dark a few evenings later.  [The rat is now disposed of, thanks to Brutus who caught him running through the back yard.]
We were invited to join the traditional missionary Christmas Eve Eve party at the Myers house.  The group filled the living room and kitchen as Christmas snacks disappeared.  Even though not feeling well, Mom was a trooper and agreed to stay through two games of a Jeopardy and Hollywood Squares mix.  It was the Christmas Trees against the Stars.  (Mom felt like a star :).  It was a very enjoyable evening and a great place to meet a whole gang of missionaries:
  • Andy (doctor) and Judy (manager of the store room) Bennett
  • Scott (doctor) and Gail (nurse) Dooley and children
  • Jeff (field communication coordinator) and Susan (doctor) Myers and children
  • Bill (doctor) and Marsha (field office manager) McCoy
  • Michael (construction and such at Bible College) and Diane (MK elementary school teacher) Chapman
  • Jordan (maintenance) and Rachel (MK high school teacher) Thompson--2 year volunteers
  • Steph (doctor)
  • Becky (CBHC)
  • Harmon (Field Strategy Coordinator for Melanesia/South Pacific) and Cindy Schmelzenbach--not here while we were
  • Erin Meiers (doctor)--also not here during Christmas
Peter and Jenny Isaac and children (PNGers) arrived home for Christmas break in serving as district superintendent of Vanuatu Islands.  [The Isaacs are missionaries to Vanuatu.  The have come back to PNG for their furlough/home assignment.]

A resident named Stephen was also here for almost a month from John Peter Smith Hospital, where Steph did her residency.  He was a great help to Steph in covering additional shifts so that she could be with us upon our arrival at the regional airport of Mt. Hagen, capital of the Western Highlands Province.

Also, but not at the party, is Dave and Rosie Kerr and children who live at the Bible college.  Rosie is a doctor that comes twice a week to work at the hospital.  She is the daughter of San Dunn (of NNU).

Dr. Steve (surgeon) and Linda Ellerding came after Christmas to volunteer for a month.


Mom and Dad and I were having so much fun, I didn't take the time to write during their visit.  I'm trying to make up for it now!  And even though I don't usually post things too far after the fact, this one deserves special mention...

"Wantok" is a Pidgin word that translates to "one who speaks the same language."  In a country of 800+ languages (more than 10% in all the world), running into a person who speaks your particular language means a whole lot more than if you or I met an English speaker.  It would be more like finding someone from your neighborhood or hometown.  Wantoks frequently come from the same tribe or family.  They know the same people.  They share customs and traditions.

One of my "wantoks" recently came to Kudjip.  Stephen Snell is a third year family medicine resident at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.  He was just starting residency when I left JPS to come to PNG.  Stephen learned about Nazarene Hospital by reading my newsletters.  He came for a rotation during the month of December.  It was great to have him here!  He did an excellent job, and definitely made JPS proud.

Thank you for serving, Stephen!

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Arrived! End of the bus line at 110 Nazareth Street (day 3)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 22, 2010

Once again, we pulled, pushed, kicked, and fought our suitcases, finally getting them to the Kudjip station's Land [Cruiser] waiting for us.  Jordan (a one year volunteer who with his teacher wife, Rachel, decided to stay for two--and we can see why!) was our young driver and security guard.  He and Steph drove vehicles to the airport so that the weary squished travlers of 6 could spread out their scrunched arms and legs.  

The 40 minute ride took us past a Wesleyan Bible College and the Nazarene Bible College.  Therefore the total travel time from the Los Angeles galaxy was 64 1/2 hours (2 1/2+ days).

The turn off of the two lane Highlands Highway led us immediately to a historic, WW II road.  It was so strategic during the war that the enemy held road was bombed to impede traffic flow in the 2010s.  The van drove down in and out of bomb craters (those comparable amusement rides have nothing to brag about) and amazingly, we still had all of our body parts when we came to the Kudjip station gate.  [Just to clarify, Dad is being descriptive rather than literal here.  It was not actually a WW II road, though PNG was an important part of the war.]  

To our surprise, the wide metal gate on the left was decorated with flowers and signs welcoming the Radcliffes back home as well as the Doenges.  A drive up Knox Street (named after Sidney and Wanda Knox [the first Nazarene missionaries to PNG]) took us past the single story cement block hospital buildings of Wards A-D.  A left turn on Nazareth Street took us down a basic stony lane to Stephanie and Becky's house.  

Meti, the lady who cleans and gardens for the gals, was there to greet us.  How wonderful it was to finally be here!  We were introduced to Brutus the dog and Princess Buttercup (a.k.a. Sweet P) the kitten.  (Pete, the cat of the house until Sweet P's adoption papers came a few months ago, appeared two days later.)  Soon lunch was served that included among other things fresh vegetables, pineapple, and black raspberries from the garden and fresh lemonade from the lemon trees.  After lunch, Meti took us on a scenic walk of the garden and pineapple patch.  

Steph had to return to work in the afternoon.  Mom and Dad kept busy sorting out items from the suitcases--things ordered went out on the kitchen counter including sweeper bags, light bulbs, a fetal doppler for the hospital, computer batter, etc., while Christmas presents and our few clothes were left in the bedroom.  [Seriously, they brought so many gifts and goodies I don't know how they had any rooms for clothes!]  

Supper time came quickly and Steph and Becky came home to enjoy an evening together.  The Christmas tree was shining brightly as we enjoyed Christmas music from our iPod.  However, Mom's sore throat was turning into the worst one of several years.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Flipped Side: Arrived! The Highlands of PNG (day 3)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

Our eyes opened at 5:15 to Wednesday, December 22--the day we would be able to hug Stephanie.  [Sniff, sniff.]  This was also the day that Mom's throat decided to partner with "sore."  We grabbed a quick self service continental breakfast and were on our way to the domestic terminal of the airport by 6:15.  Upon inquiring about the streets already being busy with people gathering and walking, the explanation was that the day started "when daylight came." 

Due to the nearness of Christmas day, the airport was crowded--so crowded that security had roped off an area guarding the entrance.  [In 25 years of traveling through POM, Dr. Jim said it was the worst he had ever seen.  Now that's bad.]  Since the luggage carts had disappeared due to high demand, we had to lug them from the van to the first of several "Checkpoint Charlies" and show flight itinerary.  Some of us stayed with the luggage at the curb, some carried, and some stayed with the luggage inside.  The 2nd checkpoing Charlie was a quick moving security scan.  This is when Dad felt in his pocket and realized he had stolen the room key from the mission guest house.  (It was supposed to be left at the check-in window.)  However, the emptying of pockets was not necessary here as Dr. Jim instructed us not to take anything out of pockets or carry-ons unless told.  

We then entered the mass chaos chorale of people.  The thought of mooing came to mind but we decided to ignore that for fear of starting a stampede.  In getting familiar with the surroundings, we eventually noticed that the 7 counter positions had designation signs indicating the different flights.  Once that was recognized, one could make out the pseudo lines of sorts.  It was almost 7:00 by then and the "Hagen" flight was nearest to us and we crammed in with everyone else.  The departure was for 9:05--we made it!

However, after 45 minutes of moving forward 3 feet, we were starting to doubt the "we made it!" thought.  Somehow along the way of the masses, Mom and Dad got in front of the Radcliffes.  This was not a desirable location!  As if in a maternity situation, the doctor behind us soon started shouting at us to "keep pushing" and thus making the crowd buldge all the more.  (The question came to mind as to why the line wasn't moooving at all.  There were two reasons--one, people were not only checking in but several were purchasing tickets on the spot and two, when someone did make it to the counter, 7 other would come out of thin air to join "the family" at the counter.)  Another "keep pushing" was heard from the back.  We thought that at any moment the bulge was going to "pop" all of us through the security held line.  After an eternity of minutes of having a pitiful look on our face, and the need of pushing had stopped, the security guard unhooked the rope and gave us the nod to enter the next line--the short ticketing line.  Due to the gringo looking similarities, the Radcliffes were also able to break through before the guards closed the opening.  Only three in camo were in front of.  Once at the counter, the suitcases were hosted up to pass over the scale.  All were tagged as "heavy" and we feared that an argument would follow about extra fees.  But our worries were unnecessary as the agent understood that we were entering from the U.S.  

With passports displayed, Mom and Dad received their boarding passes and were free of the luggage that now felt like twice our body weight.  Uncertain of where to go next, we finally were directed to the forth and final checkpoint Charlie.  Shoes again were left on.  Against all hope, we at last entered the one (an only one) waiting room of the terminal.  Unbelievably, it was a half hour before boarding.  

Upon seeing the Radcliffes arriving 5 minutes later, Dad checked his shirt pocket for his iPod, then checked the carry-on bag, then checked all again.  He came to the conclusion that he must have left it in the little container at the last x-ray machine.  Dr. Jim joined him in going back, asking security if an iPod was found.  The answer was negative, but a passenger said he noticed a young boy picking up a device like an iPod.  He offered to identify the thief and scanned the crowd but didn't see anyone of resemblance.  As Dr. Jim went to have an announcement made, Dad searched the carry-ons one more time--and of course found it buried in the bottom of Mom's bag.  We had switched bags after receiving our boarding passes.

The one hour flight seemed only minutes, especially after the flight over the "big lake."  The wheels of the plane touched the miniature runway (again in PNG style--with a hard drop) and taxied over to the two room terminal.  (Speaking of wheels, the million people living in the Highlands were not known to exist until 1930.  The prevailing thought of the years before was that the mountains between the eastern and western shores of PNG were too rugged to be populated.  However, upon crossing the first range of mountains in May of 1930, gold seekers found a valley filled with people and garden plots.  In seeing white men for the first time, the Highlanders thought the explorers were spirits of their ancestors.  The wheel had not been invented here!  Then after 75 years, cell phones arrived.)  

Pleasant mountain plains and views were fabulous as we came down the steps and headed over to the small one story building that was labeled "Kagamuga Airport."  Outside the lined fence were many PNGers also waiting for their family to arrive for Christmas.  Steph snuck past the man at the security door while he was distracted.  [Not true!  I asked to come inside and didn't take "no" for an answer.]  So she was in the passenger side of baggage claim to greet us with open arms and a big PNG smile.  

This time there was no conveyor belt for luggage pickup.  Upon looking back at the plane, the large luggage carts were being loaded.  Soon they were pulled over to the waiting passengers.  We looked like cattle stampeding hay wagons.  All were found except Lydia's suitcase which was recovered the next day.  This is one airport that actually checked the baggage claim against the baggage tag before stepping through the door and entering the new world of the PNG Western Highlands province!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Mom and Dad visit PNG!

These are some shots of Mom and Dad's first trip to PNG. Between the 3 of us, we took almost 1000 pictures. Here are some of the highlights :).

The Flipped Side: From "twilight zone" to "gringo zone" (day 2)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

December 21, 2010

The 3 1/2 hour flight to Port Moresby, PNG kept us "following close behind" the Radcliffes as we were only 4 rows behind them on the Air Niugini flight.  Once again, we felt that US airlines could learn how to treat customers as the food was delicious and satisfying.  However, the hard "bounce" onto the runway was quite the contrast for us softies.  We were thankful that we didn't have to jump out the door of the plane to the ground as stairs were moved into place for us to walk down.  Only a millisecond passed before we were reminded that the equator was nearby.  

We were also thankful that the conveyor belt coughed up our 12 suitcases of the Radcliffe/Doenges brigade--filled with gifts, medical supplies, clothes, and miscellaneous items.  (Miscellaneous items?  The UPS driver thought we had 10 people living at our house the week before leaving Ohio.  Items included a MacBook battery and vacuum sweeper bags among other things.  We turned down a request to carry a small library of nursing books.)  Once again we found free carts and within minutes bags and bodies were piled into a van driven by a Port Moresby pastor.  It did take a while to load since there was no cooperation from the rear door.  [Boy, do I wish we had a picture of this!]

Our first look at PNG caused Dad to scream, "You're driving on the wrong side of the road!"  The pastor, after regaining control of the steering wheel, calmly explained a few things about PNG.  Dad wished he was still following the Radcliffes but quickly appreciated the fact that his seat was along the edge of the road instead of being close to the center line as the van swerved around vehicles and roundabouts.  Crowds of PNGers were out and about with their daily activities.  

In a few minutes, we arrived at a missionary guest house for our overnight accommodations.  By the time we unloaded and got settled, a rice and chicken curry meal was served to all visitors--some arriving and some departing PNG.  Mom and Dad were thankful there was a small air conditioner in their room as the room was soon cool enough for the two tired gringos.  The fifteen hour time difference plus the usual bathroom routine cause a couple of trips to the necessary room.  Fortunately it was right around the corner from our room.

The Flipped Side: The Twilight Zone--What day is it really? (PNG day 1)

* by guest story-teller Steve Doenges a.k.a. Dad [with occasional commentary from Steph]

Characters in "The Flipped Side"
  • Steph = medical missionary doctor at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, PNG [and daughter of Steve and Karen Doenges]
  • Mom = Karen Doenges
  • Dad = Steve Doenges
  • Radcliffes (Jim, Kathy, Jo, and Lydia) = 25 year veteran missionaries at Kudjip
  • Becky Morsch = missionary doctor and director of Community Based Health Care for PNG/Melanesia, Steph's roommate of their 3 bedroom house
  • Others as noted

Sometime in December, 2010

The 12 1/2 hour flight wasn't as bad as we thought it would be.  The 11:50 PM departure on Sunday night, December 18th, 2010 from a rainy LAX (rainy as in mud slides) was an excellent time since boarding, getting settled and adjusted to surroundings and controls for lights, TV, games, movies, news, flight status etc. quickly devoured time.  Soon the tasty night meal on the Quantas flight to Brisbane arrived directly in front of our noses.  We were packed in like sardines--thankfully, we weren't served any!  By forcing our heavy 50 pound eyelids to stay open until after 3:00 AM PST (we know it was 50 because they were as heavy as each of our four suitcases), we were able to sleep around 5 hours.  

The Lord truly directed our path as Steph instructed us to "follow" the Radcliffes (25 year missionary veterans) returning to PNG after their fall furlough.  Soon after wakening, Dr. Jim appeared making his early morning rounds on the 747.  He and his son Josiah stopped at "door" 54E and F to check our charts.  Noticing that there was no record of us getting up to stretch, he informed us it was past time.  So in obeying doctor's orders, Mom and I ran the aisles but held back the shouts of hallelujah.  We did take time to catch our breath in the back corner of the plane where we could look out and see a very slow moving sun rise.  Continuing on the intra-plane running track, we finally finished the marathon and collapsed in our seats--eagerly desiring breakfast.  Somewhere during these activities, we were able to stick our foot out in the aisle to trip Kathy and Lydia Radcliffe as they ran past our seats.  In between gasps of air, they were able to force out the question, "Were you able to sleep?" and soon continued their laps.  By the time breakfast was served, the flight clock only had 2 1/2 hours remaining. 

Basically, we didn't have a Monday, December 19th since we were crossing the international dateline.  The books that were brought for reading stayed in the carry-on bags as the return to earth came quickly.  Our seats were in the middle four, so we weren't able to see much of the Australian landscape but soon found ourselves making it through the international transfer line of the airport and into the waiting area for boarding our next flight of Air Niugini.  

(It is here that we realized the Radcliffes go to the extreme to avoid sitting in airports.  Back at LAX, they pushed 8 heavy suitcases plus carry-ons in and out of terminals from terminal 1 to terminal 4.  Then instead of checking their bags through to Port Moresby, PNG, they decided to pick up their luggage in Brisbane as they eagerly desired to go through customs and return through another security screening.  They go to all extremes seeking out adventures!)

It was just after 8:00 AM Tuesday morning and the group of six travelers staked out a temporary 10' x 10' land claim for 5 hours that included several couches.  We took turns at border patrol duty as the others ventured off looking for snacks, internet access, a phone (to check hotel transportation for the return trip), electrical recharge juice, and souvenirs.  The Brisbane international airport did provide us with email, but not free access.  However, the cards were free, so we tried the entertainment business by forming a parade of 6 carts.  We also enjoyed Christmas carolers and the lengthy 1/2 mile "indoor track."

Hello, 2011!

Hello, world!  I am back from my blogging holiday...  

On December 22nd, I welcomed my Mom and Dad (Karen and Steve Doenges) to PNG--their first trip to this wonderful country I now call "home."  We had an incredible visit over the past three weeks.  They helped to fix up our house, tried some new foods, celebrated Christmas, spoiled me and Beck, met my PNG friends and family, enjoyed the mountain views, went to bush church and the market, Skyped with their grandson, and even got away to the booming metropolis of Mt. Hagen.  We had such a precious time together.  I loved being able to share this place with them.
I took Mom and Dad to the airport on January 11th, and said goodbye with just a few tears.  They flew down to Port Moresby for a night.  Yesterday they flew on to Brisbane where they were hoping to spend a day exploring the Down Under.  Unfortunately, Brisbane is experiencing record-breaking floods.  I imagine that put a major damper on their plans.  They will be heading on to America this afternoon.

Dad has been recording his experiences and thoughts over the last couple of weeks.  I thought that you might enjoy his perspective on PNG, so I have invited him as a "guest blogger."  Many of my posts in the near future will be his stories, with a few of my own in the mix.  Coming soon!