* 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!