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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Court Case Dismissed

Sue says:

The charge of complicity in a robbery of CLTC funds that had been brought against a college employee seven months ago was dismissed yesterday. The district courts here serve a similar purpose to US grand juries. Except here, one magistrate alone makes the decision.

The magistrate carefully weighed the witnesses' accounts and the evidence that had been presented, and he decided there was not enough evidence to hold a full trial. Earlier we had cast doubts on the magistrate's intentions. Being in court yesterday, I was impressed with the thorough way he evaluated what was presented to him.

Thank you to those of you who have prayed about this situation. The employee is greatly relieved to be exonerated.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Improvement

Sue writes:

One of the things written about in the last post has improved. The books that "disappeared" from an office turned out not to be lost.

The person in charge of the books was reading an invoice that listed all the books that had been ordered. Only part of the books on the list were sent, so what we thought had disappeared had not yet been sent.

That was a relief.

Another improvement is that a reader reminded me of Psalm 91, a psalm about how trustworthy God is, even in times of trouble. A second person sent an allegory about God being the one to accomplish His work. I'm so glad our team members help us keep the proper focus.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pasin Nogut (Bad Behavior)

Sue writes:

We're feeling a bit discouraged by reports of violence and just plain bad behavior we have heard about in our area lately. It's hard to sort out which of the following stories is true since all reports are by word-of-mouth. Anyway, the following stories have come to our ears in the last ten days:

One group of villagers tortured a "witch" to death after she was accused of working sorcery on a child who died. (Those close to the situation posit that the torturers just didn't like the woman, and they thought the accusation they brought would win approval of their actions.)

A man in another village was in the process of hacking his wife to death. When a church elder came to the wife's aid, the husband hacked him too. The woman's tribe did a payback killing of the boskru (fee collector) of a PMV (public motor vehicle). The dead boskru was not from the husband's tribe, however, so war has begun with a third tribe.

In another village, a PMV driver ran over and killed a pedestrian. A riot ensued.

A student of ours from another neighboring village called to say that his relative had been shot and was in the hospital. A security guard from our college was beset by the same villagers in his off-hours. He was hit over the head, had two of his fingers almost slashed off, and was chased back to campus. He lost a lot of blood, but he is recovering well in the hospital. It appears he will keep his slashed fingers.

Two men in yet another village are using guns to fight over land they both claim is theirs.

New books ordered for the college library and individual students have disappeared from an office. It is hoped that they were not stolen.

The judge in the six-month-old case of the college employee accused of complicity in the robbery of college funds has twice this week postponed the ruling on the case. It is hoped he is not waiting for a bribe.

How the people of this nation suffer at the hands of each other! It must get discouraging to be a national here. And it surely is wearing to be a missionary here. We ask our prayer warriors to entreat God that nationals who are true converts to Christ would stand up for what is right and influence others to do the same.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Madang Escapade

Sue writes:

What an adventure! We are thankful for some team members who sent us special gifts so we could take a vacation.

The PMV (public motor vehicle) rides had some surprises both ways. On the way to Madang, the police made a false charge against our driver and boskru. The officer required a fine to be paid on the spot. (He said they were improperly dressed.) The riders were so incensed that they told the driver to go directly to the traffic department in Goroka, but the desk clerk there stood up for the officer. There was quite a lot of discussion among the riders about that series of events.

The scuba course we took in Madang was quite grueling. We didn't know how much would be required of us. We would recommend to someone wanting their scuba certification to take a class spread out over several weeks, but we only had a few days. We didn't want to invest our money and fail, so we over-achievers drank our share of salt water to pass.

The pay-offs were getting to see some terrific sea life at 60 feet under the warm water surface, earning our open water diver cards, and not having our lungs explode on the way up. We were relieved about all three!

On the trip back to the Highlands, we enjoyed conversing on the PMV with a young couple from Australia. They were vacationing in the country, and they were keen to talk about the observations they had made about life here. That was one surprise.

The other one was that the brakes on the PMV were faulty. The driver stopped at one point to change the brake shoes himself. After that the brakes were too tight, and we had to go quite slowly. We were thankful to arrive safely in Goroka and stop for the night.

The next day we boarded another vehicle. That one was a new Coaster (30-seater with leg room) in good repair, and we arrived back at CLTC without any further surprises.

We appreciate the Lord's protection and our team's prayers and generosity!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Safe New Year's Trip, Continued

OK. So Joe the Prayer Warrior saw us safely to Raboni, our host.

Raboni's family was so interesting and generous. They gave of their time so willingly. He and his wife gave us their mattress and mosquito net and bedroom. They explained to us about many of their customs: making clay pots for cooking food over an open fire, using palm products for various uses, and living as loving extended families. What a gift they gave us in having us visit.

Highlights of our time at Umi were observing the way the extended family helped each other. Raboni is the youngest of ten children. His eldest sister's husband left her, so she is a part of his household. She helps with cooking and taking care of Raboni's handicapped third son. And the rest look out for her too.

We waded across a wide shallow river on the way to the New Year's camp. Raboni, his wife, his sister, and their nieces and children showed us how to accomplish the task. After arriving, Jeff spoke to an assembled group of about fifty about the prayer pattern we learn from the Lord's Prayer.

The food was delicious! Meals were times to enjoy talking together in a leisurely manner, sitting on coconut frond mats. Coconut meat and milk and many varieties of bananas are the staples, but different tasty greens and chicken are also consumed.

Different clan members had a number of specialties. Their stories were fascinating.

The dozen or so members of Raboni's nearest relatives were concerned about getting us safely back to CLTC on New Year's Day. The trip through the highlands was a particular concern after people had been drinking. Also, finding a seat on a Coaster, the larger buses, would be a problem. The family sat discussing the challenge together in their village language. Though we couldn't understand the words, we could observe that each member was allowed to contribute and they respected each other's opinions.

They decided Raboni would accompany us to Lae, the big city about an hour and a half further east. We would stay overnight and catch a bus back west early in the morning.

As we watched on New Year's morning for a bus to take us to Lae, the family sat and visited with us for the hour we waited. Raboni talked the boskru down to the usual price when the conductor tried to overcharge us.

Once in Lae, we thought we would have an easy task arranging to stay at the Lae extension of CLTC. Not so. The director was away when we arrived, but another of God's kind emissaries helped out. Miriam was a guest at the Lae center, but she took it upon herself to assist us.

First, she brought cold water (welcome on a hot day!) and sat with us three to find out what we needed. Then she offered to have her husband drive us to buy food and find another place to stay. Thomas, her husband, was also willing to visit with us and help us out. He drove us two to find a space at the SIL Guest House while Raboni stayed with his brother who runs a Lutheran district office. In the morning, the Lae center director drove us to the PMV stop and got us on an acceptable big bus.

The ride back had only one incident. In Chimbu province some guys were trying to extort money from travelers. Our driver wouldn't stop when about a half dozen guys across the road said to. He just drove on and no trouble developed.

Friday night before dark, we weary but happy travelers were back at our CLTC Banz campus. God's provision and the kindness of numerous folks were heartwarming.
Here are two gifts Raboni's family made for us from different parts of coconut palms. We'll take guesses about what their uses are. For the back one, tell what the top of it depicts. If you have trouble posting your answer on the blog, you can email us.

It may be a while before we announce the answers because we plan to PMV to Madang and take scuba lessons!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Safe New Year's Trip

Sue writes:

New Year's greetings to our team! Wishing you-all a year of growth in our Lord.

Thanks to those of you who prayed for our safety as we traveled over New Year's. We had quite an adventure! God granted us a safe trip, and He sent several helpers along at pivotal moments to guide us along. This was our first long-distance PMV (public motor vehicle) trip. Sorry we have no pictures. We had to leave our camera at home.

A friend from the college drove us to Kudjip junction early last Tuesday so we could catch a Coaster bus. These are 30-seaters that have more space than the usual 15-seater vans. Buses from Hagen go past the Kudjip junction for several points east.

As a PMV stops, the boskru (team leader) calls out the end-destination of the vehicle. I believe one qualification of a boskru must be that he can yell unintelligibly. He also collects fares and settles any problems that come up.

Peter, the man who trains security guards for this area, just happened to be at the stop. He decided he would help us find a suitable bus. After about an hour's wait, the right one came along. We were the last passengers who would fit in.

Leaving about 9 am, we headed to Kundiawa, in Chimbu province. A Christian woman from Hagen spoke with us along the way. Shortly after we started, we passed into Chimbu, the province where the big landslide stopped all highlands traffic earlier in the year. The roads there are constantly shifting and buckling because of seismic activity.

At the Kundiawa stop, Jeff bought a phone card from a seller who came to the bus window. We wanted to call our host to let him know we were on our way. Something underhanded happened with that card: either someone looked over Jeff's shoulder and used his card number before he punched it in or it was a stolen card with a canceled number. At any rate, that card wouldn't work for him.

The Christian woman bought us some boiled eggs at the stop, and she said she was thankful missionaries had come to her country to bring the Good News of the one true God.

Also at Kundiawa, a woman and her children got off, so we were able to take their seats and spread out a bit more. A student on his way to Lae filled in the fold-down seat next to me. Since he was a Chimbu native, he told us a bit about the sights we were seeing. Between Kundiawa and Goroka is Daulo Pass, at about 8000 feet.

In the Eastern Highlands at the Goroka stop, Jeff found a shop that sold phone cards. That card worked, but our host still wasn't answering. We gave the Christian woman and her son a snack. She was pleased because Melanesians show friendship by reciprocal giving.

Still, in the Eastern Highlands, just past Yonki Dam, we stopped at a place that sold a number of home grown and home made snack foods. There were fresh cucumbers, pineapple slices, fried fish from the lake, plump, sweet fried bananas, fried potatoes, fried kaukau, and cold soft drinks. Cool water springs out of the hillside for washing and drinking. There too I found out which bushes to proceed to for the women's toilet. Men seem to work that out more easily.

Kassam Pass came next. It looks down on Morobe province and the great Markham Valley, which reminds me a bit of the Central Valley of California. It is wide and fertile and warm and there are tall mountains on either side of it. Our hosts live in that valley, and we got off our bus at the Umi market.

It was the end of the day, and many sellers were packing up to go home. An older man came right up to us to ask what we were doing there. We mentioned the name of our host, and he said he knew the family. He asked us to sit in the shade of the food stalls, and he and his family spoke with us for a while. Then he went off to arrange for a PMV to take us to the place our host's family lives.

While we were waiting, another guy came up and introduced himself as Joe, the prayer warrior. We said a prayer warrior was just the guy we needed. When we mentioned our host's name, Joe said he was his pastor, and he could take us right to him. When the older man had a nice, new 15-seater PMV ready for us, Joe came along and did take us right to our host.

Evidently the cell phone service to our host's village was disrupted, so he had received none of our messages. He did stay at home, though, in case we just turned up the way we did.

This is quite long. I'll continue it later...