I’ve been struggling. A lot. Packing for PNG has never been so hard.
On the one hand, I have to “plan for the worst”… and plan for everything. I’m a sort of simple traveller: “We’ll pick it up when we get there,” “We’ll only buy it if we need it.” But this time there is no Walmart. There is not even a corner store. This time, what we have is what we’ve got – bar maybe a village shop that sells coca cola and chicken biscuits.
And even that is not so bad, except this time, we have a child.
Someone gets a bug bite? Or a scraped knee? Or a sunburn? Or nappy rash? Or some rumbling in the tummy? We’ve gotta have it all.
I’m an organised person. I like to be prepared. So even though I’m packing a lot more than I normally do, this isn’t even the real problem.
Because its not until I’m actually putting Max’s hat to shade him from the nasty sun and his rubber boots to keep him from getting the intestinal worms (which are epidemic in PNG and causing malnutrition, stunted growth and minimising mental capacity in children) into the suitcase that my heart starts to break.
The picture in my mind starts out cute. My happy little man running around all cute in his gumboots and smelling like coconut sunscreen… and then I see the dark-skinned, bare-bottomed babies running with him, open sores with festered flies, bloated bellies from worms or malaria.
This is not an if. This is not a possibility. I’ve been there before. This is their life. This is what is happening today. This is what it will be like in just a couple of weeks when we arrive.
I don’t know how to stand there with my little man as protected as he can be (this coming from a fairly relaxed mother!), and watch them suffer? I can’t bring boots for them all and yet I will be choosing each day to put those sweet plastic shoes on the two feet I kiss every day… possibly to the detriment of another child.
Its been a challenge for my heart, and yet I know that it would be just as wrong to give those shoes to another and not do my very best to look after my own child.
And even though I feel heartbroken and challenged and frustrated, I’m using the pain as a catalyst and asking God to help my heart understand in new ways. I’m allowing my heart to explore… to learn to love deeper, to learn to listen more intently, to consider how I can help.
I don’t go naive… I go understanding that they will teach me lessons too. These strong, beautiful women have a lot to teach me.
And I know that regardless of his conscious memories, this trip will shape Max as well. You can’t experience something like this and not be the same. I’m being deliberate to take action that will teach him generosity, friendship, community and service… in simple ways that his tiny mind can comprehend.
These have always been the reasons we are going; but as the suitcase gets heavier and the realities sink in, the resolve becomes stronger.
One more week…!