Because We Love Our Life

I was buying our groceries on Sunday afternoon (alone… which is another glorious story entirely, even though I only had 30-45 minutes round trip… can all the mama’s say amen!?) and the checkout girl asked me if I had any plans for the evening.

“Yes, I do, actually!” I said, “I’m going on a BBQ on a ship!”

I was surprised at her reaction, “Really!? That is SO cool! You just don’t hear about people doing THAT every day!”

And you know what!? She’s right!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we do. (Might be in part due to the stretches of time I’m awake in the quiet of the night with a certain baby girl).

The good news is, I’ve re-decided that I really do love it.

Jared is spending early mornings down at the ship and has had some late nights and Saturdays as well. We didn’t have “a weekend” this week and that’s not uncommon for us.

But what we did get to do was take our kids to the National Youth Week event put on but our Youth Teams on Saturday night. This means that Max got to watch skateboarding teenagers doing cool tricks on a half pipe, dance to some awesome tunes, and eat pizza. Hello!?? Does he not have an awesome life!?

As for us, we got to watch some of the fruit of labour in action as we saw hundreds of young people swarming our centre finding a positive place to have fun… and maybe learn a lesson or two about life or maybe even their purpose! It was particularly amazing to see Kate Martin perform… this girl was a youth street crew herself years ago and now she’s starting to get pretty popular in the Australian music scene. Ummm… awesome?!

And for Sunday, we had a BBQ on a ship getting to know 20 new students who have just arrived for the YWAM Medical Ship DTS. What a delight to meet a heap of new passionate young people who are not only eager to learn how to serve the people of PNG, but also to hold our babies and be-friend our family. We are blessed.

Last week I was teaching on our Staff Internship and sharing with them about some of our values and culture here in YWAM – how its not just an 8-5 “job”. Its a lifestyle.

And the reality is, despite the fact that I get tired, sometimes feel like I’m not doing a great job, feel torn between family and community, or “work” and “kids”, miss home, etc… I really am grateful God gave us this lifestyle.

Because its not every day you get to go to a BBQ on a ship…

That Other Guy In Our Family

We’ve written a lot about Max and a little about me…

But can I just say Jared has been a champion all the while too! We’ve moved some things around on our centre and he was busy building a new chapel and relocating our recording studio. The results are fantastic, stunning, and we’re really excited about the change in culture it brings to our centre and the impact that has on all of our staff and students. Its funny how rearranging the furniture just a bit can make just the right change to our home and I think that’s what these projects have been about.

Our ship is still doing phenomenal things and I thought I’d share a short video clip that had me in tears (and I don’t think its just the hormones) from one of our DTS outreach teams who were working alongside the ship in PNG.

For those of you who get behind what we do, know you’re not just championing our family but an entire nation. And the results have been astounding – not just statistically – but in the way they are changing individual lives, families, and communities.

Good work, team!!

Lumps and Bumps

I got an email today with a scanned copy of a letter from a man who leads a remote village in Papua New Guinea. In broken English, he sent a request for help from our ship, listing out about 10 health problems the village are facing, the last of them being “lumps.”

As I read that, I swallowed a lump in my own throat.

I can picture the lumps. Strange growths like the man who had a tumour so big in his mouth it has started leaking through his cheek… for the past several years.

Giant, infectious lumps like this little girl’s

Lumps and bumps that never get diagnosed… and often claim lives.

And to me, its that extra bit of sad right now because my own baby has a little lump… that still isn’t gone.

I’m so grateful to live in a country where we have had adequate health care. And not just adequate, but nurses that remember him between visits and treat us like rock stars. Surgeons who spend an unlimited amount of time answering our questions. Doctors who come in just to listen because they’re all a little puzzled about what’s been going on…

It tells me they aren’t just doing their job but they actually care about our little boy.

We’ve followed up on Max’s surgery and they’re not happy with the way his wound has healed… or about the new lumps that have emerged. That said, its not bad enough to warrant surgery yet… and they are over trying antibiotics.

So we wait and we watch and we pray.

And while we’re okay (I mean, you can’t argue with the fact that he’s an adorable almost-18-month-old who runs around giggling and cracking us up for the better part of every day), we don’t like it. We want to know he’s healthy and forget about the scary words the doctors mention as possibilities.

So while we wait… and watch… and pray… we continue on with our life. And for us, continuing on means doing our best to help other peoples’ lumps go away… Recruiting doctors and nurses, fundraising, renovating ships, writing newspaper articles, planning strategically for the future…

Because just a couple of hours away is another mother, making dinner over an open fire outside her hut, who is not only wondering what that lump is on her little boy’s neck… but also knowing that she may never find out… and may face the very real possibility that he won’t be okay.

We believed our little Max would bring life to many… and he inspires us every day to do our best to do the same.

The Sweetest Home, Sweet Home

Did we have to leave?!

We had such an amazing time in Papua New Guinea. I am still working on getting our stories updated. We had trouble with internet and then trouble with  pictures but I’ve uploaded a couple now and will continue to do so – with or without pictures! – over the next few days.

Because it was amazing and you will love it.

It was hard to say goodbye but we are making the most of our time at home.

And I do mean the most.

Cookie baking most.

There’s something in this egg kinda most.

Making messes most.

It is sweet to be home… and I don’t just mean the chocolate. I mean, the richness of family. The fresh gratefulness for every single thing we have. The feeling that our bed… our house… our yard… is absolutely huge. And luscious. Grocery stores stocked with food. Friends next door.

And then there’s Jesus. This has been an incredible season to remember and reflect on His sweetness.

It is sweet to be home.

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Having a Ball

We did indeed have a ball in PNG… And so did many of our new friends.

As suspected, the balls were a BIG hit. And while it was a delight to see so many precious faces light up with big white smiles and sparkling eyes, there were a few stories that just felt… Like destiny.

Like Mida… We were chatting on board the ship as she waited for her turn in the dental clinic. Max played at our feet as we chatted about her two children in the village and how she was the eldest in her family and the only one to go to school, hence her good English.

And as the conversation turned, she shyly asked me whether I had a netball. I kicked myself because I was so close to getting a netball and then asked her if a soccer ball would do. She was thrilled and I went to my cabin to pick it up.

Days later I learned that this village saved for months to buy the men a rugby ball in Port Moresby. Now the women, with no way to make an income, were saving for a ball for themselves.

What started as a fun idea actually turned out to be an answer to prayer for around 50 women.

And then there was Joyce.

Isn’t she beautiful?

Her eyes are absolutely radiant. Like, can’t-help-but-smile-because-they-sparkle-so-bright sort of radiant. She’s smart and quick and witty and kind.

She is also mute.

She’s never said a word in her life. No one knows why. And the bright intelligence that embodies this little girl is absolutely astounding in a place where the fit are the ones who survive and thrive.

She is strong, lovely and tenacious and I’ve fallen in love with her.

There was also Jeffrey. His oldest son was given to him when he was a single man by his sister. Its the thing to do here. If family doesn’t have a baby, you give them one. Now he’s married with another little girl. He’s been in this village as a school teacher for 10 years.

10 years in a place where they are only just now getting a clean source of water. 10 years in a place where he couldn’t even access his pay check unless he took a $300 trip to the city… via dingy… on the water for two days… if the weather permits.

The man is so committed. We gave him balls with globes on them for the kids in the classroom. He was SO excited.

Those are only a few of our friends, only a few who adored those balls, each for different reasons. There are many more shining faces and bouncing balls round these villages.

Thanks for helping us make their faces light up and giving us another reason to connect!!

My Heart Is Aching.

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.

Injustice sucks.

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…!