Friday, January 17, 2014

Apenun, nem bilong me Esta na me stap gut.

[hi, my name is Esther and I am doing well]  :)

The last two weeks seem to hold two completely separate and dissimilar lives for me.  The last bits of packing, the 'last things' in Tulsa, last hour at the airport with the people we love and were saying goodbye to ... and then the deep breath, the walk through security ... and the new beginning.  Even as I look through photos, choosing a few to include in this post, some seem so far away that it's difficult to imagine being near enough to them to take the picture.  (Difficult.  Not impossible, as evidenced by the lump in my throat as I remember being there!)

Our send-off the Sunday before we left, and the prayers that we still feel holding us

Enjoying one last snack together at the airport playplace, courtesy (of course) of Aunt Tiffy :)

The drive home to Kudjip from the airport in Mount Hagen - on their knees in the Land Cruiser with arms dangling out of the window!

We were lovingly welcomed to our new house when we arrived - a day later than expected because of a missed connection, and without 5 of our 12 pieces of luggage, but home all the same

The view two days later from our village house.  We spent a week in Ambang for language and cultural immersion, living next door to a missionary family with New Tribes who are currently translating the Bible into Tok Ples (the local dialect; all dialects are referred to as Tok Ples by those who speak them - "the talk that is used in this place").  

Wagon rides with new buddies :)

Some of the teenaged girls from the village helping me with my Pidgin vocab and sentence structure :)  (Having a group this large was actually far from helpful - previous days when I got to sit with just Nomi and Susan, the two girls on each end of the row, were definitely when I learned the most!)

And now, we are well and truly HOME.  I can't begin to describe the sigh of relief that accompanies that statement!!  Or at least, the sigh of relief that can really happen when we are completely finished unpacking  :)

Our week in the village really was helpful, since the other American couple was able to give us a lot of cultural insight and our language learning will be harder here at Kudjip where English is spoken by almost everyone.  Things were slowed down a couple days in, though, when Anna started running probably the highest fever she has ever had.  Think waking up in a delirium, hallucinations, talking gibberish ... thankfully we had Tylenol to give her (although our thermometer didn't make it out of the trunks before we left Kudjip), but she was pretty out of it for almost three days.  That wasn't this mama's favourite...! She is back to her playful self now, though, and we are so thankful the fever just ran its course without any complications. 

And now that we are back at Kudjip, our orientation to life on the mission station has begun.  We have a trip into town on Monday to stock up on food for the next several weeks (no weekly grocery trips here!), a separate trip to take care of business (open bank accounts and get driving licenses etc), meetings with the finance people to make sure we can access and appropriately manage our funds here, an orientation at the nearby Bible college ... Oh, and Mark's hospital orientation too :)  So between getting the house unpacked, keeping everybody fed and clothed, gestating baby #3 (who is determined to kick, roll or claw its way out through my skin, ha), getting to know our new friends and neighbours, and just figuring out life here, I should have my work cut out for me for the next week or two!
Mark's first hospital shift is the 27th, so I'm very thankful to have him around the house for a bit longer as we get settled in.  We have pretty reliable internet access, although we're noticing that it gets used up pretty quickly, so we should be able to at least get online and check messages daily.  We are loving hearing from you, so please keep it coming!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The unknown

The last time I posted, we were watching hopeful departure dates slide by without visas and tickets. Shortly after I wrote that post our visas arrived! We are now able to stay in PNG until October 16th, 2016:

Although we are not at this point planning on being there through 2016, it's nice to know we can :)

We had been communicating with a travel agent even before our visas were granted, but had to change travel agencies due to some problems we ran into with the first.  Our second contact proved much more helpful, and by Christmas Eve we were able to purchase our tickets!  We leave Tulsa on January 7th in the late afternoon.

Four days from now.

We have four more days.

Four days - to make any last-minute purchases, finish packing (which is actually very close to being done and should be finished by tomorrow, I think - woop!), say goodbye to our loved ones here in T-town, and close out this chapter of our lives.

One last Sunday at our church.  One last meal at Sushi Train and Chick Fil A with the kids.  One last drive in our car.  One last playdate.  One last trip to the aquarium and our favourite park.  One last morning to watch light gradually appear in the reflection of the sky on the pond, when the baby wakes me up obscenely early and I can't go back to sleep.  One last breakfast with Mimi and Papa. 

And then ..... what??

Well, we do have a little idea of what is ahead.  Having been to Kudjip once before is definitely making this an easier adjustment in my mind.  I know what the trip is like (with a much smaller pregnant belly and only one kid in tow, at least..!), I remember the hospital grounds, we have seen pictures of our house and it is beautiful:

I have been to the market in Mount Hagen, Mark has taken nights of call at the hospital (both peaceful and awful!), and we have celebrated Anna's birthday at Kudjip surrounded by people who felt, amazingly after only two weeks with them, an awful lot like family to us.

But spending a month there is pretty different from buying a one-way plane ticket!

There is something that brings me peace, though, among all of the uncertainties and opportunities for panic, stress or fear.  And it's actually a conversation I had with my brother while we were in England in October. 
[As an aside, Matt would probably be the first to assert that he is not the philosopher of the family.  He is a man of action who works and plays hard, writes incredible music and drives a bright blue, souped up little rude-boy car.  But twice now as Mark and I have been preparing to move, he has dropped these incredible thought processes on us that have really shaped how we've approached this next chapter!]
I remember sitting in our living room in Thame after Matt came over for dinner one evening, and he asked how I was feeling about our upcoming move.  We talked about the mixture of excitement and anxiety I felt; the certainty that we were doing the right thing, combined with all of the uncertainties that it held.  And he thought for a minute and then said, "Yeah, but just because something is unknown doesn't mean it has to be uncomfortable."  I have been thinking about that a lot recently!  Yes, there are a lot of unknowns ahead and we will have a period of transition and readjustment and culture shock.  But that doesn't have to be something I try to struggle against or avoid.  (In fact, I know it will make things easier if I don't!) 
Experiencing something unfamiliar means being out of control, not being in charge of the outcome or what happens to me or my family.  And really, that does make me feel uncomfortable!  But through the entire history of my life, with all of the transitions and unfamiliarity of a missionary kid lifestyle who also moved across the ocean to get married, there has been one very constant, reassuring aspect to my life.  My soul has an anchor.  An Anchor who doesn't change, is 100% faithful even when I'm not, who loves me dearly, and who has promised I will never walk through anything alone.  So really, although everything around our little family is about to change, we have underneath all the uncertainties a foundation that has not changed, even a little bit, since before the beginning of time.  And that is why what Matt said really nailed it for me.  The unknowns of what will happen four days from now do not have to signify discomfort and fear, because Jesus who loves us has gone before us, walked our future and knows it, and is with us now as we walk it.   

Now, with all of that said, I am just as certain that there will be moments when I fail! Days of feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, lonely, homesick or afraid.  But even then, my Anchor will not change, His mercies are new every morning, and there is grace. 

So ... off we go!  I don't know whether I'll be posting again before we leave, but if you've made it this far through this one, please pray for us during the next week as we leave and arrive!  Pray for the logistics of our trip - luggage and people all arriving safely and together and sane, the safety of this almost-30-week pregnancy as we have a physically and emotionally demanding trip ahead of us (and also that Mark wouldn't be hurt in any way as he manhandles all of our luggage by himself!), and that the period of readjusting would be a smooth one.  And look for an update in a couple of weeks once we get situated! :)