Yesterday, for me, was one of the saddest days we have had in Papua New Guinea. And it comes on the heels of some of our happiest weeks here. It was sad because we said goodbye to 14 friends from the US and my mother-in-law.
In the last two weeks, we sang together, laughed together, ate together, and built a house together.
I’ll fill in more of the details of the house building and how it went in another post, but I just wanted to touch on a few highlights from this past trip for me:
Drinking coffee every morning. Smed brought real home roasted coffee beans, and a french press, and a grinder! Every morning, we would grind some and make two pots of coffee to start the day. It was sweet to stand outside the work site with everyone, drink coffee and have a meeting to start the day.
Hearing John Dube on the “drums”, Jamin Dunn play guitar, and Omri rap. Because our plans changed slightly, we all had more time together in Madang to hang out. We ate lunches and dinners together Sunday and Monday, and one of those nights turned into a jam session with Omri, Dube and Jamin. That was great. If I had unlimited internet, I would so post that video online!
Eating cookies at night (and 3 in 1s, 6 in 2s, 12 in 4s—an inside joke here). After eating rice and green vegetables for lunch and dinner, it’s pretty great to finish the night off with some sort of desert-like item. We bought some cookies for each room and then I brought four more bags of cookies, Oreos, and one of my personal favorites in Madang — Ginger Snaps. These cookies are hard as a rock, but when dipped in coffee (or tea), they are the bomb! Also, instead of real coffee on these trips we usually drink “3 in 1s”, which is a little packet with coffee, milk and sugar all mixed in–all you need to do is add hot water. Nick and I drank some one night, but mine was two watered down, so I added another packet, and Nick added four packets to his thermos. So Smed said I really was drinking a 6 in 2 and Nick was drinking a 12 in 4 — it was funny — maybe you had to be there.
Nick receiving a dead tree kangaroo as a going away present. I’ve heard these things called tree rats and squirrels. I’m still not really sure what they are. But, it was still nice for someone in the tribe to give it to him as a present. Some guys on the team got necklaces, others got bow and arrows or lots of fruit — Nick got a dead tree kangaroo.
Arriving in Mawarero. The rest of the crew flew into Mawarero a few days before Zach, Omri, Reed and I. And, it’s not that I didn’t have a good time in Billiau— okay, maybe it wasn’t the greatest part of the trip — but either way, it was just really nice to set foot in Mawarero. (I’ll explain more of what happened in Billiau later).
Sitting on the front porch reading in the morning. Reading in the tribe in the morning in general was sweet. But on one of the last days, John Parker and Jamin Dunn built the steps — the big, huge, beautiful steps — and the next morning, I sat on those steps to read the Bible. I sat there and thought about how I would probably be sitting on these steps and reading many mornings to come.
Worshipping together and hearing Smed preach on Sunday. It was like we were at Grace Bible Church again. But instead of us going to Grace Bible Church — Grace Bible Church came to us!
Jais Aben. We have been to this place many times, but it was great to share it with everyone else. The water was deep enough to swing on the rope swing into the water and jump out of the tree again.
Shower Time. And by shower time, I mean washing-outside-in-painfully-cold-water-at-the-end-of-the-day time. But it was a sweet part of the day, which turned into kind of a social hour. It meant the day of work was over and I would soon be sleeping in clean, or cleaner, clothes and resting.
Being able to spend my birthday with everyone. Sunday, September 13th, was my birthday, and though it wasn’t a planned birthday party, it felt like a birthday party. What a blessing to spend my birthday with friends from the US!
Cameron’s Mom being here. Because Cameron fell off of a cliff 3 months after we got married, she has severe arthritis in her ankle, which means she just has a limited amount of time she can stand on her ankle in a given day, and when I’m not there she can’t do it all physically. Because I would be gone from home so much during this house building time, Cameron’s mom actually came out for a little over 8 weeks ago to help Cameron at home. This was wonderful! Cameron’s mom is like my own mom and her being there freed me up to build houses knowing that my wife would be well cared for.
Getting the roof completely on the house. When we finished the roof the second to last day, the building became a shelter, a place where you could sit inside and be protected from rain.
Finishing the plumbing. Look, coming to PNG, I didn’t know much about house building. So when Jeremy and I started the plumbing, and one day, Jeremy had to go work on other things, I was like, “ok…I’ll just work on the plumbing…by…myself…no problem…”. I spent about an hour just hoping Jeremy would come back and then probably spent half the day just coming up with a plan to finish the plumbing, and then the next day and a half putting it together. But it worked! Or — at least all the pieces fit together — maybe it will work.
Taking a tour of the Madang butchery. This was an unplanned surprise. The Madang Butchery, my favorite store in town, made us all cheese burgers before we left, and they made soup for one of our lunches as well. When a bunch of us went there to just check it out, one of the employees, a guy named Andrew from Australia, offered to take us on a tour. This was pretty cool. I had no idea the butchery was so huge.
Sleeping outside in Billiau with Zach. Because several people from Mawarero had gotten beaten up during the day (this was part of what made Billiau not so pleasant…but I’ll explain more on that later), I thought it would make everyone feel better if I slept outside with them that night. And since Zach was there, he also slept outside. This was actually a quite pleasant and peaceful night’s sleep. I slept on one pile of timber and Zach slept on another pile, which probably are now part of our houses, and no one got beaten up that night!
Ok, those are some of my highlights from the trip! What I thought was first going to be a crew of guys coming to help build our houses turned out to first be a crew of friends to encourage us and hang out with us, and help build our houses!
Thank you also to Sarah Demarest for caring for our wives, Diane Fine (Moma) for caring for my wife and your daughter and my kids and your grandkids, Smedly Yates for leading the pack, John Dube for the roofing skills with Smed, John Parker for coming out by yourself and leading the framing, Jim Falk for using your retirement to help us, Jamin Dunn for tirelessly operating the saw (except when you broke out in hives and were under the influence of Benadryl), Tyler Azeltine for making everything “safe” and being willing to sleep at the docks, Kevin Berry for finishing all the windows with Reed, Omri Miles for helping in Biliau and rapping, George Siegle for making the nails, Nick Dudley for being the muscles and drinking 3 in 1s with me, Reed Blockberger for finishing the windows with Kevin, and being there when we needed you in Billiau, Mike Feather for helping to move tons of material and adjusting your schedule when you weren’t planning on it.
Thank you for coming, leaving your families, and sharing these last few weeks with us!
If anyone else out there is looking to visit us…we still have one house left to build 🙂