It was not quick, and it was not easy, but we finally made it back to our home among the Pal people. Such is life here. But, let me back up a little bit and give you the full story.
A couple weeks earlier, my parents, Steve and Brenda Hostetter, arrived in PNG. They then hopped aboard our NTM PNG helicopter and flew to our home here among the Pal people. We were absolutely thrilled to have them come visit, and pretty ecstatic too about the all the goodies they brought. It was a joy to show them where we live and work out in the middle of nowhere in the jungle of PNG.
Two days later we flew out of the tribe with my parents to take a little vacation with them. We spent a few days on a New Tribes’ center before moving a little ways over to Orobiga, a guesthouse run by the Swiss Evangelical Brotherhood. At Orobiga, we enjoyed one of our most relaxing weeks in a long time. Our kids swam in the pool all day and we laid back and relaxed – some of the time. Some of the time we were playing badminton, mini golf, pool volleyball, pool noodle soccer, water balloon volleyball, water balloon fights, board games, and card games. And on top of that we were daily devouring delicious delicacies. It was a top notch vacation.
Sadly, at the end of that wonderful week, we said goodbye to my folks and watched them walk through security at the Goroka airport beginning their long journey home. And, not long after, we prepared for our not so long journey home. That’s when things got a little bit interesting.
It was the evening before our scheduled departure, our bags were packed, our ‘out-of-the-tribe’ things were back in storage, and there remained only a bit of house cleaning to do. That’s when we received the text. The helicopter is down for maintenance. We will not be able to fly as scheduled.
Three days later we arrived at the airport at 5:15 in the morning, planning on a dawn departure for the tribe. Maggie and the younger three kids would depart first for the tribe, and then the helicopter would come get Micah and I along with a young couple (visiting our teammates in the tribe) and take us home. We ended up sitting in the waiting room at the airport for a few long hours waiting for the fog to lift before Maggie and three of our kids finally took off. Mid-morning they arrived safe and sound back home, and then the helicopter came for the rest of us.
As we lifted off for our 25 minute flight to the tribe, the latest weather report out of Pal claimed open skies and decent weather. Twenty minutes later, as we neared home, my wife updated the weather report and sent me a text – “Completely socked in and raining.” Not yet ready to give up, our pilot found the valley next to the ridge on which our houses are located, ducked under the cloud shelf, and headed up the valley towards our home.
One mile out and we could proceed no further. A solid wall of fog and clouds blocked our way home. We pulled a u-turn and headed for sunnier skies. We set down on a soccer field atop a ridge in the middle of nowhere a mere ten minute flight away, but two days away by hiking. A swarm of locals came out to greet us and check out the helicopter, and we had the pleasure of hanging out with them for a few hours.
Thankfully, we had cell-phone service out there in the middle of the jungle and Maggie was able to keep us updated on the weather conditions throughout the afternoon. Mid-afternoon we climbed aboard the helicopter once again and made another run for home. We battled gusty shifting winds, but the fog and clouds lifted enough for us to find our way home.
Now we’re settled back in and back to the grind. Maggie and the kids started their new year of home-schooling this week, and I jumped right back into discipleship, translation, and Bible teacher training. Please continue to pray for the Pal believers and the Pal Church. Our Church was supposed to start an evangelistic outreach this past week but that has been put on hold for the time being. However, that is a post for another time.