Some of you may not know…we are here in the US! At Table Rock Lake, MO, to be specific. How did we get here? Why are we here? It’s May- shouldn’t they be back in PNG translating the Bible and watching Judah graduate high school? Like most of the world has experienced, our plans changed! So to update you on what’s going on now and what has gone on in the last couple of months of ministry in PNG, this update will have to move backwards. That’s kind of fun, right?
Mid-March is when our craziness began. Jeremiah flew into Dinangat for a routine translation work trip. We were to have joined him on for a few days as the kids were in their last week of their spring break. We had just returned from a separate work project the day before, and so were a bit behind on comprehending the reality that the world was in the process of tipping upside down. That afternoon, (if memory serves), we heard the news that NCA (the mission school that Judah and Alayna attend on center) was possibly closing for the rest of the term and many airlines were cancelling flights in and out of the country, all due to the corona virus. The only way I could communicate with Jeremiah was with a GPS device that allows you to send emails, 160 characters long! He had no internet or phone access. One of the days that week we also heard that the EBI Jackson was closing, and Jordan was going to need to move out. Although he had plenty of options with family and friends, deciding where to go after he had put down his only USA roots there at the Bible school was incredibly difficult. I wondered, did we need to leave PNG asap to get to Jordan and be his “home”? What about Judah? As a senior in high school, he was in preparations to say his final goodbyes to his entire childhood. Could we rush that and not allow him to have good closure? With borders rapidly closing, the pressure was real.
Part of the reason we were going to join Jeremiah in Dinangat was so that Judah would have a chance to say his goodbyes to the Dinangat church as that would have been his last trip in there before graduation. But there were decisions to be made, and I couldn’t do it by myself. So instead of us flying in, I communicated to Jeremiah that I needed him to fly out. Praise the Lord, Judah was able to go in with the pilot to pick Jeremiah up. The pilot gave them some time on the ground so that Judah could say goodbye to the believers and thank them for the impact they’ve had on his life, and how they looked after him all those years as a youngster. He hiked up the short path to our house from the airstrip for one last look at his childhood home, then helped load the plane, and took off down the grassy village runway, one last time.
Back on the mission center together, we could look at the facts (that were constantly changing at this time!) and try to start making some decisions. About this time, we got the news that our school had officially closed (along with all PNG national schools) and that our amazing admin team had prepared school work for each individual student to be able to continue learning from home for the rest of the term. We were also informed that the seniors had already accomplished the necessary requirements to be able to receive their diplomas! This was great news! Judah would continue work on his AP courses to be able to take the exams in May, but otherwise, nothing else would be required. Additionally, we had been in constant conversation with Jordan (thank You, Lord, for current technology!) The family of his good friend and classmate invited him to come finish out the school year at their home, and Jordan and his friend could finish classes online together. This was a great relief to us; we were blessed beyond words to know that the Lord had provided a loving family where Jordan could be at “home” and wait out this pandemic if we weren’t able to get there quickly.
More and more flights were being cancelled, and notifications from our embassy in PNG were coming out that likely there would be very limited to no international travel options over the summer. We were scheduled to come back to the States in June for our regular one year home assignment to help Judah get settled into life in the States, driver’s license, college, etc, and spend time with supporters, friends and family. It began to look like traveling home in the summer was not going to be possible, and if we wanted to get home, we should leave as soon as possible. But by the time we realized this, it was too late, and everything was shut down. However, we were soon informed that the US State Department and US Embassy in PNG were actively working on a repatriation flight that could get any US citizen back to the States who wanted to leave. So in the span of 9 days, we packed up our entire house with the help of many sweet friends and said goodbye. The sweetest part of this lightning speed transition was watching God’s grace poured out on our seniors. Since PNG was not very tightly locked down yet, we were able to give them, not the typically colossal NCA graduation event which they’d been planning for almost two years, but a small, families-only diploma ceremony as well as the traditional senior dinner that was catered by our very amazing resident Chef Nate, who, with help from some great friends, put on an incredible dinner for the seniors and their families! This was such a gift to us all, as it was beginning to look like we would be hard pressed to let these kiddos do the traditional activities that help find the closure they need. Another sweet gift was that although they didn’t get to go on a ‘senior trip’ due to covid restrictions, literally one week before the craziness hit, we had the privilege of taking the senior class to coastal town M for a work project where they helped put up walls and the roof on the main classroom building for a new school, RVA. This is a specialized school for Papua New Guinean believers who desire a Christian education for their children. The first of its kind, the school endeavors to train young men and women is spiritual principles and disciplines as well as academic excellency to the end that they would glorify God with their lives by serving their communities as Bible teachers and educators.
Diploma ceremony complete, we turned our attention to packing up the house and one week later (April 9) we were on a plane to the US!
Since we were not planning on being back until June, we did not have housing or vehicles in place for our return. Nor could we stay with family because of needing to quarantine for two weeks due to international travel. The Lord provided a wonderful place for us to hide away for two weeks through a supporting church, FBC in Augusta, KS. This amazing body of believers showered us with the love of Christ by furnishing a home for us, internet, providing several meals (including a catered Easter feast!) and even store runs during our quarantine. After our quarantine, Jordan came home! We hadn’t seen our boy in a year, so needless to say, we were super excited and grateful to the Lord for the way He has taken care of him in all this transition! Now, we are in Missouri, visiting family. The boys have some construction projects with Grandpa they will be doing for a few weeks while we are here. So, that’s how and why we are in the States a bit earlier!
Dinangat News: Backing up on our timeline, Jeremiah was able to get in some translation checking and a good visit with the elders before all the craziness happened. He was able to hear the update of a previous trip that he had helped coordinate. The Lord had opened the door for all of our Bible teachers and the two elders, 7 men in all, to go visit another PNG church plant (Aziana) where the believers and solid indigenous leadership had been established for a couple of decades. The goal of this trip was for our leaders to spend a couple weeks with their leaders, life on life, and be able to talk through many different church leadership related topics. We as missionaries felt like it would be very healthy for them to see another church functioning well and applying biblical principles in their own context, something very different than just listening to us as expats trying to help them apply the same principles in their own culture. The trip went extremely well, and these veteran leaders really took the Dinangat leaders under their wings and discipled them in a way that we as expats simply cannot always accomplish. It seems to have been an incredible eye-opener for them and we look forward to seeing how the Lord will use this great learning experience in the Dinangat church!
So, that’s us! We covet your continued prayers for our family and the ministry as we begin this strange home assignment with covid restrictions:
- Please pray for Judah as he begins this new chapter of living in the States. He will test for his driver’s license soon and is trusting the Lord for a good, solid vehicle. Lord willing, he’ll have work through the summer and will start Ethnos360 Bible Institute in August.
- Pray for Jordan. He will finish EBI online in two weeks and is also trusting the Lord for work through the summer. He is seeking the Lord’s will for his future as there are many unknowns for him right now.
- And don’t forget Alayna! She will start 8th grade in August. It was very hard for her to say goodbye to her friends and teachers in PNG, and we are asking the Lord now to help her adjust well to life in the States, that her love for God and her walk with Him would grow ever deeper and that she would make some good friends here.
- As for us, we are trusting the Lord for a great year of home assignment. Our goals are to reconnect with supporters, friends and family, while assisting our boys in their transitions. Pray that we would bring much glory to our great God through the sharing of the stories, the victories and challenges of the ministry in PNG.
- Please pray for our finances. The repatriation flight is another set of tickets we have to purchase. We had already purchased all of our tickets to get home in June, and only some of those tickets will be refunded. We are also trusting the Lord for the needed funds for all of our moving, State-side traveling and settling in. Some of you have already given towards these extra expenses. We are so grateful for you and for the way we see the Lord providing!
- Please pray for PNG! There are 3 new language groups that will be hearing the Gospel in their own language for the first time this year, and the missionaries are having to creatively navigate teaching with covid restrictions. Pray for our mission leadership as they seek the best way to support each tribal work as well as the staff on the centers in an unpredictable atmosphere of regulations, restrictions and reactions due to covid19.
If you’ve read this far, you’re a super star! Thank you so much for standing together with us through your prayer support and financial giving! We are so very grateful for the team the Lord has joined together for His glory and the church of Papua New Guinea! God is so good! Through this unpredictable and unprecedented era, we have clearly seen His amazing love and trustworthy sovereignty proved again and again. Look for it! You will see that He is deep at work in the hearts of man (of all of us!), revealing core fears and core values, and calling men to come to Him for salvation! Let us continue pointing to Jesus, our Solid Rock, who is the same yesterday, today and forever!