“Long olgeta taim mi tingting long yupela, mi save tenkyu long God bilong mi. Long olgeta prea mi mekim bilong helpim yupela, oltaim mi save amamas na prea.” Filipai 1:3-4 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy…” Philippians 1:3-4
Petitions and Praises:
- Safe travel to PNG with no hiccups, and a safe return trip for Margaret
- A warm welcome by the RVA team, and ongoing relationship building
- Bill and Kelley’s hospitality to host me for about 3 weeks
- Easy-going and encouraging relationship with my housemate, Marissa.
- A wonderful local church that meets here in the mission center, heartfelt worship, prayer, and teaching in two languages
- Over a month of teaching science to these fun, curious, enthusiastic learners!
- Developing relationships with the students and learning from them
- Good health and adjustment to the climate
- SO. MANY. BIRDS!! And so many other critters!! The students bring me new treasures every day!
- The beginnings of language acquisition
- Diligence in prayer, scripture study, and application of doctrinal truths
- Ability to lay aside the love of my own comfort
- Continued good health, energy, adjustment to the climate, and diligence to exercise regularly
- Time to study and practice the language, Tok Pisin, amidst teaching and serving; patience and humility as I find myself wishing I was already at conversational level
- Spiritual growth for our students
- For more teachers as our student body grows!
- Unity, courage, discipline, and strength for the elders of our tribal churches as they face daily cultural pressure and persecution
Read on below for more detail and a few stories
Settling in and becoming part of the team:
As I reflect on all that has happened since March when I first found out about Ramu Valley Academy’s need for a science teacher, my head spins with a whirlwind of emotions: gratitude and awe for God’s abundant provision, wistfulness and sadness over loved ones, pets, and places I left behind, sheer joy at the realization of how God has had this path planned for me from before time, humility at the privilege of getting to join the Lord in His work here in Papua New Guinea…and now all of a sudden it’s February and I’ve been here over a month!
I got to live with Bill and Kelley Housley for the first three weeks, and it was such a blessing. It was great for me to be in the middle of the action to see how things operate on a daily basis, to ask them a billion questions, and of course to benefit from their great cooking! I am daily humbled and encouraged by their steadfast ministry among these dear people. They constantly switch between three different languages on the phone and in person as they navigate the daily rigors of ministry. They love each of our students as their own children, and the students KNOW they are loved.
I moved in with Marissa a few weeks ago and have absolutely loved being housemates! She’s a dear sister who puts the Lord first in all things, and she exudes such a love for our students. We have several kids here about every night, seeking help with their math homework. On top of that, she regularly invites girls over for ukulele practice, arranges and teaches songs to all of the students, trains the older boys to lead worship, and so much more. I am grateful for how she is using her gifts to serve the Lord in this ministry!
It has been so much fun to serve alongside my friends from the training in Florida, Zack and Dani. Zack and his team have been working hard on the house I’ll live in…should be done in another week or so. I believe Marissa and I will get to be roommates there soonish as well! Zack is such a great male mentor for our boys. He works hard and plays hard with them, involves them in building projects, and he teaches all of the students catechism questions every day at the end of the school day. Dani is a talented artist and is pulling double duty with teaching several classes and working to create a new website for RVA. She has offered to paint my favorite bird for me, so I asked her for a Forest Kingfisher. Look it up, they’re precious!
Zeke Carnes arrived at the same time as me, and he just started teaching a 9th grade Business class last week. He is a kind soul with a burning passion for Christ and the gospel. And he’s a budding birder! I loaned him my spare pair of binoculars our first week here, and he carries them around on walks, which makes me so proud! It’s super fun to have another person here who wants to nerd out on learning the birds. So at least I’m not the only weirdo, LOL.
Our friends Nisae and Sandra are also part-time teachers with us. Nisae and her husband Jason did church planting work with the Iski tribe in the Ramu Valley, and they currently split their time between here and the tribe. Nisae pours into our girls and often hosts Saturday tortilla-making sessions with them. Jason is an accomplished drummer and hosts drum lessons at his house most Saturdays. Sandra is a local Papua New Guinean who lives in the village next door. She is a great example to our students of how they can succeed and have rewarding jobs and careers. The students enjoy her social science classes.
It is truly a privilege to be a part of this Godly team of believers. We are all sinful humans who battle the flesh daily, but we are redeemed and thankful to be running this race together. We seek God first in all things, and there is thought and intentionality behind every decision.
I still can’t believe I get to teach for the glory of Christ!! It’s so easy to weave Scripture into my science lessons, and my heart just sings that I have the freedom to do so!
For example, last week I was teaching a unit on plant reproduction and seed dispersal to the 8th graders. Naturally, we read Genesis 1:9-13 and gave God the glory for how He designed seed-bearing plants. Then when we discussed seed dispersal, we were reminded of the parable of the sower and how each of us can represent the different settings where the seed fell, and how we desire to be good soil (Matthew 13:1-23). Then we discussed the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and the importance of showing fruit in our lives as believers. To God be all glory!!
With the 9th graders, when we discussed arbitrary vs. standard measurements, I asked them if they could think of any measuring units used in the Old Testament. They immediately said, ‘the cubit!’ We discussed how each person’s forearm can be slightly different and compared each other’s forearm sizes. Even though the cubit was originally based off of the length of a forearm, it would have been standardized at a certain length using a rod or other measuring instrument.
In 7th grade, we learned about how scientists classify organisms using characteristics and traits that describe those organisms. We did our own critter search and created a key using characteristics that we noticed about the creatures we found. We discussed how God gave Adam the job of naming His creatures, and how that’s still our job today as we classify, name, and steward the plants and animals in our world.
A day in the life of a Ramu Valley Academy science teacher:
I’m settling into a rhythm, even though every day is different. It’s kind of like you’re always camping here because all the windows are open with screens, so I never have to use an alarm clock! My body naturally wakes up around 5:45 as the birds begin to sing. (Granted, the Willy Wagtail sings literally all night long, and the Flying Foxes screech and yell at each other at all hours, but the singing does increase as dawn approaches).
The most important part of my day is my quiet time with the Lord before the hubbub ensues. I curl up on my bed with my Bible, gratitude journal, and Valley of Vision book of prayers. Having that 30 minute to an hour time of prayer and study is essential to nourish me for the rigors of ministry each day. I don’t even touch my phone until that time is complete. The fewer distractions, the better.
I walk over to the school around 7:30, and almost every day, students come to me with treasures to show me…grasshoppers, butterflies, beetles, flowers, lizards, and one morning a few weeks ago, a baby snake! That snake is now happily a part of our family and eats about one lizard a week. Her name is Flemalee. She was named by JonJon, the 9th grader who caught her in the bathroom. We told them we didn’t know the snake’s gender and needed a gender neutral name. Well, he scrambled the letters of ‘male’ and ‘female’ and came up with Flemalee! I think that sounds like a girl name, so she is unofficially a female until we know otherwise.
I have a student or two help me check the rain gauge around 7:40 am. I brought a metric rain gauge that is exactly like the one we used at Tremont, and it has been a big hit! So far the biggest rainfall we’ve had in 24 hours was 127 mm (5 inches)!
We all line up at 7:45, call roll, sing the national anthem, recite the pledge, have an encouraging verse for the day, and say a prayer. Then the students have a Bible class from 8-8:30 am. The 7th graders meet in my classroom for their Bible class, and it’s taught in Tok Pisin by Joshua, a soft-spoken and Godly man from the Ramu. I’m usually busy at my desk getting ready for the day, but I try to listen and comprehend the gist of his teaching. It’s so sweet to witness the engagement of the students as they learn from God’s word. It’s also a nice break for these young students who are still very much learning English.
I teach 9th grade science from 8:30-10 am, have a planning break from 10-11:30, a quick lunch at home that usually consists of heating up leftovers on the stove, then I teach 8th grade science from 12:15-1:45 pm and finally 7th grade science from 1:45-3:15 pm. It is so nice to have 1.5 hours to teach each class because we can accomplish a lot in that timeframe.
The students have an hour to work on homework from 3:15-4:15, so that’s another timeslot for me to work on lesson planning and grading. They have a work detail from 4:15-4:45 where they clean the classrooms and bathrooms and do any needed weeding or work on the grounds. Sometimes that time doubles as music practice for various grades. I love hearing their beautiful voices as they learn harmonies and melodies to hymns that glorify our great Savior.
At 4:45 pm, they line up outside the school, and one student from each grade gets to tell everyone what they learned in each class that day. It’s amazing to see how much they learn and retain every day! We make announcements and Zack leads them in learning a catechism question. Then a student volunteers to pray and we’re dismissed around 5 pm. It’s a long, full day, and we love it.
As I put my plan together for this year, I decided to integrate a weekly nature journaling time with each class. So every Friday, each class gets to go outside to their chosen spot for 15-20 minutes to sketch and make observations about plants, insects, etc. These kids LOVE to draw!! Several of them have really gotten into nature journaling and are making entries on their own every day! It’s so wonderful watching their curiosity run wild.
At Dani’s suggestion, I made a Question jar and put it on the white board at the front of the room. Students regularly put questions in the jar, and that gives me an opportunity to dig deeper into topics that interest them.
Since both the 8th and 9th grade curriculum had them learning about the scientific method and experimentation this past month, I decided to take a few extra days and had them design their own field investigations. This is something I got to do frequently at Tremont, so it was super fun to use that model for our RVA students. We took ‘field trips’ to Grace Place, the area where our students live and have their gardens. After they got to explore and catch all manner of critters, we brainstormed and they came up with testable questions, returned a few days later to collect their data, and will present their findings to the whole school this week.
We regularly go outside for our science lessons. It’s fun to keep the students moving and active, and it literally makes the lessons come alive.
You never know what to expect…
It’s hard to describe what a typical day looks like for us here at RVA. But here’s a glimpse:
As I sat writing this update earlier this evening, JonJon came to our door with a small Coke bottle. He’d caught a gecko to feed Flemalee the snake and wanted to show me. I took a break from writing to walk the gecko over to my classroom to put it in a more comfortable enclosure.
Last Thursday, I wandered down the field after school to do some bird watching before heading back home for dinner. I was listening to some Orange-bellied Fruit doves when I heard someone breathlessly running up to me from behind. I turned around and saw Charlie, one of our students from the village next door, holding a dead bird. He’d run all the way back from the village to find me. He said he accidentally stepped on the bird and killed it (probably while running). I tried not to laugh as I inspected it – a Brown Quail. I suggested that he and his family could eat it, and he said that he’d feed it to his dogs and took off running back to the village. The next day, I asked him if his dogs enjoyed their meal. He said he actually buried the bird. His tenderness toward the bird and his enthusiasm to show me were touching.
On Saturday, Charlie brought a bouquet of grass flowers that had some burrs and hitchhikers since we’d been talking about how some seeds are dispersed by animals and people when they get stuck in fur or clothing. I was in town when he brought them, so Kelley sent me a picture that warmed my heart.
Jefilstand is a budding naturalist who also lives in the village. He shows me a new nature journal entry almost every day. His sketches are amazing and he has such a keen sense of observation. More importantly, he is developing a deep love for the Lord that shines through in his character daily.
One morning in the middle of our weekly ladies’ prayer time at 6:30 am, we heard an excited, ‘Miss Beachy!!’ I looked up to see Jefilstand holding his pet Victoria Crowned Pigeon. I left the other ladies praying and ran out to help him put the pigeon in the enclosure next to the school building.
After our lesson on insect-pollinated and wind-pollinated flowers last week, several 8th graders were so excited about the flowers they’d collected that they stayed several minutes after class and returned during homework time to look at their finds through the mini field microscopes. The excitement and joy on Clementa, Lydia, and Stephanie’s faces as they looked closely at each new treasure was so wonderful to behold. We’d witnessed cross pollination in action, and the day before we’d dissected hibiscus and grass flowers.
We regularly experience what I call ‘inquiry fever.’ The students are bursting at the seams with questions and ideas without even realizing it. I set them loose to measure lengths, volumes, and weights and they performed their own experiments (where is the soil warmer, in the compost pile or in the shade? What is heavier, this textbook or that bucket of water?).
This is only a small smattering of the daily joys and discoveries that we experience.
Request for supplies:
I am daily so thankful for the field supplies that I brought with me. Thank YOU for your generous support that enabled me to purchase things like nets, bug jars, pop-up enclosures, field microscopes, etc. We have used EVERYTHING I’ve brought!
I’ve noticed that it would be great to have more than one large butterfly net, more than four small field microscopes, a class set of binoculars, etc.
If you or your church or small group would be interested in getting together to provide some of these items, please send me a private message. I’ll be happy to give you some ideas! It’s very expensive and difficult to ship things to PNG, but I will plan to bring a big suitcase to the States with me in August and could bring items back with me.
Thank you so much for your interest and support of this ministry!!