"Oltaim yupela i mas amamas long Bikpela. Mi tok gen, yupela i mas amamas." Filipai 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
- Finished teaching my first 12-week term at RVA!
- A refreshing time of rest and recharging over Spring break. Three of us spent a few days at a nearby lodge, snorkeling, sleeping, chatting, praying, and reading Scripture.
- Language learning – I can understand most conversations and have been making progress in speaking, with the help of local friends and students.
- We now have stairs on our front porch and a footbridge over the little channel in our front yard, so we can have visitors more easily and use both doors.
- Opportunities to host the girls from each grade for fun food nights full of relationship-building conversation and spiritual encouragement.
- ALL of the science supplies I’ve requested were purchased! A huge thank you to those who made that happen so quickly! God’s provision is so humbling and amazing!
- For a brief time with Gus Gus the Cus Cus (a marsupial much like an opossum)
- For Godly teachers! We need additional teachers in each subject. Let us know if you or anyone you know is interested.
- For opportunities to deepen in relationship with the students as we come alongside them in daily life.
- For energy, health, spiritual maturity, and emotional stability to live and serve well in the daily rigors of ministry and living my life in front of many watching eyes.
- That God would convict and bring to repentance any unsaved students and strengthen those who are saved already.
- For the two missionary families and one single lady who have just completed their training here over the last several months and are moving on to finish their training in other parts of the country. Pray that God will strengthen them and give them wisdom as they figure out where they will serve in the bush, bringing God’s word to as yet unreached people groups.
When I am weak, then HE is strong!
One thing about being a first year teacher is that you always feel a little overwhelmed and inadequate…at least I do! I am daily reminded of my utter lack of knowledge in so many subjects. It’s humbling. But praise be to God that our kids are gracious, enthusiastic learners.
I’m teaching things that I literally haven’t thought about for 25+ years. I may be a biologist, but I’m an ecologist and bird biologist, not a chemist, physicist or molecular biologist. It has been fun to relearn things like energy, forces, the periodic table, atoms and compounds, the body systems, etc. I spend a lot of time on YouTube. I try to stay at least one step ahead of the students, but they regularly ask such good questions that I can’t answer, so I go back to my research.
As I search around on the internet for information to help me understand various topics, I have found tons of fun demos and experiments. I’m learning right along with the kids as we conduct our experiments because I haven’t done them before myself. Some experiments work splendidly and others totally flop. I have to be creative with the kinds of materials we have available, and I regularly send messages to our group chat with questions like, ‘Does anybody have a strainer, or coffee filters, or yeast?’ Check out my private Facebook group to see many posts with our scientific adventures.
Over all though, I am daily reminded of the BIG reason we’re here. We are here to point these students to Christ, to glorify the Lord in our teaching, and to equip the next generation of believers in PNG. If I don’t totally have my lesson on electricity figured out before I have to teach it, I try to remind myself of the Great Commission.
I am a weak, cracked vessel. But I pray that the Light of Christ will shine brightly through me!
I regularly get sweet, encouraging notes from the students in their testing books. Sometimes they’ll draw a picture of a bird or tree or scene from their village. Other times they’ll write a verse or express how much they enjoy my class. These are some of the things that the Lord uses to remind me that this is exactly where He wants me and that He is so faithful.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
Life in a fish bowl
When you’re living in a place where you can literally hear your neighbor sneezing next door and kids can show up on your porch at any moment, stealing precious moments alone becomes crucial.
I have found that my favorite place to go is down to the footbridge that crosses over the marsh to the beach. We single ladies are not allowed to go to the beach by ourselves because you never know who might be over there. But we can go as far as the bridge, and I love to sit with my back to our property and my face toward the ocean. I often retreat there right after school to decompress, pray, soak in God’s creation, answer messages, and do research on the next day’s topic.
God always ministers to my soul there, and prepares my heart and mind to plunge back into community life. One day in particular, He gave me such an amazing gift. For months, I’ve been harassed by several noisy pairs of Double-eyed Fig Parrots who continually zoom overhead but never land in a place where I can see them. Well that afternoon, there were TWO pairs hanging out in the rain tree by the bridge, and the evening light shone perfectly on them. I got to feast my eyes on their precious beauty as they flirted and fought in the canopy.
After that glorious encounter (including fun sightings of several other cool birds), I returned home and began cooking supper. A few minutes later, several girls showed up, wanting math homework help from Marissa. Since she wasn’t home, I invited them inside and we had a lovely chat. Then a few more appeared, and a few more. When Marissa got there, we had a kitchen full of giggling young ladies. I made a big bowl of popcorn while Marissa tutored (they DON’T want me to help them with their math!). It was such a spontaneous and wonderful blessing to spend that time pouring into them.
I had returned home planning to eat and crash, but God had other plans. He filled me up just enough to be able to continue pouring out. That’s a pretty typical picture of life here, and I love it.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
The past month has been a blur of activity, but a thread throughout the busy weeks was my concern for the sweet baby Common Spotted Cus Cus that God graciously blessed me with for a short period of time. Once I knew he was a boy, I affectionately named him Gus Gus the Cus Cus. God taught me so much through my time with him. His ways are best.
Gus Gus captivated me immediately with his deep, probing eyes as he would gaze up into my face, gripping my fingers with his little hands and feet. God provided him at just the right time, graciously giving me a sweet furry friend to hold, cuddle, and cherish and filling the longing in my heart as I deeply miss my fur and feather babies back in the States. Having him helped me take the next step to truly feeling at home here, and I am grateful.
He provided much joy to our students, church family, and fellow missionaries as well. We all took turns holding and cuddling him. I loved watching big strong men just melt as they held him.
But I also realized my tendency to store up my treasures on earth and become too attached to worldly things. When Gus Gus first started to show that he was sick, I was devastated and distracted. I felt anxious and easily annoyed, and realized that I was allowing Gus Gus’ health to dictate the state of my emotions. God graciously intervened again and helped me to pray, confess, and lay the situation at His very capable feet.
As his health declined, I did what I could to help him, but I was at a loss. Then a dear friend was able to find out what his disease likely was: exudative dermatitis, a deadly skin disease which often affects young male possums. I was able to give him antibiotics for about 5 days, which actually reduced his symptoms for a few days and gave him his energy back. I was cautiously optimistic that he would make a full recovery, but when he declined rapidly a few days later, the Lord enabled me to begin preparing my heart.
I would cuddle him in my lap during my planning periods. Gus Gus loved being held close because it was like being back in his mother’s pouch. His last morning, he mustered his only remaining energy to crawl out onto my arm and nestle his head in my elbow. He never moved after that, but rested with his eyes closed. When I had to go teach, I wrapped him in towels and put him in a bilum (small bag) and hung him in my room. People often hang their babies in bilums here, and I figured it would be a safe place for him to rest and keep the flies off his open sores. He was barely breathing when I checked on him at lunchtime, and when I got home after school, he was gone.
Here is the last and greatest grace that God gave me through this trial: vulnerability and an opportunity to release pent up emotions. I hardly ever cry. I definitely don’t cry in front of other people. But I broke down crying at lunch and Marissa found me and lovingly comforted me and prayed for me. I pulled myself together before going back to school, but couldn’t hide my puffy eyes. I wasn’t going to say anything, but as soon as I got to the school building, several girls came up and said they were sorry about Gus Gus (Kelley had told them to be gentle and loving to me, since his health was declining). That was actually a great relief, because the tears started coming again, and I didn’t have to pretend that all was well. The relief of not hiding my pain actually gave me the energy and clarity of mind to teach that afternoon. (It also helped that we got to take turns cuddling Rika’s puppies during class). I couldn’t keep back the tears as we buried him in the backyard, and I’m so thankful for my teammates and their love and concern. It was a balm to my soul to show my sadness to them and to receive their compassion.
What surprised me is what happened next. I came to my room to grieve, and proceeded to sob uncontrollably for the next hour. It dawned on me that I wasn’t just grieving for Gus Gus. Months’ worth of pent up emotions came pouring out. That time of crying wracked my body and left me weak and exhausted for the next 24 hours, but it was also so healing. God tenderly ministered to my soul, reminded me of His love, mercy, and unfailing faithfulness, and strengthened me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
So do I wish Gus Gus was still alive and wrapping his little prehensile tail around my arm? Absolutely! But God knew exactly what He had planned to teach me through this trial, and I am thankful. I am humbled, grateful, and in awe of our Great Savior.