We have learned many lessons since we decided to come to PNG. One that stands out at the moment is that our trust in the Lord has grown. We use the Tok Pisin word ‘hangamap’ for trust here – ‘hanging on’, completely relying on, depending on something (or some ONE in this case!). Like how people here trust the branch or nail to hold the precious babies they hang up in a bilum (string bag). There are days where trust comes instinctively. And then there are days where we understand why Paul compares the Christian walk to a race – where trust feels like a very prominent muscle in our spiritual bodies, aching from working hard. We have been challenged to remember not only that God is in control of all things, but that He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him (Psalm 84:11)
Right now I (Elna) am writing this from Ukarumpa, SIL’s base in the Highlands. And the Mitchell boys are in Madang town. So our family are not where we planned to be, our village home of Mawerero. But we trust that we are exactly where the Lord would have us.
Here’s how we ended up where we are: We returned to PNG at the end of October, and made it back to the village early November. We were so happy to be back home! We got to spend time reconnecting with the people, unpacking and settling, trying to regain language skills and building friendships. For the most part people were reluctant to speak of spiritual things, but we had expected that it would take a while for them to open up to us again. Both Ryan and I had some very encouraging conversations, and started meeting with our language helpers again.
Soon after our return we started hearing rumours of gang activity in our mountain range. This all came to a head mid December, when they attacked Mibu, a village with an established church. The missionaries have moved out of the village, and are doing their work on translation, literacy and supporting the growing church from a missions base in another province. Eventually, police were flown to the village to intervene. They withdrew after a short period because of a shortage of funds (they need to be airlifted between villages to track down the gang and this is quite expensive). After this, gang activity picked up again, and threats were made against the missionaries because of aid given to the police. We ended up evacuating on Christmas Day as their activity was edging closer to our village, missionaries were targeted, and we did not want our village friends to have the added burden of having to protect us. Since we left, not much has changed – the police are still in a coastal town, and plan to return when they have funding. The gang have split up, hiding in the jungle. They are still making threats, and have burned more houses… Until the police go back in, we don’t see how the situation will be resolved.
We were planning on going down to Madang town by the end of January anyway, as we’re currently the only family with Finisterre Vision in country and some work needs to be done at the property in Madang. So we just saw it as moving our time in Madang earlier…
Then, on Saturday 15 January, Calista injured her foot. We’d love to have some adventurous story to share, but she was just walking and stepped funny on a sharp rock. We thought she might have broken a small bone in her foot… Not much happens in PNG over weekends, so we waited till Monday. On Monday we found out that the x-ray machine in the local public hospital is broken. Which meant flying out to the missions base to get it checked out. Thankfully, there are no broken bones. Ten days after the injury, she is still part smurf and her foot hurts when we walk too far. But the swelling is down and we are thankful that it isn’t broken. The first flight back down to Madang is this coming Thursday – so we’re spending a whole week away from the boys.
God is good. The adults are able to continue with work even though we’re not in the village. The kids are able to continue with school. Calista and I have been able to see friends while in Ukarumpa. Ryan has been able to get work done, meet new people, and build relationships in Madang.
We are not where we expected to be. We have no idea when it will be safe to return to the village. But we are where God wants us. So we work hard to be faithful with the time given us. Please pray that we would trust actively in the Lord, joyfully using this trial as an opportunity to exercise our trust muscles.
Is. 26:3 “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.