Em Pinis!

At long last, after nearly one and a half years for me, and longer for the staff who were here before me, it is done. The New Life Children’s Centre is open, and very nearly operational.

A long day of speeches, ribbon cutting, guests, and a party afterwards with 200+ staff, children, and young men was enjoyed.

As if it had been held back for us to finish our celebrations, the end of our party was marked by a downpour which only Lae can put on.

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Graduation

The culmination of the program here at City Mission ends with a celebration, and a ceremony. This weekend has been one of those weekends, with the first of two graduation ceremonies for 2018.

We’re praying that the skills, language, and most importantly: Godly living, they have picked up here, will stay with them as they move into the next chapter of their lives.

 

Resetting

Every now and then, a comment in conversation, an interaction, or an event will challenge thoughts and beliefs which fashioned the filters through which you view the world. Everything you thought you knew about a topic crumbles, and is rebuilt to include the new information.

Perhaps it is part of growing into a second culture, but I’ve had a few of those moments recently.

A discussion on problem solving led to my belief that the differences stemmed from differences in worldview, at least partially collapsing (it still holds true that worldviews are formative in cultures and behaviours). Taking its place is the much simpler explanation that for the majority of people in a developing country, access to materials on how to fix a problem is virtually non-existant, and other priorities might well prevent the time, money, or effort required, being spent on fixing an issue. It’s possible that part of the difference stems from worldviews, but how much? And why assume that a person is always consistent with their worldview?

Another reset (although my wife assures me that this has been shown to me previously, so perhaps I’m just a little slow on the uptake) is the realisation of authority. In my home culture, taking initiative is prized. In this second culture, people have ideas and plans – great ideas and plans! – but won’t act on them unless released to do so. In some cases, they won’t even present their ideas, unless the liberty of expressly given. I don’t understand where this comes from – is it colonialism’s darker side, or is it stemmed in the culture of tribal chiefs and customary land ownership?

An axiom passed on to me recently (which I believed was true before, but didn’t put in these exact words) is: “no-one does anything which doesn’t make sense. Therefore if you do not understand why a person does something, you do not understand the person.”

And just like that, I realise that I am not even close to beginning to understand this second culture. Closer, perhaps, than a year ago, but still only just at the foot of a huge mountain.

Wantun

Today I managed, at long last, to capitalise on an opportunity to go with Ryan into the Wantun village.

It was a long day, but a good day, in which everything which could have gone wrong, didn’t.

And – oh man! – what a beautiful place!

The start of the journey is a ~2hr drive from 11 Mile (Lae), to an area known as Mutzing (pronounced moot-zing, where we parked the car inside the property of someone who knows the RMPNG team, and get ready to start walking.

Before long, we’re almost up to our knees in slow flowing water, apparently from a stream diverted recently. I quickly learned that my shoes were not as great for this kind of thing as Ryan’s, and the ruts, mounds, and holes underwater had me doing a great impression of someone using ice-skates for the very first time.

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About to cross the “Mighty Markham”

From what I gather, this was an easy trip. Even though the water was rushing in a few places, it was no-where near the torrent it is capable of becoming. A little effort, a new trick or two picked up, and it was time to empty socks of all the sand they’d collected.

With Ryan taking the lead, we headed “inside” to Wantun, with nothing more eventful than the occasional puddle to report.

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Church – Pre Service Singsing

After a quick meal, and getting ready, we had our Easter Sunday service, and Ryan (who features so heavily in this story so far, you would be forgiven for thinking he is the protagonist) preached on the joy and marvel which comes from the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, as opposed to the sorrow and despair if He was defeated by death. Krais i bin kamap winman tru! (Christ is the Victor!)

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What happens when you pick the wrong path

After another meal (hospitality is highly valued in this country, and culture), we set off back again, re-tracing all of the uneventful steps we’d taken in the morning. With a thunderstorm building all around us, and the Wantun river already rising, we set a cracking pace with one of the local men leading the way.

By the time we reached the Markham River again, it was looking a lot more threatening, and we had to be much more careful in our choice of crossings. So far, so good.

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An easier way to cross water

We finally reach the car, and rain begins to fall, but not so much that it raised any concerns. Then, as we drove, we approached a solid wall of water, which forced our speed down to a crawl as the wipers didn’t even come close to clearing the screen. And then one fell off.

So Ryan made a dash into the rain to fix it.

And then the other one fell off.

So it was my turn.

And then it fell off again.

And again.

So we engaged in a little impromptu bush mechanics, involving a tire lever and a metal drink container, where a pair of pliers would have sufficed, and the problem was solved.

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Caught in a deluge

Finally home, and glad to swap the wetness of rivers, mud puddles, and torrential rain, for the wetness of a hot shower, before getting ambushed by all of the kids in the compound, and telling them all the tales of the day while they sat wide eyed and open mouthed.