Bitter Sweet Memories

Here I am, looking out my window at the luscious velvety green rolling hills of the Aiyura Valley up in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  There are some puffy white clouds sitting lazily within the gorgeous blue skies above.  I am once more living here, if only briefly, in what I consider to be one of the truly peaceful little places of Paradise here on earth.

Those were the thoughts I had while I was at the mission base again up in the highlands of PNG.  I was doing the translation consultant check on the Gospel of John for one of the language groups there.  The missionary couple that work in that project are friends of ours and are also fellow Canadians.  They graciously opened their home for me to live with them for the three weeks that we worked together.

In that quiet moment, I thought back over the many years that I have come and gone and done mission work here in PNG.  And especially when I have been at this highlands base and get reflective, I see all the good times, and the not so good times.  But in all of these times, God has been there.  Allow me now to share some of these with you.

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The PBT mission house is located in one of the corners of the center where it is a sharp dip down from one of the more major roads to our side road area.  The roads are not paved, so they are dusty and bumpy when it is dry, but muddy clay and slick when it rains.  That does not phase the children here though as they play their various games on the center whether on the grass sides or on the rock-strewn dirt roads.

We will never forget that one day our son Glen decided to try to ride one of those stand up foot scooters down the steep curving road near the PBT house where we were.  I think he would have been fine, except for the anxious shout from Jill who said, “You be careful son!”  That is when he looked up and the front wheel hit a rock.  Glen went flying off the scooter and landed on his chest and slid down the road.  Oh, we wish he had been wearing a T-shirt that day.  Yowwee!!  Gravel and skin are not a good mix.

I also remember the times that I was done my work and Eric was nearby and it just felt like having a “father-son” moment.  We would go across the lower road to a little grassy knoll that overlooked the beautiful valley.  We would talk about nothing and everything, whatever seemed to be the most important thing to talk about that day.  And we connected in a powerful way in that place of quiet and peace.

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And then came the fateful day in 2002.  Eric had found a place for himself in the International School there on center.  He had presented a good case for leaving the village and starting his Grade 7 up there and to live in one of the Youth Hostels.  He had made some friends, and he felt like that was where he belonged.  The other three of us in the family had gone up there to spend some time with Eric before we went back down to the village where I would continue the Bible translation work.

But a nagging string of little illnesses caused us enough concern that we had Eric checked one more time.  The blood work looked suspicious and we suddenly found ourselves packing up overnight and heading to Brisbane, Australia instead of to the village.  It turned out that Eric did have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia which sent us all on a three year road of chemotherapy treatments.

But God had not abandoned us.  Just like we quickly picked up Glen after his wipe out and tenderly treated his bruises and scrapes, we saw over those cancer years some wonderful ways that God sent us encouraging letters and prayers from others and gave us special moments for Eric that were only made possible because of his illness.  No, God does not abandon us, but He may change the path we are on.

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And I thought that was what was happening for me when God opened the door in 2007 for me to return to the mission base to get the training to become a Bible translation consultant.  I was so thrilled to be involved again with language projects, and this time I would help with the last check to be done before a book of Scripture goes to be published.

But immediately following my first trip to do consultant work in Feb. ’08, my own disease hit me and I have not been able to walk since then without experiencing pain and fatigue.  I thought my time of Bible translation work was finished when this hit me.  But I could never have been so wrong.  This is now the sixth time in four years that I have come back to PNG to do the consultant checking of a Bible translation project.

I don’t know why I feel that this mission base seems to be just a little closer to God than in other places.  I just know that it does.  And even though my family has experienced many bumps and bruises, and even life-threatening diseases which have been partly connected to this center, I still know that God is with us and loves us.  Maybe that is the point.  Through thick or thin, good or bad, God is still God and His loving kindness is always there.  We just need to open our eyes sometimes to see it.

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