Since coming back to the US for our first furlough, we've been blessed with time to spend among family and friends that we haven't seen in a long time. Times of reconnecting have been sweet: sitting on porches watching children play together, having lunch or dinner and talking about lives now lived across oceans, late-night movies and sleep-overs.
We've also had the chance to do a lot of things we never realized were such a privilege until living in Papua New Guinea. The park, the library, the Oklahoma Aquarium, going out to a restaurant, the State Fair, riding an elevator, having a root beer float, hunting and fishing.
Several people asked what the biggest difference between PNG and the US is. It would seem obvious: skyscrapers instead of grass huts, steady employment instead of subsistence farming, schools, cars, roads, reliable running water and electricity.
But the thing that overwhelmed both Esther and I after just a few days here is actually the pace of life.
In PNG we would hope to get one thing done in a day. Not an errand off station, but just one thing like "get extra light bulbs from maintenance." If that happened the day could be called successful. In the US, it feels like several things all need to be happening at once or everyone gets worried about "being behind" or "not getting anything done."
Two days after we landed I went to the AT&T store to get two new mobile phones set up for us on a "go-phone" plan. After walking in the store, I waited about three minutes until a "customer service representative" could help me. As we looked at phones, she charged the old phone I brought with no battery power remaining. She then collected two new sim cards, put them in the phones, activated the account and printed a receipt as well as information about the new service from her tablet. The entire encounter took about 15 minutes and I left with working phones for both of us. During our transaction she kept saying things like, "Sorry for the wait" or "This just takes a while" when the printer delayed for a moment. I wanted to shout, "Yes, sometimes it does - but this is NOT that time!"
No wires. No stamps. No waiting for printer ink. No waiting for the "cell phone guy" to come back with the key to the cabinet containing the sim cards. No watchman guarding the vehicle outside. No children going with you on every errand (thank you Mimi and Papa). Yet none of it moves fast enough for us.
Sometimes I've found it difficult to move from the hustle and bustle of working in a mission hospital with a slow culture around me to having a time of rest amid a culture of busy-ness.
The time that seemed like it might stretch forever before we came home has been evaporating. So many things that need to get done, ought to get done and some things we just want to get done.
But I've managed to enjoy extra time around the house and with the kids during the mornings while keeping myself a little busy.
In my afternoons, I've been largely studying for my public health course through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a life-long learner, I love this course because I feel like I'm learning things I can apply to my work in PNG as well as having the "opportunity" of learning a new topic every couple months.
I've also picked up a little work in a rural emergency room as well as a local hospice agency and giving a couple lectures at the In His Image residency.
We spoke at Believers Church last Sunday, and were reminded again of how grateful we are to be part of this body. We felt encouraged and touched by the leadership in giving us a time to share our heart and stories from PNG.
We also had the chance to share with In His Image friends and family at a bible study last week.
These times of sharing about our ministry seem intimidating at first, but once we're surrounded by those who have loved, prayed for and given financially to our ministry the nerves are calm and an atmosphere of family takes over.
Speaking of family. Last week we enjoyed Levi's birthday party and we were joined by his cousin, Eva, whose special day is only a couple days before his. This week we plan to celebrate Thanksgiving and indulge in the American traditions of turkey and pecan pie.
Next Thursday I will take a 10 day trip to East Africa.
The purpose of this trip is two-fold. Partly I will be trying to help a colleague and fellow medical missionary who currently works at a Mother-Baby hospital there. I will also be looking into this hospital, people and country as a potential field for our future. While we return to PNG in January, our hearts have been stirred toward Africa since we met there over 10 years ago and have felt God asking us to explore and consider if and when we might transition there at some point. Pray for safety in the current climate, a spirit of discernment and service during my time there and for Esther who will stay back in the US with our kids working on some of her US citizenship application.
Thank you to each of you that has partnered with us in prayer and in giving for our ministry at Kudjip hospital and during our first furlough here in the US. We love having the opportunity to serve the Lord in PNG, to connect with and encourage our family at home and explore prayerfully where He leads us for the future.
Feel free to contact us if you are interested in hearing more and connecting in person.