Saturday, December 29, 2012

For the Grandparents…

…who helped make their grandkids’ Christmas dreams come true.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

This Advent we meditated on the characteristics of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6. It can be easy to overlook what a great gift God has given us in Jesus during the hustle and bustle of the season. But being surrounded by so many that have yet to hear about and receive this gift reminds us of how lost we would be without our Savior. May you also experience afresh God’s greatest gift to mankind this Christmas.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas!
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“A child will be born to us.  A son will be given to us.  He will rule over us.  And he will be called Wonderful Adviser and Mighty God.  He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever and Prince Who Brings Peace.  The authority of his rule will continue to grow.  The peace he brings will never end.”
Isaiah 9:6-7a (NIrV)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rejoice, Rejoice

Claire and Isaiah’s Sunday School classes have been practicing Christmas songs for a performance during our Sunday morning service.  Isaiah was adamant about NOT singing in front of the church.  We convinced him to give it a try during the Saturday morning rehearsal.  After the rehearsal he decided he’d be OK to sing JUST THIS TIME in front of church.  So Grandma & Grandpa, Grammy & Papa watch and enjoy this “one-time” performance by your grandson here in PNG.  Claire is there too but she’s already looking forward to next year.  <smile>

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coffee Run

Post by Jon--

Coffee beans play a large part in the economy of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  The climate is well suited for growing superior coffee, but the terrain and lack of roads make it difficult for growers to get their beans to market.  When time permits, we help local coffee growers by flying their crop from the “bush” to the local towns.  And not too long ago, I had the privilege of going on one of these “coffee runs”.

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“Remote” only begins to explain the location of the Sindeni, the airstrip where we were headed. The mountains around our mission center are big, but benign compared to the terrain we were flying around.  The pilot had to maneuver around thick cloud cover, while simultaneously flying through several breathtaking mountain ravines.  Suddenly the airstrip was in sight, although it hardly resembles any airstrip back home.  (You can just see it as the light yellow spot in the center of the photo above.)  After confirming that the runway was clear, we completed the approach and landed.

P1100028 (2)Piles of white sacks waited for us at the edge of the airstrip.  Each bag of beans weighed around 150 pounds and we filled the plane to within its safety parameters.  After securing our cargo, we closed the hatch and departed the mountain airstrip.  The smiles on those we left behind conveyed their relief to have the beans on their way to market.

There are very few aircraft in the world capable of going into such an airstrip and carrying out as much weight as the Kodiak aircraft we fly.  We thank the Lord for providing us with a aircraft that allow us to not only serve Bible translation, but also help sustain the livelihood of the local people.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hula Hoop Exhibition

Twenty-four hula hoops lay in tidy rows on the pavement.  Each hula hoop encircled an eager first-grader waiting for the PE teacher to blow his whistle.  Parents crowded around the edge of the pavement waiting for the exhibition to begin.

On the end of one row, Isaiah, nervously chewed on his knuckles.  Lots of people were watching and he didn’t want to be the first one to drop his hoop.  Once he had kept it going for 15 seconds, but his was still one of the first to touch the ground.  Maybe if he tried putting one foot in front of the other that would help him rock better.

At the teacher’s command, Isaiah picked up his green hula hoop and held it in both hands.  “Tweeeet” went the teacher’s whistle and 24 hula hoops began spinning.  Shortly thereafter the first ring hit the pavement, then another and another.  But Isaiah’s hoop kept right on spinning.

010The teacher called out, “One minute!” but Isaiah’s plastic ring kept its orbit.  He heard the teacher yell “Two minutes!” and still he kept that hoop flying.  Isaiah couldn’t keep the grin off his face.  He was doing it!  And just when he checked to see if anyone saw how well he was doing, the ring slipped down over his knee and fell to the ground.  Never mind…he had figured it out!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

National Anthem

O arise all you sons of this land.

Let us sing of our joy to be free,

Praising God and rejoicing to be,

Papua New Guinea.


Shout our name from the mountains to seas.

Papua New Guinea.

Let us raise our voices and proclaim

Papua New Guinea.


Now give thanks to the good Lord above.

For His kindness, His wisdom and love,

For this land of our fathers so free,

Papua New Guinea.


Shout again for the whole world to hear,

Papua New Guinea.

We’re independent and we’re free,

Papua New Guinea.



Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Saturday

006We here in Ukarumpa had our own little post-Thanksgiving shopping—complete with line outside the front door of our store.  Yes, there is only one store so choices are limited and thus shopping is pretty easy.  Easy, but not entirely painless since prices reflect the cost of getting such things as Legos, scented candles, art supplies and gardening tools to our remote location.  But even if you don’t plan to make any purchases, it’s still a fun social event.  I confess I spent most of my time at a picnic table with a friend, a cup of coffee and a homemade biscotti.  Even Santa stopped by to hand out candy to all the good little (and big) children!


Monday, November 19, 2012

A Little Welcome

Welcoming new colleagues and helping them adjust to life on our center is another ministry opportunity here in Ukarumpa.  It’s the “Fellowship Family’s” responsibility to make sure new arrivals know how to find reliable house help, how to buy produce at the market, how to connect to internet, and how to make sure the water coming out of their faucet is safe to drink.  Re-training yourself to do things we take for granted back in the US can make the learning curve pretty steep at first.  But having someone nearby to field questions can make those first few days a little less stressful.

001For the past year, we’ve been eagerly praying for our friends, the Littlefields, as they progressed through training, partnership development, and the Pacific Orientation Course (POC).  Then all of a sudden during the final weeks of POC, the littlest of the Littlefields broke her leg and had to be medically evacuated with her mom to the clinic here in Ukarumpa—and only a few days before her birthday too.  It wasn’t the most ideal way to spend a birthday, but we we count it a privilege to have helped her celebrate, and help her family as settle into their new home.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


We’re back in PNG and our trip to Australia already seems like a distant memory.  We’re readjusting to life without paved roads, shopping centers and McDonalds.  But it’s good to be “home” among friends, and back to a regular schedule with home-cooked meals.  (Remind me in a few weeks that I said that latter part.)  And fortunately, we made it back in time for the biggest social event of the year—Carnival!

2438Every October/November the high school students from Ukarumpa International School put on a carnival to raise money for a local ministry.  It’s pretty amazing the activities the students put together especially considering we’re in the middle of the PNG bush.  Claire and Isaiah enjoyed watching teachers get submerged in the dunk tank, riding on the muscle-powered Ferris wheel, navigating their way through a maze, surprising a friend with a gift from “The Secret Admirer’s Booth”, and jumping in a real, live bouncy castle.

Of course, Mom’s favorite part is the food—a barbecued chicken sandwich, corn and mashed potatoes.  Yum!  The best part:  I didn’t have to make it myself!

Photo by C Koens.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Forgetting the Beach

Of course, no trip to the “Far North” would be complete without a visit to the beach.  Palm Cove is our favorite and since jellyfish season doesn’t start till November we were free to pick our own spot to swim.  (Other times of year, it’s recommended that you swim only within barriers intended to block the stingers.)


In my opinion, the beach is best enjoyed while knitting. <grin>

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Science Field Trip

Claire and Isaiah have been learning about different animals around the world with Sonlight’s Science B curriculum.  Would you believe that this week they were to study animals from Australasia?  I didn’t even plan that, but it’s pretty cool how it worked out.  So not only is our visit to Australia a medical trip and a vacation, it’s also a science field trip!

First we got on the Skyrail and got an awesome view of the Queensland rainforest via a gondola ride right over the canopy.  En route are two mid-stations where we explored the forest floor and learned about the plant life and creatures to be found there.


At the end of the cableway is the town of Kuranda.  A tourist town—almost an Australian Eagle River, WI for those who know what I’m talking about.  But it’s a fun place to visit with opportunities to sample all things Aussie.

Jon and Isaiah decided to visit the Australian Venom Zoo—where as Jon described it, “We saw several critters that could kill you in 30 seconds or less.”  I’m assuming that the animals they’re holding below were NOT venomous, but I’m not sure because Claire and I decided to skip the venom and taste some Aussie coffee and scones instead.


Later we re-grouped to visit the Rainforestation Nature Park.  After a visit with Jack the Ripper*, a dragon and Claire’s favorite—”kuddly” koala…


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…we rode on a duck (DUKW) through the rainforest.  Ironically, our duck is also a misplaced American from Pontiac, MI.  <wink>  Our tour guide gave an excellent lecture on much of the local flora and fauna—much of which is entirely unique to Australia.  And which one do Claire and Isaiah remember?  The Stinger which can cause a painful rash for weeks.  Good one to remember since it’s fairly common in Queensland.


We finished our field trip with an aboriginal dance demonstration and a lesson on how to throw a boomerang by a real pro.  Wouldn’t it be great if school could be like this everyday?

Next week we’re studying the animals of Antarctica….

*A 16-foot saltwater crocodile weighing 1433 pounds with a reputation of having killed 12 of his girlfriends in times gone by.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Granite Gorge

When we’re in Papua New Guinea, the kids and I don’t get out of Ukarumpa very often.  (Imagine never leaving the square mile around your house for months on end.)  So one of the things I look forward to most about going to Australia is just the freedom to roam.  When Jon asked me what I wanted to do while we were in Cairns I said, “After I have my big brekkie and a flat white, I just want to get in the car and drive.”

So we did.  A local friend mentioned that Granite Gorge Nature Park might be a good bet for our little nippers*, so we packed our swim suits, drinking water and a snack and headed west into the Tablelands of Far North Queensland.  It’s amazing how quickly the lush, tropical climate of the coast turns to dry, scraggily bush—although still beautiful in its own wild way.  An hour and a half later, we found ourselves here:


The kids were initially disappointed since they were mainly interested in swimming and finding kangaroos.  But shortly into our hike these rock wallabies came out to see who was intruding on their domain.


After we paid the toll in food pellets, we were allowed to pass and follow the short trail to Granite Creek.


We spent some time enjoying the slippy moss-covered rocks and cold water.  And it’s a good thing too, because afterwards our ankle-biters* got addicted to following the white spray-painted trail dots and we walked…


…and climbed,


and hiked some more.


(Can you see “dino” and his footprints?)

It might have been a very hot and miserable hike had we not been wet when we started.  When we reached the end, we all agreed it was a grand little adventure, but the best way to finish it off…was with ice cream of course!


*Australian for “children”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

“I Can See All the Way From Here!”

--quote by Isaiah upon trying on his new glasses.

The first order of business upon arriving in Cairns, was to get our eyes checked—right after a big brekkie* and a flat white from Stratford Deli.  <sigh of contentment>

I was diagnosed as glaucoma suspect a number of years ago and now that I’m reaching that magical age of 40, <gasp> it was recommended that 017an ophthalmologist check my eyes once a year.  (Actually, more often than that, but this is what we can manage right now.)  Praise God, I have no signs of the disease.

Claire had her yearly eye exam, and we were pleased to learn that she would not need new glasses this time around.  This was Isaiah’s first eye exam and as we had anticipated, he left me as the only un-spectacled one in this family.  Maybe that should be the only unspectacular one in the family, because I think he looks pretty adorable handsome!

*Australian for a breakfast of sautéed mushrooms, thick bacon, poached eggs, toast, and a grilled tomato.  May or may not include baked beans, sausage and/or hash browns.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rest (v.)

I tried looking up “rest” in the Encarta Dictionary for North America and I couldn’t find it.  Somehow that doesn’t surprise me, since in general we North Americans don’t seem very good at doing it.image

The thesaurus on the other hand had some helpful synonyms for the verb:

  • relax
  • take it easy
  • have a break
  • put your feet up

Yeah…we need to do that.  It’s been a crazy month of long hours in the aviation department for Jon.  The kids have not been shy about telling me that are ready for a break from school, and I feel like I’ve been so busy with the mundane aspects of life, I didn’t even have time to tell you how mundane they were.  <wink>  This planned holiday comes at a good time, because if it hadn’t been planned we would have been too busy to do it!

So the scene for the next couple of weeks will be in Cairns, Australia.  “Home” for Claire as much as any place probably is since that is where she was born.  We’ve got some doctor appointments to fulfill, a bit of shopping, and then nothing but “takin’ ‘er easy.”

Do I sound excited?  I am.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stranded Airplane

Most of the aircraft maintenance that Jon does happens in the airport hangars just a couple of miles away from home.  Occasionally, however, one of the planes may develop a problem that prohibits it from flying home.  It doesn’t always have to be a major issue.  Sometimes the pilot just doesn’t have the tools or materials needed to straighten out an otherwise minor issue.  Either way, when this scenario occurs, the mechanic with the most experience on the particular issue has to be flown out to the sick aircraft.  Jon enjoys the infrequent opportunity to make a “house call” and his turn came this week.

While landing on a rough airstrip, the windshield on one of the Kodiaks started coming loose.  The pilot was able to continue flying to Wewak in western PNG, but quickly realized the windshield as it was wouldn’t make it all the way back to Ukarumpa.  He radioed back to home base, and the maintenance team flew into action.

Top left pin: Wewak.  Lower right: Ukarumpa.

Because it was so close to dusk, there wasn’t time to fly anyone out to Wewak until the next morning.  As soon as the sun was up on Tuesday morning, Jon and another mechanic (both with a lot of experience on Kodiak windshields) made the 1.5 hour flight out to the stranded plane.

005A sprawling metropolis Wewak is not, but it does have a few stores, a couple of restaurants, a paved runway and most importantly—a place to work on the airplane out of the scorching sun.

By evening, the windshield was fixed and the plane ready to fly, but again it was too late in the day to fly back to Ukarumpa.  Jon spent the night in our organization’s guest house located in Wewak before heading home on Wednesday morning.

It wasn’t an aircraft rescue fraught with much adventure, but that’s the way an aircraft maintenance engineer likes it.  Jon says, “We had much to thank God for—a hangar to work in, all the necessary tools and materials were within reach, and no surprises.”  In the “Land of the Unexpected” we appreciate the “boring” days too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Juggling for Bible Translation

(Post by Jon)

DSC_0800Juggling is a skill that comes in handy when you’re shop foreman of an aviation maintenance program. Of course, you’re not tossing tennis balls into the air. You’re juggling aircraft maintenance projects. Lately there seems to be more work to be done then time and people to do it.

Keeping the normal aircraft inspection program running efficiently is an every day job, but during the past few months, we also faced some new challenges. In response to the Kodiak manufacturer’s request, the maintenance crew completely removed, inspected and re-006installed the landing gear system on one of the airplanes. We also installed a new external cargo compartment on the belly of the Kodiak. (see photo on right)  This pod allows more baggage to be stored underneath the aircraft, leaving more room for the passengers inside the cabin.

Because the Kodiak is a new design, every major maintenance project is a learning experience for all of us. I enjoy the challenge—especially since the aircraft are proving to be well-suited for the environment of Papua New Guinea and are serving Bible translation well.

Aug 19 T ScottA few weeks ago, we celebrated the progress made in Bible translation during the past year. A copy of each completed work was presented during the Sunday morning service (see photo on left. They included printed New Testaments, audio versions of various books of the Bible, Bible portions published on the internet and more.

We praise God for enabling this work to go on—that all Papua New Guineans might be empowered by the Word of God in their heart languages. And I thank God for reminding me what a joy and privilege it is to be juggling for Him.

(Photos by L Marsden & T Scott)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Good Guys or Bad Guys?

Super hero and the bad guyThis is my favorite picture by Isaiah to date.  To me, it looks almost too perfect to be done by a kid.  More like one of those crayon pictures drawn by an adult but made to look like a kid drew it.  I love the facial expressions, and the placement of the characters just sings, “There’s no escape for you now, Really-Bad-Villain!  Super-Guy is here!”  (And he’s so super that his logo is himself.)

This picture is also a pretty good summary of how Isaiah’s brain works.  His #2 favorite question is:  “Are they good guys or bad guys?”  He makes sense out of his world by determining sides.  Everything is black and white with him…for now anyway.  Yes, he knows that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader but since he has only seen Episode I, Darth Vader is still just mysterious and cool.  <grin>

Isaiah’s #1 question:  “Is it video night?”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

See You Later, Grandma!

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Jon's maternal grandmother passed away this morning. It's difficult to be so far away from family at times like this but we take comfort in the fact that we will see her again in heaven.

We love you Grandma!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Red vs. Yellow

A highlight of every Ukarumpa International School (UIS) year is “Sports Day”.  It’s kind of like a mini Olympics and home school kids are welcome to participate.  The students practice the events during their physical education (PE) classes.  Claire and Isaiah have been taking PE at UIS so they’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks.  Jon even took a vacation day so we could cheer Claire and Isaiah on in their first competition…ever!

All the students are divided into two teams—red and yellow.  As you can tell from the photos, our family is on the red team. (All children in a particular family are assigned the same team.) Then each team is divided into age groups.

The very first event was the long oval run—the equivalent of running from home base through the outfield and back around twice). Isaiah was in the very first heat and he won 1st place in his age group.  Claire's group won 1st place in a relay race around the baseball diamond, and they got three 2nd place ribbons for other team or individual events.

At the end of the day, the red and yellow teams had a giant tug of war. Yellow won both tries and got the most teams points for the day, but both Claire and Isaiah had a great time and can't wait for next year's Sport's Day.  We are pretty proud of how they maintained good sportsmen-like attitudes through all the wins and losses.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From Sorrow to Thanksgiving

Bridge HalversonThe center where we live actually gets its name from neighboring Ukarumpa Village.  The center and the village are separated by the Ba’e River but precariously linked by this bridge—or what’s left of it anyway.  Despite its dilapidated appearance, it is still used quite heavily by the local people commuting to work on the center.  I experienced the “thrill” of crossing it for the first, second, third and fourth time on Sunday when Ukarumpa Village celebrated Thanksgiving.

The American Thanksgiving celebration find its roots in suffering and God’s provision.  This PNG version is no different.  In August 2009, most of Ukarumpa village was burned to the ground in the midst of clan conflict.  Crops and homes were destroyed.  Four people lost their lives and the rest of the inhabitants fled for their lives.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the anguish and despair our neighbors must have faced in the aftermath of such destruction.  In this part of the country, a clan would normally retaliate with like violence on their enemy, and the feuding would probably go on for decades.  The local pastors, however, have encouraged the people to find reasons to thank God.  They thank God that more lives were not lost, and that God provided for the survivors via neighbors and friends.  And now on the anniversary of the tragedy, they hold a Thanksgiving service and feast.

This year all the residents of Ukarumpa center were invited to participate.  So on Sunday morning we gathered together to thank and praise the God who graciously provides for all of His children.  We shared messages of encouragement, gifts of song and the abundance of kitchens and gardens alike.  Not even the drizzling rain could dampen our spirits.  What a blessing to get a taste of that day when we will stand before the throne hearing that loud voice say,

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  (Revelation 21:3-4, NLT)


(Bridge photo by J & L Halverson)