Monday, July 11, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 2: Their Questions

Five months from today, we start the journey back to the US for our year long home assignment or furlough. This is "Part 2" in a monthly series I'm attempting to do, prior to our departure, so you can get an idea of what we're thinking and doing as we transition from here to there.

This month I'm looking at the questions my kids have been asking. The topic of furlough comes up, almost daily, as we anticipate all the changes that will be happening. So here, in no particular order, are some of their questions:

Will we have a dishwasher?
This is a big question since our three are on a daily rotation of washing, rinsing and drying. They pray we have a dishwasher so they can be off the hook for dish duty. I told them not to get too excited...those dishes don't load themselves or put themselves away. (Can you hear the collective groan from that response?)


Will we have to burn our trash on furlough?
We have a unique trash system here. Anything that can't be burned, or isn't food rubbish, gets tossed into a can for pick up on Tuesdays. Food scraps get tossed into a bucket that's taken out regularly and thrown into a deep hole in our backyard. Anything burnable gets tossed into another basket and those items burned in our backyard in a cement burn barrel. So...the thought of throwing everything away, into one can, without burning anything is really kind of disappointing to our designated pyro-loving trash burner.


Do we have to wear shoes?
Bless their hearts (see? Prepping for Texas :) These kids are used to having a "shoes optional" lifestyle. Needless to say, there's been quite the discussion about "No shoes. No shirt. No service" in the US. And regardless of our trip to Texas in December of 2014, they still question why they can't wear flip flops in December because, after all, that's summer time on this side of the world!

Just a heads up...old habits die hard, so when we come into your house, we're still likely to take our shoes off at the front door. Everyone has hardwood floors here, so it's common practice to take your shoes off so you don't track dirt inside the house. I've also gotten used to taking my house shoes or a pair of socks with me to keep my feet toasty when we go to someone's house.

Barefoot & dancin' in the rain!
 

Will the power go out in the US?
We're used to almost nightly power outages. Thanks to a generator, it doesn't stay out for long, but it's still something we're used to. We assured them that, most of the time, the power is fine and will stay on all the time. But then that led to a conversation about thunderstorms and losing power, which led to a discussion about tornadoes and thus a science lesson ensued. One thing leads to other around here.

Some nights a candlelight dinner is how we roll!
Despite all of the questions, the kids are getting excited about going back to the US. There will be a good deal of reverse culture shock we'll have to contend with, but hopefully they'll keep asking questions and hopefully we'll have some helpful answers.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sixth Grade Grad


We celebrated sixth grade graduation on June 10. D has officially finished the primary campus and is off to the middle school at the secondary campus once July 20th hits!

The evening was hosted and organised by teachers and parents. Thankfully, one of the parents had just made a trip to Australia and was able to pick up balloons and decorations to us to use for the night.

During the ceremony, sixth graders in the band (all but 3 in his class) played a song and character awards for each student were handed out. D received the “Courtesy” award which they define as “Using respectful and thoughtful ways and words with others, putting others before myself.”


Afterwards, the parents hosted a reception for teachers and the families of the class. There were yummy snacks and a photo booth. Then we had an “after party” that lasted til midnight. I, in a moment of weakness, signed up to stay with a few other parents and Jason took the girls home for the night.






We learned Australian bush dancing and as we had an odd number, I volunteered to even the count. Oh my word…so fun, but wow…I was tired! And unfortunately there is now evidence showing I was a part of this floating around town. I know it will come back to haunt me some day! We also had a bonfire and someone organised a scavenger hunt in the dark at the campus. The kids loved running around in the dark!

By midnight, I was feeling my age, but I was so glad to spend the evening with a great class!

Our attempt at a class selfie! My arm is too short and I couldn't get all the kids in the shot!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Furlough Prep Part 1: The 5 W's

Exactly 6 months from today, we leave this place we call home and start our journey back to a place that still, in some ways, feels like home. So, since we’ve never done a furlough before, I thought I’d start a series of entries over the next few months as we prep for this transition, what we’re thinking, how it’s going etc. Today’s post addresses the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why.

WHO: The Brew Crew 5: two parents who are going back to their home country and feel semi-comfortable there. The oldest who remembers some of his younger years there. The middle child that has vague memories of the US, but thinks fondly of it. And…the youngest child who has lived here longer than she lived in the US. She’s looking at this whole process like a vacation, not going “home”. 

Who else does this involve? YOU! Our family, friends and those who have partnered with us financially and prayerfully.

WHAT: What is furlough or home assignment? Furlough is a period of time that we go back to our home home country, reconnect with all of the WHO mentioned above, plus get the necessary training to return for more service overseas.

WHEN: When are we coming?? Right now, our plans aren’t set in stone. We have our flight out of here booked for December 12, but after that, it’s still very much unknown. We’ll probably arrive stateside later that same week. Lord willing we will be there for around 13 months.


WHERE: Well….this too is still kind of up in the air. Lord willing, we’ll live in Texas near our families. We will spend quite a bit of time traveling to connect with all of those in our WHO. Jason will also need to go several different places for training. Our schedule isn’t firmed up and may not be for quite awhile. The planner in me LOVES to know exactly when we’re doing certain things, but I’ve had to realise not everyone functions like that, so flexibility is the name of the game…or at least my game that I don’t necessarily like to play.

WHY: As I mentioned in the “WHO”, furlough is a time where we can see many, if not all, of the people that love and partner with us. It’s a time where we can personally say “THANK YOU” for sticking with us over these last few years, hug your necks and find out how you’re doing. Our ministry budget has increased so we’ll also be looking for opportunities to share with new people what we’re doing and how they can be a part of supporting the work of Bible translation in PNG.

Furlough will also be a time for Jason to get recurrent flight training of various kinds so he can come back prepared for the next term here. At this point, because of staffing changes, I’m not sure what my assignment will be once we return in 2018. This could and probably will change between now and the time we leave so I might need further training depending on my assignment. This will also be a time where we can hopefully rest and get a break from the many different stresses we face while living overseas.

During this time we’ll need to acclimate our kids to their passport country. The US is a foreign place to them and the culture very different than the one they’re currently living in. We’ll tread the dicey waters of reverse culture shock (a separate post is coming on that!) We hope to see some US landmarks and learn some US and state history over the course of the next year.

And as a side note: We’ll also need to make sure we eat plenty of ice cream those 13 months. Real ice cream that’s made with milk and not unidentifiable acronyms and numbers. It’s just one of the many things we’re looking forward to in the months to come!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

We Are "Framily"



Friends…they can bring us joy, have an influence us, bring us pain or love on us when you most need it. You get the good and the bad when you risk being a friend to someone. A life lesson I’m currently walking through with my kids.

Since living overseas my view of friendship has broadened. When we left behind our family and friends in 2013, I knew things would be different with the relationships we were leaving behind. But it was more than I could have ever imagined the night we boarded the plane that took us across the ocean.

True friends show up at the airport wearing coordinating colors...

I soon realised that maintaining long distance relationships took work…and lots of it. It meant a simple text or email or making sure I wrote a quick note to send with someone who could snail mail it when they returned to the states. I knew I couldn’t let my relationships stateside wither and die just because I had moved 10,000 miles away. Thankfully, our family, close friends and church family have stuck with us on this journey. They’ve updated us on family happenings, major events or just a “hey-we miss you like crazy today” email. They’ve sent packages…some have made it and some have gotten lost in the “overseas package abyss”. Regardless of where those lost boxes are, the emails, texts and e-mails and even lost boxes have meant the world to us.

When we return for 13 months this December, I know I will encounter more than our fair share of awkward moments. There will be times where I’m out of the loop because I haven’t been around to know what’s happened or what someone is talking about. I won’t be speaking the latest lingo (I am getting used to the #hashtag!) and rest assured I won’t have the latest fashion trends in my closet. I’ll be the weird outsider looking inside to a world that I used to call my home. In those moments I’ll be thankful for the relationships that have withstood time and miles of ocean that currently separate us.

What I never expected to find are the kind of friendships we have here. When one leaves their family, home country, friends and “normal”, well, that puts you in a unique category. What I didn’t expect to find with these new friends were friendships that went deep so quickly. Cut the “what’s your favourite colour?” to “So what do you miss about home this time of year?” These friendships have become family type relationships. I lovingly call them “framily”.



Our “framily” are the people we’ve celebrated holidays and birthdays with, mourned with and prayed with when hard news comes from far away. Friendships that will face familiar trials of distance when furlough times don’t align. Friends that speak the truth in love because, well, sometimes you need to be set straight. This type of friendship was something we left and we didn’t expect to find again. But God knew how much we needed those kind of people in our lives.

So as we enter our fourth year in a row of the “see ya later” season, I’m humbly grateful for the friends and family stateside who have pressed on with us through the long distance that separates us. I’m grateful for each person that God has placed in our lives on this side of the world, at just the right time. I know I’m a far richer person because of each one of them.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Three Years Ago...

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of our arrival to Ukarumpa, the centre that would become our new home. We had already spent three months on the coast, learning, adapting and transitioning into a whole new world and way of life and more was on the horizon....we just didn't know what was in store.

On April 30, 2013 we climbed onto an open air truck, along with several fellow students, now great friends, and drove from the coast up to the Highlands. It took 8 long hours to make our way here with a stop in a village for lunch and thankfully, an outdoor toilet.

What we didn't know then, is that students don't get the option to ride on the truck anymore. We were one of the last classes to have the choice between a 28 minute plane ride or the 6-8 hour truck ride. I complained at the time that THE PILOT chose the truck ride, but I'm so glad he did. It's a beautiful, super bumpy, pot hole-y ride, but I doubt we'll ever drive it again because road conditions are pretty bad most of the time making car rides difficult.


Yes...that's our girls ASLEEP in the truck. I don't know how they did it.

One of the river fords we had to cross.

Our first look at the Ramu Valley...getting closer to the Highlands.

Below, is one of my favourite pictures of the 5 of us. We had stopped to let a huge semi-truck pass on the road which gave us the chance to stretch our legs and look at the countryside that was SO very different than the coastal views of the prior 14 weeks. When I posted this picture on Facebook people said, "WOW! You guys are SO tan!!" What they didn't know is it was actually DIRT from riding in the above mentioned open air truck for the last 6 hours!! We were beyond ready to see our house we'd never laid eyes on and get a real shower...not one out of a bucket!


Just a few days later, we had our sign up by the front door. Look how little they were!!

So much has happened over the last, almost 3 1/2 years we've been in PNG. Looking at these pictures reminds me of the Lord's goodness and love towards us, His protection and guidance through all we've seen and done. 

Today, I'm so very grateful He's brought us to this beautiful place.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Craziness...


The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity. Jason and I have had increased responsibilities at work which have kept us busy and me silent on this front.

When we're at work, the kids are at school, learning and expanding their minds. Usually, the 3rd and 4th terms of school are the busiest with school projects and papers. For now, D is the one with the increased school load, but it makes sense as he's almost in middle school. Mo has been busy learning her multiplication facts, reading and having increased writing projects. Mal continues her love for reading and math. She's even in a computer class which spurred on conversations of why mom and dad didn't have computer classes in kindergarten! Nothing like having kids to remind you of your increased age!

Back in March, the Primary Campus held its annual "Book Festival". Each year the classes are challenged to read a certain number of hours and there are activities surrounding reading and focused on reading for 2 solid weeks. The finale is "Book Parade" where the kids dress as their favourite book characters.

This year Mo dressed as "Anne of Green Gables" and Mal as one of her favourite kittens in "Kitten Tales". (I'm very thankful during this time of year for a props room that can help with costumes!)

A couple of weeks before "Book Parade" the 6th grade class held a "Living Museum". Each student researched a real person, read their autobiography and then wrote a short summary of what they read. They dressed up as the person they researched and shared their summary in museum form, complete with visitors pushing a "button" to hear the character speak.

D threw himself into this project! He read about "Nate Saint" and did a fantastic job presenting his information. We are so blessed with an awesome school with teachers who really care about our kids.


Easter weekend was a welcomed long weekend. In PNG, the Friday and Monday flanking Easter Sunday are public holidays which gives us a 4 day weekend. 

This is the view from my porch. I know...me seeing the sunrise?! It happens more than I'm willing to admit, but it's such a beautiful view that I don't mind!


Easter Saturday we had brunch with 4 other families. The weather wasn't terrific, but the rain didn't stop us from great food, fun times and a pretty competitive badminton tournament!



In the midst of all the craziness the last couple of weeks, we've also had a change in our furlough plans. Our original plan was to stay here til June 2017, putting us at a 4 1/2 year term. We've made the decision to leave at 4 years. This plan coordinates better with the long range planning at aviation. So, this means we'll be back in Texas for Christmas this year and, Lord willing, one year in the US! Our current plan brings us back to PNG in January 2018.

Please pray with us as our craziness will continue. Preparations for furlough can be busy, stressful and full of transition. More on our plans and if we're coming to a city near you soon!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Birthday Fun

Sunday I celebrated my fourth birthday in PNG. I know. I can't believe it either. Time flies, right?!

With limited options here as for things to do or places to go, creativity and planning are key. Honestly, I'd rather not invest that kind of time in my own birthday, but thankfully, I have an awesome husband, kids and friends that take good care of me regardless of what I want.

Saturday night, Jason booked dinner for the two of us at the guesthouse on our center. We had a great meal that I didn't have to fix OR clean up! 
 
Sunday morning I woke up to my favourite breakfast, french toast, made by my favourite people. 
Friends came over throughout the day bearing gifts and even my favourite chocolate cake! 
The candle situation had the potential for disaster and took 3 people to light all of them. My kids took great delight in the heat that came from that cake...
And if two days of fun weren't enough, we played hooky from work on Monday and drove into the nearest town of Kainantu with friends. On the agenda: secondhand clothes shopping and lunch at "The Lodge".
Among our finds in town? Canned stewed duck with bone. Can you imagine?! Even if it IS the "Best Brand" I left it on the shelf. Something tells me it wouldn't go over well at dinner at my house.