Friday, February 27, 2015

Low-Ropes & Teambuilding!

Sunday afternoon was designated as a Missions Teambuilding/Low-Ropes Course time!
All the missionaries gathered hesitantly in the Haus Win, waiting to see what sort of tortures awaited us. Typically, teambuilding activities require being put into awkward positions out of your comfort zone…and the undertakings we completed did not disappoint! Morgan Stephenson, who is a teambuilding/low-ropes expert, was the mastermind behind the afternoon’s activities. He broke us in slowly with a game of “alien tag.” One person is “it,” and then slowly builds onto themselves as they catch people…growing into a longer and larger version of “it.” My 6th grade student Lainie was the last survivor! 
Run from Uncle Bill!!
Morgan & Uncle Bill explaining the importance of working together!

The winner!
Wind in the Willows…
Danielle Stephenson led us all in a trust-fall activity. We formed a small circle around the person in the middle and they fell forward, backward, and sideways…with their team members always catching them and passing them around.  As time went on, the person in the middle was prompted to close their eyes, and the circle was widened.  Lexi was our brave volunteer! She did great! 

Danielle giving us instructions on "Wind in the Willows"

Lexi rocking the trust falls!

After each activity, we always came back together as a group to discuss.
Slack Line/Tight-Rope Walking...
Morgan set up his slack line between two trees and had Mark and Hali as volunteers to walk across the rope. Everyone lined up along the rope on either side to be “spotters” if they lost their balance.  This was a great activity on perception...and how things are not always as they seem.  
Hali on the tight-rope

Mark on the tight-rope

Balance Beam Birthdays…
Everyone lined up along a skinny wooden beam, and then were told that we needed to arrange ourselves in order of birthday month and day. It was quite the challenge! There were several strategies being put into practice to rearrange the order of people without stepping off the beam. One strategy was to hug the person you needed to switch with closely and slowly step around each other while maintaining your balance. Another strategy, and my favorite, required one person squatting down as low as they possibly could, and another person stepping over them to the next spot in line. This activity took the longest amount of time, but was the most fun! We really got up close and personal with one another. :)
Morgan explaining the rules...

We made the kids go first!

The adults weren't quite as easy...

Preparing to be stepped over!
November & December people rock!

Guys got bored waiting & started striking yoga poses!

Mountain Hopping…
The group was split in half and arranged on two separate wooden blocks, which were just large enough to hold all of us. One person was assigned as the “speaker” for each group, and everyone else was supposed to remain silent. (I emphasize the word “supposed” because we all had difficulty holding back our commentary) There was a platform between the two wooden blocks and two planks of wood. The object of the activity was to get everyone from one wooden block to cross the chasm and platform to reach the other wooden block without falling off. Again, we were all in close proximity for the entire activity, but felt great success upon switching both entire teams without any “casualties.” 
My side of the mountain "selfie"

The other side of the mountain...
Crossing the chasm...

Squished on a platform with these crazy munchkins!

These activities are some of my FAVORITE, and remind me of my days as a Young Life and Youth Group Leader. So many lessons were learned…whether new…or reminders…they are all powerful tools in how to relate and work with other people. Some of the “take-home” revelations were: One can accomplish more and greater things when working with others, rather than alone… In order to work well in a team situation, there has to be trust among team members… Don’t judge the ability of others based on a single event and without understanding all the circumstances… We should be open-minded to the viewpoints, thoughts, and suggestions of others… Sometimes it takes many minds to solve a problem, and other times, we need to be quiet, listen, and do what we’re told… and SO MANY other great lessons! I am so happy to have had the opportunity to participate in such a great learning activity with my fellow missionaries here at Kudjip. Everyone here is a team, as well as a family, and it is amazing to see how all of our individual strengths complement one another in working towards the same goal.


Saturday, February 21, 2015


Since getting settled in here at Kudjip Station, I have expanded my leisure time hobbies (which initially was mostly yard beautification) to also include some time in the Field Maintenance workshop. Sometime in November, our neighbor, Adam Peterson (Missionary Jack of all Trades), had given us a beautifully crafted Adirondack porch chair, and challenged me to make a second just like it. Once the front path was completed, I decided it was time to take on Adam's challenge.

The shop is just down the road from our house, and whenever I could find the door open, or get a hold of Adam's keys, I starting putting in regular time exercising my interest in wood craftsmanship. In my first few trips to the shop, like a kid in a candy store, I enthusiastically experimented with all the power tools, as well as the table saw, drop saws, and air compressor nail gun. With the measurements of Adam's porch chair in hand, I cut the necessary boards from the same scrap flooring Adam had used (actually very nice dark wood), and spent time sanding these rough pieces smooth. Within a few trips to the shop I'd completed the chair, a perfect replica of Adam's work, and the two of them look very nice on the front porch.

Of course, having caught the workshop bug (a common virus shared among the men of Kudjip Station), I couldn't stop there. Sitting in the porch chairs, I had decided they needed a small matching coffee table, the design for which I sketched out on paper first.

Using the same wood, cut and sanded to the right dimensions, it appeared the pieces would fit together as easily as the chair. (Somewhere in all this my Lego-loving inner child was quite satisfied.) In addition, I gave the jigsaw a chance to prove itself and added a little embellishment to the front panel. It all turned out perfectly.

While spending so much time in the shop (this is prior to Christmas), Rachel casually mentioned how nice it would be to have a living room bookshelf. I gave this some thought and decided to model the shelf after one made by my grandfather (a master woodworker), which had cubbies crafted inside the shelves.

I decided to try and surprise Rachel with the bookshelf for Christmas, but it turned out that buying wood of the necessary width would be difficult on my own. As I'd done many times for other projects, I asked another friend on station, Jordan Thompson (project manager for the Hospital) for some help. In the end, the Hospital (thank you Dr Susan) approved and purchased the necessary wood for the project - after all, the shelf will be a permanent addition to the new Hospital housing!

Santa's workshop was in full swing the week prior to Christmas, and Praise God, I finished all the projects on time - though there was an official reminder sent out in the weekly newsletter of the workshop hours (uh oh - no more after hours work!). Christmas morning, Rachel took the bait and gave the appropriate ooh's and aaah's for the gift wrapped porch coffee table that I'd placed next to our Christmas tree - I had her convinced this was her BIG present. Then, after a splendid Christmas lunch at the Myers', we surprised her with a Birthday cake, the ever-so-long Kudjip Birthday song, and I brought out her REAL present, the bookshelf she had requested. Which she loves.

Other Shop presents I'd made for her are flower boxes to adorn the front porch, and a couple wooden frames for the handcrafted pictures Gideon made for us.

Heading into the new year, I challenged myself to increase the complexity of my furniture designs by crafting a little table to stand between our two living room chairs - where there was previously nothing to hold a cup or book.

I used the same scrap hardwood flooring as the porch furniture, but this time I varnished the final product, leaving it a little darker, and more importantly, resistant to water rings.

Another request from Rachel, my next project was constructing a pair of Cornhole boards. I modeled them after a set my younger brother, John, had made for me a few years ago, but using the hardwood scrap, these turned out to be a LOT heavier. Thanks goes to Gail Dooley for making a wonderful set of bean bags to go with the set. Anyone up for a game?! :-)

Most recently, having returned from Dusin with a wonderful collection of hand-crafted Papuan bow and arrows, I devised a couple wall-mounts (similar to the wall bracket used for billiard cues), to decoratively display the bow and arrows on our wall. And of course, the mounts are low enough that I have quick draw access for any front door defensive action! :-) 

I am thankful for the opportunity to be here on Kudjip Station. God has not only blessed my area of work with amazing medical and spiritual experiences, but even in my leisure time, I appreciate the hand of God moving to help me grow. 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for men,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance
from the Lord as a reward. 
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
(Colossians 3:23-24)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DUSIN: An Extra Measure

Shoulder to shoulder in our small two-prop plane, we watched the ordered fields of the Waghi Valley below slowly melt into untamed jungle mountains, which climbed to meet us in the clouds. I was one of six Kudjip Station men heading to the mountain retreat of Dusin for a week of rest, fellowship, and whatever adventures God might provide. The vista of green mountains ahead was not unfamiliar to me, as Rachel and I had retreated to Dusin during our first week in Papua New Guinea for cultural immersion. Now equipped with language fluency, entirely comfortable with Papuan cultural norms, and with an appetite for adventure, my heart soared to see the tiny green Dusin airstrip again. Our plane banked, and the airstrip rapidly filled our view as we bounced into the hillside landing.

My companions for this trip were Adam Peterson, Jordan Thompson, Earl Hartwig, Morgan Stephenson, and Randy Goosens – all accomplished foremen in maintenance/construction, and without whom Kudjip Station could not function or grow. Some of my fellow Station Docs tried to carve out the time to come, but in the end I was the only physician on this escapade. What I soon learned is how quickly a house in the middle of the bush can be fully functional with so many handymen! Things that didn’t work the week Rachel and I had stayed in the Dusin house (electrical/plumbing/etc) were efficiently analyzed and fixed, and very quickly we (happily) ran out of things to do. The house then lapsed into a state of vacation relaxation, and I found myself taking the short walk to White Stone with Morgan, where we individually found a rock upon which to perch, and worshipped God in the surreal splendor of His creation.

Our second day in Dusin, after we enjoyed Adam’s fantastic pancake breakfast and a Bible study led by Earl, we all geared up to hike across the gorge to the local primary school. As we descended the steep red clay path, the equator sun shone high in the sky, and we gasped (even going downhill) for more of the thin mountain air. As expected, we all became winded ascending the far side, but took plenty of time looking around the school before our return. Some locals dared to venture close while we explored the grounds, and I showed them their picture – which they all found very funny.

Looking for fun things to do around the Dusin house, it wasn’t long before I had a number of the local kids playing pick-up soccer, which as older boys and men joined, quickly turned into a joyfully heated scrum amid the soft grass and mud. At a later time, Adam and Jordan (who had packed irons and golf balls), had a small herd of local boys collecting and returning their 50-100 yard chip shots on the airstrip. It was pretty impressive that even the rare sliced shots into the surrounding jungle grass were rapidly found and returned. It probably helped that Adam was handing out candies to the ball boys. With a heavy rain ending the day’s activities, I took the opportunity to save the house’s water supply by showering under the gutter – cold but refreshing!

Every evening in the Dusin house, with the wood stove crackling, and an after dinner coffee in hand, we spent time sharing our testimonies – our upbringing, how we had chosen to follow Christ, how Christ in us had overcome various life struggles, our marriages, and how we had been led to serve in the Mission field. Jordan led us in worship during these times, and many other times throughout each day. God moved in us through our sharing, and having only peripherally known these men before our trip, I found our conversations (and shared laughs) more sincere every day. Our evening downtime was also filled with various card games (Texas Hold’em taking precedence) and an occasional action movie.

Our first Sunday at Dusin, we had been asked to facilitate the local church service. We had prepared some music to share, and I had been nominated to provide the sermon. The service opened with a church elder leading local songs and opening the floor to testimonies. When our turn came, six tall (very tall by local standards) white men stood across the front of the small church building and belted out a few favorite worship songs. Each of the guys then stepped forward to introduce themselves, and I went last, ushering the congregation into a time of receiving from God’s Word. The message I shared was titled “Wan Lain”, which means One Family, and I spoke of our shared membership in the Body of Christ, brothers and sisters together in the Family of God, each of us created with individual gifts for specific purposes, and stronger in Christ as we serve in Love together. I read from the Tok Pidgin Bible; 1st Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 4:11-16, and I closed with Matthew 25:31-40, urging them to choose a life worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. Being the first time to have shared a message in Tok Pidgin, I was filled with joy and humility for the blessing to bring God’s Word to the isolated Dusin community.

Sunday afternoon, I asked Jockie (local leader in the community) to demonstrate his traditional Papuan bow and arrow for the guys. Jockie had shown me his prized bow on my first trip to Dusin, and I was very excited to witness again the power behind the great arrow spear. Here follows an excerpt from my journal after first witnessing Jockie’s bow in action:

The bow was quite handsome, roughly 5 feet in length, crafted from a local hardwood, with a thin piece of bamboo where you might expect to see a bowstring. Each end of the tapered bow had a donut of hardwood keeping the bamboo line from slipping toward center. The arrows, ranging 4-5 feet long, were even more intricate with perfectly straight shafts made from a smaller/harder cousin of bamboo. The business end of each arrow had a different number of barbed tines (single point, forked, or 3-4 splayed tips). These tines were crafted from the same hardwood as the bow and masterfully tied to the end of each shaft with woven vine. Jockie demonstrated how the blunt end of an arrow sat on the 1/2 inch wide bamboo strap, and with a massive show of strength, he pulled ~18" of shaft behind neutral, and let the arrow fly upwards at a 60 degree angle. The arrow soared high across the sky, plummeting (heavy tip first) to pierce the soft earth about 100 yards away, well on the other side of the air strip. What power!

At first I didn’t understand what Jockie was saying – or perhaps I didn’t want to misunderstand what I thought I was hearing. I had asked Jockie to come demonstrate his bow to the other guys, and what my mind was slowly realizing was Jockie’s intention to give me his beautiful bow and arrows as a gift. I was floored. Of course I accepted the generous present, and asked Jockie to teach me his way of shooting. After corrections on appropriate orientation of hands, arrow, and bow, I pulled back a foot and sunk the shaft about 35 yards away. The action was very smooth, and I could easily imagine leveling the shaft at a bird or small animal with deadly accuracy. What a wonderful gift!

The week in Dusin went quickly by, filled with enjoying quality time with the other 5 men, sharing stories with the locals, exploring the beautiful landscape, and absorbing unrestricted Spiritual relaxation. Halfway through the week, the word got out that I am a Doctor, and patients started showing up on the porch – casually present, politely awaiting the correct time to approach, then with winning smiles and handshakes pleading their case. While I had no intention of opening up a full clinic during my week of retreat, I had come prepared. I did not have occasion to use the surgical kit I brought, but a small collection of medications came in very handy. Occasionally, I entertained a family member stating the case of a sick relative (unable themselves to come see me), so I would either give some meds based on the story, or follow the relative back to examine the patient for myself. Used to doing my examinations and treatment from within the confines of a flourencent-lit hospital, I always found these visits interesting – an up-close look into the life and living conditions of my patients prior to their trek to the hospital. The dark little homes all had low ceilings filled with fire smoke, forcing me to remain bent over, squinting to find my way to the patient. They were usually curled up in a corner, wrapped in an old blanket, and irritated at the disturbance. By contrast, their relatives were overwhelmed with gratitude, and we regularly found offerings of vegetables on our porch.

Toward the end of our week, the construction minded men in our fellowship set aside a couple of days to put down some flooring in a new building near the airstrip, which will someday be the Dusin Health Center. A little joke among the group was calling it “Ted’s Clinic”, insinuating that someday I’ll be living and working in Dusin…which I quietly found to be an interesting notion… :-)

Friday morning, we found ourselves staring bleakly at pea-soup clouds shrouding our mountainside airstrip. We knew the plane was on its way, but a landing in this cover seemed impossible. The house was perfectly clean, our bags packed, and our hearts were yearning to see our loved ones again. Man time was great, but enough was enough. The plane came, circled twice, swooped in for a landing, but missed the airstrip by 50 yards and roared again skyward. Our spirits fell as we heard the plane disappear into the distance – another three days before the next plane on Monday. In retrospect, we all came (at some point) to the peaceful conclusion that God had a plan and reason for our extended stay... but in the moment, with cold rain falling outside, we threw our things back into the house, and settled in to watch three movies back to back – in silence.

Saturday morning, in the spirit of “Carpe Diem”, I set out with Morgan for a jungle adventure. We ascended the steep mountain slope above the airstrip, m
y goal being to hike the ridge around the mountain bowl, viewing the valleys and mountain ranges beyond our usual Dusin view, taking in nature’s finest flora and fauna, and surmounting any obstacle that might try to stop us. The path was narrow along the ridge, and the ground dropped away on either side so we were eye level with lower jungle canopy – which afforded us an excellent view of the local bird life. The higher we climbed, the thicker the mist around us, and every tree we disturbed soaked us with cold dewdrops. The vegetation was thick, everything covered in some form of moss or fungi, and we marveled at God’s creation.

As we later cut away from the path to find a waterfall below, we were forced to hack and climb through untouched jungle, often rewarded with sharp thorns in our hands, and the occasional slip and slide down muddy terrain. Approaching the cacophony of the mountain stream, we stumbled upon an odd structure built up from the ground floor with an ornate array of twigs climbing a sapling at center. I was shocked and amazed – it’s a bower! I later looked it up, and found this particular structure to be the ceremonial courting ground of the Macgregor’s Bowerbird. National Geographic would be proud! When we finally returned to our Dusin house, exhausted and full of stories, I was thankful for a hot meal, warm shower, and quiet afternoon.

Our second Sunday in Dusin, we (and by we, I mean Jordan and Randy) had prepared a special song to share with the church. A local pastor was coming to preach, so I was a little surprised when a church elder found me and asked if I would share another message. Apparently the guest pastor was running late. 45 minutes to prepare? Why not. Must be another reason God had us stay for the weekend. As I flipped through my Bible, keeping the topic of last Sunday’s message in mind, I came across Jesus’ parable of “The Vine and The Branches” (John 15:1-7). I decided reiterating our place within the Body of Christ would be helpful to those who heard last week’s message, and also appropriate for the farmers in attendance – which was everyone. Jesus is the True Vine, and we are the branches, grafted into Him, receiving from Him to bear eternal Fruit. From there I read Galatians 5:16-26 to emphasize the difference between the Fruit of the Spirit, and the fruit of the world and our carnal nature. I reminded them of their freedom in Christ to live a new life (2nd Corinthians 5:17), and closed by contrasting God’s Judgement and Grace: He cuts off non-bearing branches for the fire, but prunes in Love His children who bear good fruit, promising them whatever they ask of Him.

Monday’s weather was beautiful, and the plane arrived on time to carry us home. We had not only enjoyed Dusin to the fullest, but God had provided an extra measure, as He does in everything, for which I am thankful.