[ Keith ] There was an encouraging moment in my role as Finance manager this past week.
With the current COVID isolation protocol effective on our Ukarumpa base, the PNG national staff families that live on centre were faced with a dilemma. Travel to the nearby township of Kainantu was restricted, but a weekend trip to town to stock up on supplies is a regular habit for most families. Not only is the town market open on a Saturday – the day after fortnight pay day here – the lower prices of goods in the town stores make the two kina (90 cents) per person bus fare worth it.
With pay day approaching, the staff voiced their concerns at possibly not being able to travel to Kainantu and return, without compromising the isolation standards which have been put in place. Purchasing sufficient supplies for a large family at the mission Store would seriously deplete their pay packets. Elspeth was helping out in the Store at the time, compiling orders for distribution, and saw first hand the stress that this issue was generating amongst our staff. One commented to Elspeth, “This rice is six kina here, but I can buy it for four kina in Kainantu.” Confronted with the reality of their wages not stretching as far as usual, the staff were understandably upset.
The first I knew of the situation was an email from the senior supervisor of the Store, looking for options of reducing the price on “providing a temporary discount for our staff friends who live on Centre…”. In a meeting with the Store management team, I suggested that we should look at reducing the pricing on essential items in a sustainable way, not just during COVID restrictions, to provide for all of our Ukarumpa families in a practical way now and into the future. The manager’s initial short list of 22 staple food items soon became 83 items after further consultation, and I had some serious number crunching to do. After some reports generated by our software support staff, a day or two – and a late night – produced a result.
Overall, 52 staple items were able to be reduced in price, and the process now rolls on to working with Store management to overhaul the pricing structure generally to guarantee viability. An exercise in financial management meant so much more than that to the Store staff. Elspeth was shopping on the Friday, and they expressed how pleased they were at the new pricing, and “what Keith had done.”
It wasn’t a solo effort. The caring concern of the senior supervisor, with the support from the programmers, just needed some accounting to ensure a workable result. It’s what I do. Discussing the situation later with other finance colleagues, though, made it clear that it takes some pushing to move ideas onward at times.
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14
Mordecai’s challenge to Esther was founded on the certainty that God would see His purposes fulfilled, with or without Esther’s involvement. To her credit, she bravely accepted her duty, even if it cost her life.
I am certainly not risking my life when going to the administration with plans for change, but most days are quite full, and there honestly is so much work still to be done. At times it is exhausting, and the workload can be frustrating, but I have clear ideas on what could be achieved with a little effort. I know that God has prepared me for this moment, in terms of experiences and skills, so I can, and should be, using these for the benefit of this part of His kingdom.
Please pray …
• for wisdom, and a Christlike care, for our managers during what are potentially stressful times
• giving thanks for our Ukarumpa team – expatriates and national staff. Pray that we work together effectively to the glory of God