In case you have not yet read the previous blog ‘But not…’ posted earlier this morning (August 6), we will first provide some context.
Our community here in PNG were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a group from the US comprising of six couples and families – the first en masse post-COVID returnees. Among them are our new Director, an experienced Head of Security, teaching staff, translation staff, medical staff, a pilot, Member Care staff, and – significantly for Keith’s work here – two Finance Office administration staff.
Our scheduled community prayer time Friday afternoon was intended to bring the need for safe travel before the throne of grace, but it may take on more of a form of lament. One leg of their international travels has been cancelled, and the flight has been postponed for another month.
Not only will the roles they were to fill here remain vacant, but the relationships with colleagues and friends which were to be renewed are now on hold. After preparing for departure, they now have to settle back into temporary accommodation, and reenter the cycle of pre-flight quarantine, COVID testing, and obtaining visas to transit through multiple airports. Our thoughts also extend towards their family members in the US who, after emotionally processing their farewells, have to work through that again in the weeks to come.
Please pray for all concerned as we struggle with disappointment and frustration, and for the travellers, sheer exhaustion from the process. Above all, pray that we approach God in a right manner – both individually and collectively – as we lay these feelings and experiences at His feet, and open ourselves to His restorative grace.
From our perspective, life under the COVID cloud has continued close to “normal”, as much as that is ever the case. With the exception of having to forego a trip to Australia for family reasons – which is a source of sadness – most of this year has played out according to script. There have been, over recent weeks, cases of COVID-19 in the major urban centres of Port Moresby and in Lae, but the appropriate responses are in place, and we are able to isolate ourselves from the primary risk. That in itself is a challenge for us. Back home, people have faced horrendous situations – the loss of family members; unemployment in the midst of a bleak economy; rising social tensions; fear of community breakdown. The impact on us personally – both here and with family back in Australia – has been minimal.
Over recent months though, there are a number of co-workers who are looking to head back to their home countries, in spite of the difficulties, for medical reasons, family crises, or just to have a break now rather than miss the opportunity completely. In the meantime, others are trying to return to PNG after a period of leave in their home countries, but obtaining approval to pass through three or more international airports with various transit and quarantine standards is proving complicated. In the coming days, several colleagues are making a second or third attempt to board flights, all with the complexity of quarantining on arrival in PNG.
The accumulative effect is that our community is quite obviously down on numbers. There are people holding down two roles; caring for the homes and pets of absent colleagues; delaying holiday leave as there is no-one to replace them. We are feeling a sense of loss, there is no way to sugar-coat it.
During this time of limitations and restrictions, two scripture dedications have been impacted, being down-sized or postponed. That is a hardship that is difficult to understand in terms of God’s sovereign purpose.
Yet, in all this…
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
Whatever comes, these moments that Paul later describes as “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor 4:17) are part of the context of our Kingdom service. What else is there for us to do but stand up and keep going?
Please pray …
Our community is coming together Friday, August 7, between 12 and 1pm to collectively and specifically pray for the doors to open between PNG and other countries, to enable desperately needed staff to return, and for those who need to travel home to be with family to have a way to do so. Please pray with us if you can…
for six couples / families who are aiming to travel from the US to PNG over August 9-12.
for effective processing by various government agencies and airport security staff in the US, in transiting countries, and on arrival in PNG.
for patience and contentment for these wearied saints, as they make this journey full of obstacles.
praise God that the PNG government has granted dispensation for these travellers to quarantine in their own homes at our Ukarumpa base. Pray that we manage this wisely, and show our commitment to respect the authorities God has placed over us.
praise God that our PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, and the State of Energency controller, David Manning, are both committed Christians. It is an encouragement to see press releases which often appeal to people to pray and conclude with “Thank you and God bless”.
We had been somewhat removed from the current global situation, with the limited restrictions and interruptions here not directly impacting our daily lives to any great extent. While keeping track of COVID developments online, a posting from an Aussie returning from Spain provided a different perspective.
The article highlights things that returning expats may take time to get accustomed to, even if they are aspects of our Australian lifestyle which we know and love. This reverse culture-shock is often a reality for returning missionaries. The odd sensation of standing in a supermarket aisle confronted by a seemingly endless variety of goods to choose from; travelling on a smooth freeway surrounded by vehicles moving at 100 kmph, all intent on their destination; being in a crowd and not feeling out of place; simply adjusting to the pace, and volume, and diversity of life in Australia.
The writer also refers briefly to changes in Australia brought about by COVID-19, and that the place people are returning to is not necessarily the home they left. Our generation has not known such a time with closed borders, enforced restrictions of movement, and voluntary isolation for all but essential tasks.
Colleagues who returned to their own home countries this year, in the early stages of the global pandemic, have often been unable to travel, unable to meet with supporting churches, and even restricted from spending time with family members living in other areas.
This uncertainty has us thinking about our intended return to Australia for leave in March 2021. Under normal circumstances we would be scheduling engagements, making travel plans, and ‘locking things in’. While we are still working on some of these, now… it all seems to fall into the realm of ‘hopefully’, and ‘maybe’. Our calendars which so often focus well into the coming year now appear fuzzy, and the uncertainty is discomforting. Part of our 12-month stay will likely (hopefully… maybe…) involve spending time at the Wycliffe centre in Victoria. This point alone takes uncertainty to a whole new level.
Perhaps it isn’t just the surface things which will change in our country. We may end up being a little less sure of our determined futures, and realise that our control systems are not as solid as we perhaps thought.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
Please pray …
for our current staff shortage here, and those trying to return from overseas in the midst of confusion
that PNG respond effectively to the recent occurrence of COVID cases in Port Moresby and Lae
regarding the ongoing impact of the pandemic on our global consciousness – may we not lose sight of the real need for gospel truth as we all look to a vaccine
that we maintain our confidence in God for all that lies ahead