After several weeks’ of uncertainty, and responding to changing circumstances, we are finally on the eve of a flight back to Australia at 6:30 in the morning. As late as Friday last week, March 19, our plans were in disarray, with the Australian government announcing reduced passenger limits between PNG and Australia, and the PNG government requiring all PNG domestic flight passengers to have a COVID test 24 hours before travel – an impossibility for us in our remote area.
Thankfully, the official exemption from the domestic travel COVID requirement was received Wednesday, leaving only the international pre-flight PCR COVID test to obtain. The samples were taken by our mission clinic doctor at 7:30 Thursday morning – a thoroughly unenjoyable experience – and hand-carried to the testing facility in Goroka, over two hours drive away. We were the ‘guinea pigs’ for this process, with some expressing doubt that the results would be received in time. We boarded our mission aviation flight to Port Moresby (POM) at 9:30am, wondering if everything would fall into place, as indeed each previous step had. We could only trust that God had all things in hand, and that He would enable us to endure whatever came our way.
In POM, we prepared to bunker down in our little motel room, planning to avoid public exposure as much as possible….. then had to deal with Elspeth’s mobile phone dying! [ Yes… the laptop died two weeks ago, and the phone has gone out in sympathy. How on earth do they manage to get the timing so spot on? ] The very helpful motel staff drove us to a shopping centre, where we carried out the ‘purchase phone, setup, test and get out’ mission with the finesse of a navy seal team.
In the meantime, we were monitoring email for the much-awaited COVID negative test results, while preparing the backup plan of getting an alternative test at a local private hospital on Saturday if need be. Then, with a little over a 32-hour turnaround, against all expectations, the test results arrived Friday afternoon at 3:54pm!
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul lists the hardships and persecution he has suffered as an apostle, then mentions his humbling “thorn in the flesh” in chapter 12. God’s response to Paul’s pleas for relief was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We have felt very weak and helpless indeed throughout all of this drama.
The icing on the cake was a text message from the airline confirming our Brisbane flight, and “wishing you a pleasant journey”. If they only knew the joy that is ours at the end of such a tumultuous few weeks.
- Just one…. praise God for this reminder of who He is, and how great are His works