The PNG Letters.jpg, 14kB

So, this is Good Shepherd College?

Click to enlarge It really is quite beautiful here at the College, and very reminiscent of New Zealand with the high mountains so close [see the view from our house ]. This has actually helped Sandi to feel more at home more quickly: actually I am a bit concerned how at home she is feeling. She has pierced her nose, burnt her bra and has taken to wearing just a laplap. The PNG women really are very beautiful, and so modest! It's such a welcome change to the visual harassment we get in Sydney, and the bright colours fit in so nicely with their dark brown skin: they are so lucky! By the way, that wasn't really true about Sandi.

The working day
The working week, which is really a fortnight, is quite busy: an eleven day fortnight. When we get around to our fortnightly Saturday off, it is very pleasurable to do as little as possible.

Click to see large original My day starts the night before, when I take our 97 students' breakfast out of the freezer. There is a store room (marked at right) in the dining room which holds two big chest freezers for student food. A baker in Mt. Hagen drives out three times a week to deliver scones and bread. The 'scones' are really a yeast bun. The students get one scone and one tenth of 113 gm of butter for breakfast. We keep the scones in the freezer to keep them reasonably edible. The students are divided into 10 houses. so I take out 7 bags of 10 scones and 3 bags of 9. If I don't remember, it's a real hassle for everyone!

The students have Mass at 6:45am and finish at 7:15, when they come for their breakfast. I hopefully have woken up before then, dressed myself and are next door ready for them.

At 7:30 the builders come. There has been quite a bit of building work, and we are now building four new staff units. John Nambis, the foreman, comes to me for his keys. There are a million keys here, Every door has a lock! After the builders are away, I can have breakfast, which the family usually has started: the boys leave on their 12 minute walk to school at about 7:45. After breakfast the day starts in earnest.

My working day is largely spent putting out spot fires as they develop. The design and construction of these four new staff units is a single task!! When I arrived I was given a line drawing floor plan, with most of the materials ordered. I had some concerns with a few minor areas, and so made small changes here and there: but these have made the construction all the more difficult for this team of largely untrained carpenters. John and I seem to go over the same point many times, and then when it's done, it's done the way he wanted, or thought, not the way I thought: so it comes off and it's done again. This is mostly a problem of communication, but also involves their thinking processes. John will have agreed to aim for a particular point, but in thinking his steps through to get there, makes decisions and changes because of ease and their unrelatedness to the endpoint, which ultimately changes the agreed end point. Much of the day is spent monitoring the workers – to see that their understanding of what I said is what I meant.

I spend some time on the computer. Bookwork takes time. I've also started keeping data in our water storage (usage, collection and wastage) and price lists of bought items. When I came, the organisation of data was not good: very hard to make decisions without data.

Tuesdays is spent in Mt. Hagen, shopping. Takes all day usually and is very tiring. We have to order the run around town so that we actually pick things up last and pay bills first. This is because you can not leave anything in the car, someone will open it, steal what they want and then relock the car for you in about 90 seconds flat! So we carry everything with us when we are not in the car.

Lunches and dinners are cooked for the whole staff, although we generally eat as a family in our own house. The boys walk home from school to have lunch about 12:45. The days are always very full: sometimes without bearing much fruit, but full all the same. Come our Saturday off, and we definitely feel like a break!

The miracle of the keys
Good Shepherd College has thousands of keys. Literally: there are 10 dormitories with 10 rooms in each and therefore 100 student rooms [see the college from the air ]. Each room set has two keys, one room key and one house key. There are spares of each room set, therefore: 100 x 2 x 2 = 400. Each staff member would also have about 5-6 keys, with spares of many of those; say ten staff = 100 keys.

Now I know that only adds up to 500 numerically, but believe me, it felt like 1,000's! You see: every door has to have at least one lock, most have two. Every staff member had at least one big bunch of keys, I had several that would pull my pants down if I wasn't careful. We are all paranoid of keys, especially losing them, because Fr. Kees is a tyrant about his keys.

And I guess it had to happen one day, and one day it did: The builders' lost a key. Unfortunately it wasn't just any old key, it was the key to the dining room where all the non perishable foods are stored.

John threw the keys to John Kongie, and told his workers to lock the dining room, where they were laying vinyl tiles. None of the workers really wanted to walk the 20 metres back to the hall, so they were playing Aussie Rules football with the keys like a hot potato. John threw them to Bruno ; Bruno with a sly smile on his face threw them to Tom ; Tom laughed and tossed them high through the air to Paul who passed them on to Billy. Billy looked over at Johannes, who was returning from washing and threw him the keys. Johannes did not catch the keys, and had to pick them up and then go and lock the hall.

It was the next day that we discovered that a key was missing. Fr. Kees hit the roof! John had not come to me, but gone to Kees to try and get the spare key. I eventually found John on his hands and knees looking in the grass where the keys had hit the ground. I helped him look for about 15 minutes, then said, " Yumi bai toktok wantaim Bikpela. "

Amazingly he understood my fledgling Pidgin and we sat down, held hands and prayed. Actually, he insisted that I pray, and he said, "Amen."

But our faiths were joined, probably because of the fury that awaited in the rectors office. We searched unsuccessfully for another 15-20 minutes, and had to give up for poor light.

That night, going to sleep, I was re thinking what had transpired during the day and I felt quite indignant. I said to God, "For your own name's sake, for John's faith, for your Glory!"

The next morning before work started, Johannes found the key about 100m away, obviously lost a different (earlier) day. I could hardly believe it! I danced and sang, shouted glories and praised God with great volume! It was very significant – we prayed, John and I, and God answered. John saw it: he understood – our faiths had grown!! It was really awesome, I'm glad I took the risk: seeing John's faith and Jesus moving in love and mercy was really beautiful. God is beautiful – he gives us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness!

Sunday at the local church
Click to enclarge We left this morning for the outstations with Fr. Kees at 9:20am. We finally got back at 2:30pm – we had to walk the last 500m to the last church because the bridge was not considered trafficable: which is really saying something because these long term missionaries are used to going where no man would normally go in a four-wheel drive. But the river crossings here find life hard. If they build a culvert, it will eventually get washed away; if they build a bridge, the timber goes missing – probably as firewood.

We're starting to follow the service in Pidgin now. Of course it follows the same format as the English, but the rhythm is different. The translation is also not word for word: some English words take phrases in Pidgin; and visa versa.

At the second church the girls across the aisle from us were so distracted with Nathanael that Fr. Kees had to complain to us on the way home. Said he was not used to a whole block of the congregation not listening to a single word of his sermon!

PK on the back lawn I managed to grab one of the kittens that the College cat here had had. Next to the Staff Dining room is the garage (on the left if you look at my original sketch ). In the garage is the gardener 's room (seeds, sprays, fertilizers, etc.), and through there to my store room for building type things. Not long after we arrived, I was in there and I noticed a feline type movement. I thought it was the College cat, but when I looked, it was 3 kittens (2 tabby and 1 black). After the boys found out, they kept asking for one – the mother is not at all tame and can not be patted!

A week or so so later, I was trying to get into my store room, but found that something had jammed the door. In the midst of pushing and shoving I put my shoulder to the door and happened to look down. There, poking out from under the door was half a kitten! I was trying to push the door open over the kitten. I managed to push and poke the door and the kitten, and keep the kitten in one piece. I picked it up and thought that this was the Divine answer for the boys' prayer. The cat had fallen off the self and I had become its saviour!

It's really cute: it likes to crawl up your shirt front, nibble your chin and walk round onto your shoulder and play with your hair; or even sleep there!

Related stories: The Adoorable Cat