Saturday, May 3, 2014

More on Life in Lae

Jerry and I spent one week in Lae. What a huge cultural difference with the western world! On our drives to the town of Lae as well as through the countryside, we notice the great poverty and the lax lifestyle. I was going to say unemployment but since most people live off the land and do not get money from the government, they are not really unemployed. They live in homemade huts where they sleep at night, and cook food outdoors over an open fire. They have no fridges or freezers or electricity but just gather the food from the garden or the bush or the river what they need for the day. They bring extras to the market or a roadside stand to sell. On one of our drives we saw people washing, doing laundry and cleaning their dishes in the river. A lot of people walk for miles or take a bus to work or to the market, or they just hang around. Children attend school but the level of education is very poor. 

A Papuan home in the country

A group of homes in the country

Washing themselves, their laundry, and their dishes in the river

Papuans cutting the grass with knives

After living in the country for a while, many families move closer to town and live in settlements, which are overcrowded and terrible places to live. Relatives all live together. Lots of noise, crime, and violence, with people, children, and dogs everywhere. Lots of little stands or a small area on the ground to sell their bananas, papayas, eggs, coconuts, corn, etc. We drove a little ways into the settlement on Friday morning to pick up some people for church, but we did not take pictures because that would be unsafe. Especially in the dark it can be unsafe to even drive on the main road past the settlements. A few weeks ago some men threw rocks at the mission truck while driving by there and smashed the back windows. Ian regularly preaches in the settlements. Even as he's driving past a place, he's often tempted to stop, pull out the speakers and preach for them for a while...until his wife reminds him of other pressing realities.  

At the market in Lae

Nadia and Karlyn shopping at the market

Mary blouses for sale at the market

One morning as we drove into the country, we saw 5 homes on fire. Tim Sikkema explained that that was probably a result of jealousy and so someone burned the homes. Often jealousy over a woman. Quite common to burn down a home. It means the family has nowhere to sleep, loses everything, and has to build a new one.

The Papuan homes do not have washrooms. The better homes have an outhouse a ways away, but most people go in the bush. Public washrooms are terrible, including the one by the church. No locks, no toilet paper, no paper towels. Even the toilets by the church don't have these luxuries because if they did, people would steal the toilet paper or the toilet seat, and if there is clean water in the toilets they would take the water to wash themselves. Countries like this badly need a Department of Public Hygiene.

An ugly practice that many people have is chewing buai, which is beetlenut chewed with lime and mustard. They chew it like tobacco and spit out the beetle juice. It is an addictive drug and gives them a high. It makes their teeth and gums turn red and looks awful. It causes sores, gum disease, rotten teeth, and even mouth and throat cancer, but still many teenagers and adults nevertheless chew buai, including Christians. Ian says that instead of preaching against chewing buai, he preaches that if you truly desire to live a new life in Christ, and are renewed by the Holy Spirit, you will want to get rid of the old life and will desire to live Godly lives, and that includes quitting this addictive practice.

Drinking is another huge problem, especially in the settlements and in town. Papuans do not know how to have just one beer or other drink. They get drunk and become noisy and violent. The missionaries never drink alcohol because buying beer is connected to getting drunk, so if Ian or Tim would buy alcohol, the people who see that would presume they would drink to get drunk. 

On the same property as the missionaries live a Christian couple with 2 girls, Freddy and Alo, in a small house. Freddie is the property manager for the missionaries and helps to plant flowers, plants, and banana trees, as well as maintain the yard and open and close the gate when the missionaries drive in and out. Freddie has been in jail, but has turned his life around and wants to live as a Christian. They are expecting their third child soon. If it is a boy, they will keep him, but if it is a girl, they will give it to Alo's sister to raise. Every child is another mouth to feed, and being very poor makes it hard to have many children.

Freddie and Alo with their 2 girls

Papuans at the mission complex digging a trench

Friday evening we sat around and sang songs, with Tim DeVos, principal of John Calvin School in Kelmscott, who was also here this week, leading on the guitar. Such a lovely evening. We ended with a prayer time together, and felt the bond of faith we have with one another. We prayed especially for Nicole's 20-year-old brother who became a quadriplegic after a wakeboarding accident in January. 

Before going to PNG, I wondered how I was going to keep busy. Well, that wasn't a problem, since Nadia happily gave me some curtains to hem and mending to do. I gave haircuts too and, since Ian and Nadia are such hospitable hosts, there were always tons of dishes to do. And because everything gets dirty so quickly, there was always laundry to wash, hang up outside, and fold. Jerry became a handy man there as well, raising curtain rods in the bedrooms and helping with other odd jobs.

Sweating on the job! Ian is supervising, Tim is watching, and the prof is teaching them how to raise curtain rods.

Since Monday evening was our last evening there, we all went out for dinner together at a hotel in Lae, where they knew the food would be safe to eat, and their vehicles would be secure behind gates. We are so thankful for the time we spent with them this past week in talking, sharing, working, singing, and praying with each other, and feel we have gained new friends. It was wonderful to see first hand the love and zeal these missionaries have for the gospel and for the Papuans, and how the Lord is constantly opening new doors of opportunity for bringing the good news of Jesus Christ!


  1. What a blessing you are to them and they are to you!

  2. Thanks for blogging Teny! Great to see our family and the work the Lord is doing in Lae through your lens. Blessings to you both on your 'where in the world' journey!

    Malcolm Wildeboer