In the morning of our departure day we stopped by to see my dad at Karcher Estates, where he has lived for the last 15 years or so, first in Independent Living with Mom, then in Assisted Living, and now in "Health Care". Dad had a stroke in December, and is now unable to walk. It was hard to see him so dependent, but wonderful to see how his spirit, his love for Jesus, and his indomitable humor are still fully intact. We hope to see him again here on earth, but if that is not in God's timing we will plan on a big reunion in heaven.
My sister Cammi and bro-in-law Denny Ellis took us to the airport, along with Sam and Amy. Here Cammi is showing the info sheet on their new sponsoree in the Nazarene Child Sponsorship Program. He is Josiah John, the son of one of the pastors near Kudjip. His family have been our friends from our earliest days in PNG. He has a little brother who is my namesake.
Our return route took us through Fiji. Because the Pacific Air did not check our bags through to PNG, we had to claim them in Fiji, wait in the very long lines for Fiji Customs and for Immigration, and then take them a distance to the arrival lounge to the Air Niugini counter and check them again. It took a long time, but went OK, and Air Niugini did not charge us for excess baggage, as Pacific Air had done (we're not feeling like recommending Pacific Air right now).
When we finally made it through to the departure lounge, we only had about an hour to wait for our flight. In typical Fiji fashion, they had this group of musicians performing for the waiting passengers.
The big surprise was who we encountered among our fellow passengers: Harmon and Quinton Schmelzenbach. Harmon is our Field Strategy Coordinator (fancy language for "boss"). They were booked on the same Air Niugini flight from Fiji, but only as far as the Solomon Islands (Fiji and the Solomons are both part of the territory that Harmon is responsible for). They were actually in the flights immediately behind us on the plane, so we managed to have a good visit as we traveled. (That's Quinton in the middle of the photo, using the free internet.)
We arrived back in Kudjip, 36 1/2 hours after leaving Boise. It just took 6 flights (Boise-Phoenix-Nadi-Honiara-Moresby-Hagen). The ride from Hagen to Kudjip was provided by Tim and Karla Deuel, new missionaries who arrived in Kudjip just a couple of weeks before we left. At the house were the usual welcome signs. It took a while to locate the keys to our house, but eventually we got in for quick showers before proceeding to supper with Randy, Joani, Emma, Alexia and Ethan Goosen. They are new missionaries who arrived just days after we left for home assignment. We met Joani's parents in the US, but this was our first meeting with them.
Emma and Alexia Ethan
Simon, Esther and Ishigel Tausi came by the next day. Here they are looking at our album of photos of Baby Andy.
Our "old friend" Bobby is doing well! He's now living with the Tausis. He got some lollies from the bag of candy that Sam sent for his PNG brothers, sisters and friends. Bobby's new favorite words are "choc", "o" and "late". "Late is pronounced like "late at night".
We're now settled back into our Kudjip routine. Each departure from the US is different than the others. This time we were affected by the fact that we were leaving a new little grandson behind, as well as our kids, Dad and the rest of the family. The veteran missionaries told us early-on that the departures don't get any easier as time goes on, and they were right. But we love PNG, we love Kudjip, we love our family here, both missionary and PNG, and we love being in God's will. We know that, for now at least, this is where He wants us, and we are happy serving him here to the best of our abilities.