A Bittersweet Stop

From Martha: Today I flew from our SIL center in the highlands to the coastal town of Madang. We were picked up at the guesthouse at 6 am for a 7:30 departure. It was cool and foggy. At the hangar we got weighed along with the cargo and we sat down to wait for the pilots to prepare the plane and load the cargo. It was closer to 7:45 when we finally were buckled in and ready to fly.

The highlands have beautiful mountainsides covered with trees and patchworked with gardens. Some of the mountains looked like they were covered with bright green velvet. As we climbed higher to cross over the mountains, we were surrounded by clouds and then we began our descent down to the coast. The scenery gave way to the Pacific Oceans and villages perched along the coastline and on islands.

As a newly married couple we lived in Madang from 1991-95 at the Pacific Orientation Course where we served as school teachers. At the top of a long winding muddy road, the grounds sit on mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s a million dollar view, but the trip up is not for the faint of heart.

This stop was not on my itinerary, but my flight from the highlands to the capital city of Port Moresby was cancelled for Wednesday morning since I was the only passenger. The pilots were bringing others to Madang this morning and from here I can catch a commercial flight to Port Moresby tomorrow.

It is amazing to be back in this place and see our Papua New Guinean friends who have served the course for years. There were big hugs and smiles as we greeted each other. And there was sad news. The office manager who served with us was in a tragic accident in July and was killed. The man’s father has served as a Tok Pisin teacher for years and lives in a nearby village.

After consulting with a PNG friend as the appropriate thing to do to express our family’s sorrow at the news, I purchased tea, sugar, milk, biscuits and coffee and headed down to see the father and widow of David. When I arrived at the house, a family member went and told Amat, David’s father, that a ‘white woman’ was there to see him.

At first Amat did not recognize me and truth be told, I wouldn’t have recognized this thin man with a graying beard and glasses. When he heard my voice, a smile broke on his face and we stood holding hands and he soon told me that David had left them. I told him how sorry we were and we just stood there sharing in moment of sorrow together. I told him that I had brought tea and biscuits so we could sit and ‘story’.

A granddaugther was sent to boil water and we began talking about the family as I updated him with photos on my iPad. He was delighted to see each family member. Later Amat recorded a message to Tim on the iPad – I think he thought Tim would be able to view it immediately.


Later David’s widow, Elizabeth came to the house. We hugged and talked of David and then moved on to catching up on each other’s families. A tropical downpour pounded the tin roof and rivlets of water streamed on the ground outside the covered area where we sat enjoying our coffee and stories. Darkness fell on the village and the rain stopped.

My friend Hetty and her daugther walked me up the mountain back to the camp. What a treat to have a few hours with friends I haven’t been with in years. It was an unexpected detour on my trip and a gift to be sure.Tomorrow I travel on to Port Moresby where I will overnight in a mission guesthouse before boarding a plane to Brisbane, Australia on Thursday. After a flight to Sydney, I will board the non-stop 16 hour flight to DFW arriving before the time that I left Sydney. I’m ready to be home.