Our Unexpected Return

In ministry as in all of  life, we often find ourselves waiting—actively waiting for God to show us His way before we see progress. In early 2019, Gertrude wrote a literacy and education proposal for the provincial government and for some reason or the other progress has been very slow.  In the frustration of trying to make things work out, we were reminded that only God could control the many factors to ensure progress, such as the timing and preparation with all stakeholders. The delay in these plans has helped us to assume a position of prayerful waiting. We spent January and February in Kavieng managing the Kavieng Center. We expected another SIL team to assume the role in mid-March so we made a day trip to Lossu Village in preparation to return to the Notsi community.  In the meantime, COVID-19 began to touch our lives and work.

When we returned to town, we learned that the team would not be coming and the New Ireland Translation Institute cancelled the April session. Plans to  do a final consultant check of Notsi 2 Corinthians, Jude, Revelation, and Colossians were cancelled. Shortly after that, we got an e-mail from our doctor in Ukarumpa advising us to get on the next flight out of PNG!

This caught us by surprise so we began making urgent plans to fly back to the USA.  We made a second visit to the Lossu to say goodbye. It was an emotional time for us all, especially the translators because we are so close to finishing the New Testament. Also, it was a sad time for Gertrude because it seemed that another opportunity to help the elementary schools was hindered.

Three days before our flight international borders closed and it appeared to be too late to go anywhere so we settled down to self-isolate in Kavieng.  While we were praying and waiting we got word that the American Embassy would arrange a charter flight to the USA. The first leg of our journey home involved SIL Aviation sending a small Kodiak plane to bring us and three others to Ukarumpa to join other missionaries who would be evacuated.  After all the emotional ups and downs of previous weeks, it was nice to wait in the cool mountain climate at Ukarumpa for 4 days while the US Embassy completed flight arrangements. As Kevin labelled the other legs of the trip, we had five ‘ups’ and five ‘downs’ before we arrived in Dallas. Thank God for a smooth and safe trip!

What a surreal experience. It was the first time any of us had faced such an evacuation with such uncertainty about how it would be in the USA or when we could return to PNG. But one thing that kept us steady is our faith in God.   We are grateful for the SIL Crisis Management Team who  worked with the US Embassy organizing and facilitating the evacuation. It was a major and most unusual undertaking and we thank God for all the people who worked day and night to take care of all the logistics.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected many areas of our work including Bible translation, translation consultations, Scripture use workshops and literacy.  Most projects have been put on hold until we are able to return to PNG. Our prayers continue for the Notsi people and all of Papua New Guinea because they are most vulnerable if COVID-19 should spread in their country.

Now we find ourselves praying with all of Christendom for mercy and for God’s sovereign will to be fulfilled. To God be the glory.

Ever in His service,

—Kevin & Gertrude