"Do your best to come to me quickly...When you come, do your best to bring the cloak I left with Carpus of Troas and bring the scrolls, especially the parchments...Do your best to get here before winter...The Lord be with your spirit" (2 Timothy 4:9-22).
I arrived at the DFW Airport shortly after 5 p.m. on Sunday, the 7th from Brisbane. I am jet-lagging, but feeling very well after two Come before Winter Renewals, first in Australia and then in Papua New Guinea.
We arrived in Australia to some rainy days – much coveted by Australians after a severe drought. Water restrictions were still in effect. As in Texas, severe drought was followed by floods. We arrived shortly after the flood to periodic rain. There was a swine flu alert and we all walked through thermal portals, checking our body temperature, before entering customs. Customs in Australia are as strict as U.S. customs. From the airport we went by bus to our Australian hotel, which was just a couple of blocks from the beach. We spent our first day sight-seeing on one of those rainy days. We took a bus to a Wildlife Preserve, walked all around it, had our pictures taken with a Kuala bear, petted kangaroos- one had a baby in its pouch- saw wildlife only found on this continent and bought some souvenirs.
We welcomed 40 women from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji to our Australian renewal. I was in charge of registration procedures at both renewals so I got to put faces with names quickly. I got to know a number of the women, some very well, in just a week’s time. I had four women in my prayer cluster and had five prayer appointments and a few counseling appointments happened in my “spare” time. My days began at 6 a.m. and ended each night between 11 p.m. and midnight. The food was great with great variety – as the hotel served both western and eastern guests. I had my fill of miso soup every morning for breakfast, one of my favorites. Georgia Freitas was my room-mate in Australia and I learned to love that woman even more.
Saturday after the Australian renewal, we flew from Brisbane to Fort Morseby and then on to Madang in Papua New Guinea. We stayed at Jais Aben about 7 kilometers from Madang. For Papua New Guinea our facilities were quite modern. It was a piece of manicured jungle. Many, many different kinds of beautiful flowers, coconut trees, banana trees, and a fruit tree that I couldn’t figure out what it might be. The orchids were magnificent. We had electricity, supplemented by a generator when the electricity failed, solar heated hot water (warm every afternoon and evening, but not mornings), and air- conditioning and fans in our rooms (two rooms per cabin) and the water was drinkable – from an artesian well on the property. The 41 women who came to the renewal felt as if they were being treated to real luxury. Jais Aben had a trained hospitality staff and a chef and the food was good – tropical fresh fruit and vine ripened tomatoes were present at every meal. My room-mate was Bernadine Willis from New Zealand, the ambassador from the previous renewal, whom I grew to love. Again, I had four women in my prayer cluster and six prayer appointments, so I got to know 10 women fairly well. The Come Before Winter team made a habit of sitting with someone new at every meal, thus letting us get the know the women as well as possible in a week’s time.
On Friday afternoon after the renewal was over, a van took us into Madang to the Pioneer Bible Translation offices. From there we walked to the open market - there we were able to buy a few souvenirs. That evening it rained, as it often did while we were in PNG, but we were still able to go to a very nice restaurant, where I enjoyed two of my favorite Indonesian dishes – satay (pork on a wooden skewer) with nasi (fried rice with special spices and veggies) before the van picked us up to return us to Jais Aben. We left for Australia early the next morning. Our Air Niu Guini (pronounced New Guinea) plane for Fort Moresby arrived two hours late due to needed repair. We barely made our transfer flight into Australia. When we arrived in Brisbane, we had no baggage. At first I thought it was because the luggage didn’t make it to the plane, but later learned our luggage was loaded and then unloaded. Someone calculated the weight of the plane and measured the fuel available and decided that it was necessary to remove the luggage or us and they decided on the luggage, for which I am now grateful as we would never have made it to our flight to the U.S. if they had chosen us. Thanks to much help from the Air Niu Guini staff in PNG and the Qantas staff in Australia, our luggage went straight from the morning plane from PNG to our Qantas plane to U.S, skipping Australian customs. We spent our last night in Australia in downtown Brisbane, munching on pizza in our rooms as we debriefed and later washed and dried our clothes for our next day’s travel to the U.S. If there had been no washer and dryer available to us, I’m not sure our fellow passengers would have appreciated our presence on the plane.
I will try to write more when I send out my monthly report. I just want to take the time to thank all of you for your many, many prayers for me and us and for the women who attended these renewals. Come before Winter brings women spiritual and emotional nurture – a time of in-depth Bible study and prayer and fellowship - it is missionary care at its best and it was a privilege to be asked to be a part of it.