“Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.”
“His will is perfect; his plans precise
Nothing left to the roll of dice.
Over all the earth, his arm extends;
He guides all paths, and knows all ends.”
“God is always doing 10,000 things in every thing that he does.” – John Piper
“Whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.” -Ecclesiastes 3:14
Our plans and expectations have changed substantially in the last month. Our goal just three weeks ago was to move into our new home in the Finisterre Mountains on September 29th. However, our home currently looks like the photo above. (Did I make it look bleak enough?)
Plans began to change the day before I was to leave Madang with a shipment of house-building supplies. We got word that the helicopter we were hoping to use had been badly damaged. While we could still use another helicopter, we were going to have to limit our load of cargo. At this point, we considered canceling the house building trip altogether. We were not sure if we were going to be able to bring enough material into the tribe to continue with the build.
Just hours before the house building team would board (or not board) a flight destined for PNG, we got a call that informed us we could fly in just enough material to complete both houses through the roof! The trip was still on and the team from the U.S. boarded their plane.
Meanwhile, we had to change plans with our boat captain, who was going to shuttle supplies to Biliau—the costal town where we were going to load the helicopter. But a volcano erupted on a nearby island and our vessel was called away to carry aid supplies. We tried to find ways to work around our boat’s new schedule, but it quickly became apparent that we were going to have to find another boat.
And find another boat we did. Through several leads, God led us to a skipper of a vessel slightly larger than our first choice. Not only was he available to help us, but he could carry in one load what the other ship could carry in three. We got a quote and booked the dates.
The building team from the states arrived on time and helped us load and unload several trucks of cargo at the docks. We were only two days behind schedule and things seems to be moving forward again. But the skipper had overestimated his boat’s capabilities. We had about 4 tons of cargo still sitting on the dock when the ship’s Plimsoll line sank beneath the sea.
Omri, Reed, and I stayed behind in Madang with the unloaded cargo. The rest of the gang sailed to Biliau with the first load. The boat returned the next day. But we would lose another two days before the second load would make it to the shores of Biliau. And Biliau had sufficient troubles of it’s own. Cultural faux pas and greed led to some violence against our tribal helpers and bribes against us.
By the time we all made it into the tribe with all our supplies, it was Saturday, nearly a week since the team arrived. But the building team made good time. Floors were put on both houses and framing began on the Dodd’s house. As work continued we quickly realized we were running out of framing lumber, nails, and time. With only 5 days left to go, our team made the decision to only focus on one house. And praise God, we made good headway! The frame is up, a roof is on, and the whole house has been enclosed by windows, doors, and black plastic wrap.
But there is still a lot of work to be done on both houses… one is just further behind.
As I survey the drastic changes to our expectations over the past month, I am profoundly grateful (thought this was admittedly not my first impulse in each situation). God loves the people of Mawerero way more than we do. And God is infinitely more passionate about his Gospel reaching the ends of the earth than we are. We are merely messengers; God himself is the good news. And he has decided through many circumstances well out of our control to delay our move into Mawerero. Why? I don’t really know. John Piper put it well in a massively understated sentence: “God is always doing 10,000 things in every thing that he does.” It is undoubtedly infinitely more than that, but the point is well made. I don’t know (and will never know in this lifetime) all that God has been doing this month in and through our changing circumstances. But I can guess at a few of the reasons.
- He allowed our dear friends and supporters from the states to see what life and ministry is like here in Papua New Guinea. Unexpected things happen all the time, and the simplest of tasks are often quite difficult here. And this last month helped people to see that reality, and I know it will help them to pray for us, support us, and care for us better.
- He made us depend on him. There is a temptation to not pray with desperation when everything goes according to plan. But upset plans really force us to our knees and remind us how out-of-control we really are. There has been a lot of really sweet, desperate prayer in the last few weeks, and many wonderful answers to prayer as well. Sometimes I am tempted to think that with the right amount of money and determination, I could easily build two houses in the jungle. But I greatly misjudge my weakness and God’s greatness in such moments. He determines whether helicopters land safely or not. He moves mountains to explode in flows of lava and clouds of ash. He reigns over every earthly conflict. And he knows our frailty and limitations. And he has graciously shown us that we need him.
- God changed our plans to bring himself glory. Everything God does is in perfect harmony with who he is. Therefore, he always does what is right. And he orchestrated all our circumstances in a way that will bring himself glory in the end. “For from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). And for all those who are loved by God and called by him, all these things will work out for their good (Romans 8:28). So, while my perspective is limited and I do not understand why God would permit all these changes, expenses, and delays, I know that he is good and only does good. Everything did not go according to my plans, but everything did go right.
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