We are now weeks away from moving into our homes in Mawerero (Lord-willing). Our recent house-building trip during the latter half of January was our final push to get things ready. Above all, we are grateful to God for allowing us to accomplish so much. The best laid plans mean nothing apart from his provision. Perhaps the most epic house-builder in the Bible, Solomon, understood this well:
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1.
We are also grateful for those who joined us on this final stage of house-building. Our visitors included my sister Carolyn, Josh and Julie Kellso (as well as their youngest son, Caleb), and George Siegle, who returned to PNG despite what we put him through when he came with the last building team. Also returning was John Parker, from Orland Evangelical Free Church, along with his friend (and ours), Bob White.
Carolyn, Julie, and Caleb stayed in Madang and helped our families while we were away. For our family especially, it was such a joy to spend time with Carolyn. And I know the Dodds and Lehmans were very blessed by Julie’s fellowship and care.
The rest of us had 13 days in Mawerero to accomplish a long list of things. Our goal was to continue building both houses up to a state where we could move our families into Mawerero. To do so, we needed to complete the electrical and plumbing systems, put up walls, finish installing windows, run propane lines, and put together a significant amount of IKEA cabinetry. Thankfully, God provided the help and hands to do so.
The following are seven highlights (for me) from the housebuilding trip:
1. An Extra Day with Auntie Carebear. My sister arrived a day earlier than we expected. Somehow we linked her arrival with Oliver’s birthday. And so we thought she was going to arrive on January 12th. It was not until the morning of January 11th that I realized she was actually arriving that afternoon! It was a good surprise. And I got three whole days to see her before I left with the team for the mountains.
2. No Boats. Or trucks. For the last four building stages, we’ve had to move tons of supplies by truck and boat and foot from Madang to the base of the Finisterres. It would take anywhere from three to five days to shuttle everything into the tribe. This fifth and final stage of housebuilding was the first time we left Madang by plane. Two Kodiaks carried our crew and cargo to Saidor, where a helicopter was waiting to shuttle us into Mawerero. We left Madang in the morning and made it into the village by mid-afternoon, despite some very cloudy and wet weather.
3. Helping Bob Keep the Smoke Inside the Wires. Before this trip, I new almost nothing about electricity and wiring. Now I know that it’s not the high voltage that kills you so much as the high amperage. A fraction of an amp is enough to take you out and our battery bank holds a kickin’ 1,500 Amps—so that was fun. Thankfully, Bob White has had a lot of experience wiring everything from helicopters to homes. “The trick is to keep the smoke inside the wires,” he’d say. And we did… most of the time. Bob also said that if you drill or nail next to wires you will hit them 100% of the time. So we did a lot of that too. Ultimately, both houses ended up with working electrical systems because of Bob’s tireless labors. And I mean tireless. Most mornings he was up and working by 3 o’clock. And rumor has it, he started work at 12:37AM one day. Which means he’d already worked a full work day before I climbed out of my sleeping bag.
4. Defying Death with Matt. One of the more challenging projects on this trip was covering the windows on the east side of Matt’s house. The floor of his house sits 10 feet above the ground on that side and overlooks a steep drop-off. Through some trial and error, we realized we could work on the windows if we strapped overextended ladders to his house and then strapped ourselves to those ladders. It was totally safe. In fact, it was so safe that Matt would make detailed plans of what he would do if his ladder collapsed. But the best part were the moments where we got all harnessed in only to realize we’d left our materials on the ground. Good times.
5. Watching Kitchens Appear. We’ve been working on these houses for nearly two months, and until this trip we had not worked much on the interior. But that changed as John Parker, George Siegle, and Josh Kellso started to put up walls and kitchen cabinets. Soon the bare bones of the frame became recognizable kitchens… complete with countertops, chest fridge and freezer, a stove, and a sink. Some may think such things sound a little mundane, but I thought it was magical. The house we’d been building for months was starting to look like a home.
6. Wearing Josh’s Shoes. The Finisterre Mountains is not gentle on shoes (some of you will recall the survey hike where Matt had to walk out of the Finisterres barefoot). Just two days into our building trip, the soles of both my shoes started to fall off. I held them together for as long as I could with electrical tape from Bob’s tool bag. Unfortunately, I did not bring an extra pair of shoes. But Josh did. There were times when he questioned bringing a second pair with him to Papua New Guinea, especially when the shoes would get stuck in overhead bins or crash into Julie in the narrow airplane isles. But God is sovereign. And he provided an extra pair of shoes for me to work in. Thank you, Josh and Julie, for your sacrifices on my behalf!
7. Sofas and Stairs. During our last two days in the village, George put two couches together and Bob made a flight of stairs for our house. For most of the trip, we’d been sitting on the floor and climbing up dangerous make-shift ladders. It was so nice to climb some stairs and sit on couches during those final days. But I’m pretty sure the extra ease decreased our productivity. I did not even take a photo of the completed couches because we were too busy enjoying them.
Thank you to the many of you who have supported this work thus far and have helped us get to the point of moving into the tribe!
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