Happy Easter, Friends!
Isn’t it awesome to know that believers from many nations and cultures will be praising God this week for His power over death and for His great love towards us? This Easter is a special one for us as we approach our “1 year in Papua New Guinea” anniversary. We’ve learned much about ourselves this past year, often our inadequacies being brought to light throughout the trials of it. We’ve also learned much about our God, about His faithfulness to us, and that He IS enough.
The many transitions our family has experienced finally caught up with us this past December, causing us to “hole up” as a family, re-evaluate our priorities, and restructure accordingly. We began home schooling our girls in January, affording us the opportunity to regroup as a family and strengthen our relationships. We’ve also been able to devote specific days and times for Language and Culture learning, allowing us to be more involved together in the surrounding villages. God alone is responsible for the success and restoration we’ve experienced and we praise Him for it!
Chris has enjoyed working in the clinic and has learned much about medicine and the different concerns that face a medical clinic in a third-world country. His work there has given him the opportunity to build relationships with many of the national people around us and given us an “in” to visit with them in their villages and share what God has done in our lives. The more time we spend outside of our mission centre and with the hurting people in the community that surround us, the more obvious it is to us that our hearts are here with these people. While our centre primarily exists for the necessary task of assisting our NTM missionary families in the bush, we have also seen an extreme need for the Gospel and for discipleship right here in the villages around us. Please pray that God would continue to guide us and give us wisdom in the days ahead as we seek to follow Him in this leading.
We are so grateful for the faithfulness of our support team. With the promise of God’s provision, the obedience and sacrifice of many make a ministry like this possible. Currently, we are at 50% of our monthly financial support level. Desiring that you are able to see the fruits of your ministry, we regularly post online as many glimpses of our lives and work here as possible. The easiest, most efficient way for us to do so is on Facebook where we have a public profile. We really hope you will keep up with us there and enjoy all of the pictures. Our latest outreach involved a trek to the remote volcanic island of Manam to help build a home for a missionary family moving in to share the Gospel! Please check out the pictures on Facebook. God is doing amazing things over there!
As Christians,we have hope and a full, abundant life because the Creator God loves us unfathomably and made a way for us to be redeemed through His son, Jesus. He left His throne in heaven, came to Earth and took on the form of a man, and died a horrible death with the filth of our sin upon Him. But it doesn’t end there! Jesus rose from the grave and is alive, conquering death and sin! He offers life to all who will accept Him. Many people in remote tribes hearing this good news for the first time weep and ask, “Did this just happen? Why has no one come to tell us until now?!”. We hope you will celebrate this Easter with a grateful heart and willingness to share Christ’s love with everyone, especially those who have yet to even hear His name.
Chris & Sarah Cooke
While exploring another nearby village during our Culture & Language Learning, we stopped and greeted yet another family working in their garden outside their home. As is culturally appropriate and would be rude if we didn’t, we lingered for a few minutes, chatting and getting to know them a bit. I took a picture of the mother standing in front of her home. This particular photo received a lot of attention on Facebook because of the purple baby bilum hanging on the front of the house. As strange as it seems to us, the women here in PNG carry their babies in these incredible strong bags they make called bilums. The baby bilum is carried across the mother’s forehead and hangs down her back as she walks about or works in the garden. A PNG woman’s work is hard and she needs both hands available. The babies love the cozy cocoon and swaying motion as Mom moves about. When Mom is home, she hangs the bag from a post on the house while baby sleeps. I was excited to share this picture and a glimpse of life here.
One day last week, we left our center intent on visiting a new friend that had just come home from the Haus Sik after giving birth to a baby girl. It had been an especially eventful week for this couple. Just a day before their daughter was born, their nephew was killed when he was hit by a truck while walking home from school. This horrible accident happened right in front of our mission center. With the screams and cries of women and an angry mob looking for revenge on the driver, everyone on center quickly learned what had taken place. Many were praying for the boy’s family, especially this couple, who are new believers trying to show Christ’s love to their family. We hoped our visit that day would be an encouragement.
When we reached their place, we found several women sitting together, mud on their faces, grieving the loss of this little boy. The men had all left for town to settle business concerning the accident. Without going into a lengthy and complicated explanation, the compensation the family has to make when a child dies is great. With the “it takes a village” mentality and practice of raising children, the family actually owes for the loss of a child. When we arrived, the men were out attending to this business and the women were mourning. As the only woman in our party, I went over to each of the grieving women, greeted them with a hug and a “Sori tru”. I was introduced to the mother of the boy who had died and embraced her as well, crying as I learned that her child was the same age as my McKenna. Her face and hair were completely covered in mud and she sat amongst the other women in a seemingly numb, exhausted state. Never having experienced this situation in PNG culture before and knowing so little of the language, I felt like a fish out of water as I sat with them. I wanted so badly to show them how sorry I was for their pain but was terrified that I would screw up royally and somehow offend or hurt them. God sent me an angel in the form of an older PNG woman sitting next to me who actually knew quite a bit of English. In hushed whispers, she translated the concepts I didn’t understand and explained the customs I was unfamiliar with. The mud was to show their mourning, similar to the way we would wear black while mourning in America. As the women told me the story of the boy’s life and tragic death, I was stunned to realize that the grieving mother caked in mud was the very same woman I had taken a picture of in front of her home just 2 weeks ago! I brought my phone out and showed her the picture I had taken. I told her of the many people back home who were interested in the picture, interested in her life! I told her that I would tell everyone what had happened to her son and that we would pray to “Papa God” for her and her family.
Soon after, I heard a wailing cry coming toward us from down the mountain trail. After a few minutes, the grandmother of the deceased boy, who came from the other side of the mountain, could be seen walking toward us. She was wearing only a skirt and was covered completely in mud from head to toe. Her daughter, the boys’ mother, also started crying out loudly, weeping, and falling into her mother’s embrace not two feet in front of me. My first thought was how terrifyingly strange this all was. But then I thought of my daughter, McKenna. If it had been her that had been taken from me so suddenly, how would I mourn? At that moment would I really be any less of a wreck than this mother? Would embracing my own mother after being apart so long and enduring such a loss look that much different? Not really.
My hope, my comfort, and my strength are in Him. Please pray that He will be theirs as well.
Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the ends of the earth I cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
A short clip of our first months here. It’s our first video! Hope you enjoy it:)
Moning, brata na susa! Em I Oktoba; mipela stap long ples faiv mun nau!
Good Morning, brothers and sisters! It is October; we have been here 5 months now! God has shown us much in that time about the people of PNG, ourselves, and especially about Himself. He’s also given us some incredible opportunities. For the sake of time, we’ll just give you the brief summarized highlights:
*The medical clinic’s busy schedule included 5 medical evacuations, 4 of which Chris was the attending nurse. Many clinic days are filled with routine illnesses and preparing medications to be sent out to our missionaries in the tribes. Other days, life threatening situations turn everything upside down. Adjusting to the thought processes and way of life of a culture with such limited medical knowledge and resources has been challenging; sometimes it’s a fun, puzzle-like challenge and other times it is just incredibly heartbreaking.
*Our Language and Culture Learning was postponed when we first arrived due to staffing needs in the clinic. We finally began our studies just this week! Mornings are now filled with Tok Pisin classes while our afternoons are spent in the surrounding villages, interacting with the people and learning their unique way of life. Please pray that we will learn quickly and soon be able to share with them about the Creator and His power and grace to save them even from the spirits they fear.
*After battling serious life threatening infections, a newborn baby girl and her mother have been spending many of their days in our home where Sarah has been teaching basic infant care and hygiene. This precious girl is now 3 months old, finally gaining weight, and free of infection! We praise God for letting us get to know sweet Nasha and her family and for allowing us to be a part of His plan for their lives.
*After much prayer as a family and asking God for direction, we’d like to share with you an opportunity which has been extended to our family to buy a home here on our mission center. As there are few homes available for purchase and most in need of major repairs, we are thrilled that this particular home is newly renovated and reasonably priced. Owning our own home here instead of renting center housing would give our family the stability of staying in one place (avoiding what is called the “Lapilo Shuffle”), lower our needed monthly support, lower our PNG taxable income, and provide us an asset as opposed to rent. The current missionaries that own the home are asking $40,000 and are requiring at least $10,000 down. Two other families are interested in purchasing it as well but the owners are waiting for our response before considering other offers. Would you prayerfully consider giving toward this project? If you have any questions or would like more details, please email us. If you would like to give toward this goal, please email us so that we are able to make an informed decision soon.
PRAISE! *6,000 copies of God’s Word translated into the tribal language arrived in a crate last week and will soon be in the hands of eager new believers! *Against all medical reason, God miraculously blessed in a medevac Chris took part in involving one of our tribal missionaries with a thoracic aortic aneurysm. *Baby Nasha is thriving, growing, and even starting to grace us with her beautiful smiles:)
PRAY: *Mission staffing needs, especially aviation. *For others to financially partner with us so we can continue to serve here in PNG *Our Language and Culture Learning *The Cooke girls as they have struggled adjusting to a new school and curriculum. *God’s will for our housing situation. *The many tribes in the beginning phases of the Gospel teaching.
Thank you for keeping up with our family and all God is doing here. Check us out on the web at www.ntm.org/chris_cooke to read more about our experiences in PNG or check us out on Facebook as Chris Sarah Cooke for updates and photos. We are excited about all that God is doing through your willingness to be used by Him to reach the lost in Papua New Guinea!
Expanding the reach,
If you are looking for a cheerful pick-me-up blog post, this is NOT it. If you can’t handle a sad story at the moment, this is my warning for you to close out this screen right now. I’m writing this as a sort of therapy since the people I would normally cry with are thousands of miles away and tucked in their beds right now.
This past week, a woman in a local village gave birth to a baby girl that she did not want. After she attempted to drown the new born in the river and then left her for dead, a family member had compassion for this little one and brought her to the gates of our mission. The clinic was called and told that a child had drown; the men at the gate were unsure if she was dead or alive. Chris ( and the other medical staff members, I’m sure) were shocked to see an obviously newly born baby enter the clinic. He described her as a perfect looking, healthy, full term baby girl, except that she was a grayish color. When she arrived, she had an extremely low heart rate and they immediately began the necessary procedures and codes to try and revive her barely beating heart. After an hour and a half of doing all that was medically possible in this country, they took her to the Haus Sik in town. She died shortly after arriving.
So much more on my heart and mind that I wish I was at liberty to share with you all! But to be clear, from what I have seen and heard here in PNG, these people place much value on their children and this is NOT a typical story. Yes, the infant mortality rate here is staggering, but for the most part, the people do what they can with the limited resources and knowledge available to them.
I shared this for many reasons but these were the most important: 1. If I tell her story on even this pathetic little blog, then possibly her life could make a difference somehow in someone’s life, someday, somewhere. She was precious, real, and fighting to stay alive. 2. God has allowed us to see much concerning the needs of mother’s and newborns in the short time we’ve been here. He’s burdened my heart for these little ones so deeply that I know He is preparing me for something. Jesus came to the lost and to the sick, meeting them where they were, and compassionately ministering to them in tangible, physical ways so that He could show them their spiritual need of Himself. Is there a better example? Those who personally know me, know that I could never be content to just sit back and watch, shaking my head, saying “that’s just the way things are.” Please pray that God gives me clear direction as to how to have a personal, tangible way to make a difference in the lives around me, showing them His unchanging, unfailing love.
Thanks for “listening”,
We’ve created a public photo album so that everyone can view our pictures from Papua New Guinea, even our friends without a Facebook account. Just click on the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser. As our internet is very slow and limited, please be patient with us as we’ll be attempting to add a few photos each week. Enjoy and we hope you’ll check back often!
It’s hard to believe we’ve been here a month already! We have no doubt your prayers are the reason we’ve settled into our new home far better than we ever expected to in such a short period of time. Thank you for every prayer or kind word uttered on our behalf!
Chris is enjoying getting back into nursing and learning the ropes of tropical medicine. A new illness going around, Chikungunya Fever, has kept the medical staff on their toes. In his first week alone, the clinic answered three radio calls from injured or sick missionaries living in remote tribes accessible only by helicopter. As 45% of the patients seen are PNG nationals, his job has also been a great way for Chris to learn Pidgin, the national trade language.
Sarah spent the month learning how to take care of our family in such a different culture. Every meal having to be made from scratch with many foods we aren’t familiar with, much of her time has been spent in the kitchen. Bleaching produce to avoid Hepatitis A and sifting for bugs is all new and time consuming. A food container arriving from the USA was the cause of much excitement on center last week. As these containers from the USA only come once or twice a year, the items they bring are fleeting but precious, tasty reminders of home. It’s amazing how excited one can get over chocolate chips that are still separate chips or a bottle of Ranch dressing! Before we arrived, another container had fallen off of the truck while on its way here and was raided completely, leaving the store quite bare when we first arrived.
The girls are having a blast exploring their new home! The many different bugs and animals are often the focus of their time and attentions. They play hard outside all day long, come home happy and covered it dirt, and sleep well all night. It’s perfect to them:) The school term starts July 24th. Riley will be in 6th grade; McKenna in 4th; Amelia in 2nd; and Lucy will be in half-day Kindergarten.
As strange and out of date as life here seems to us and may sound to you, we’ve come to realize how pampered we are compared to our national neighbors. Our friend, Janet, from a nearby village, wades across the river twice a week to come help Sarah learn the ins & outs of running a home in PNG. After a full day here, she wades back across the same river to return to her thatched roof hut. She prepares meals for her family with vegetables from her garden cooked over an open flame and hauls water from across the river. With only a 6th grade education, some would think her uneducated or ignorant. Yet it is she who helps us not only with the basics of living, but also with learning a new language, of which she knows five! Janet was the first in her family to trust in Jesus; since then, her husband and all five children now know Him too. Hearing of the changes in their lives since then excites us to help further the gospel in any way we possibly can to those who’ve never heard. Just this week, we were praying as bible teachers presented the last few lessons from the evangelism teaching from creation to Christ to the third village of the Dinangat tribe. After 16 weeks of faithful teaching, we can rejoice since most from that small village did indeed trust in Christ as their “Kidaak Aamna” (Savior).
So many stories we wish we could share with you all! We hope you’ll check out our blog for just a few of the funny or new experiences we’ve encountered here. They are posted on our website at www.ntm.org/chris_cooke . Be sure to check out the new pictures we’ve posted to an album on Facebook titled “Papau New Guinea- Land of the Unexpected”. You can find us on Facebook as Chris Sarah Cooke.
We are able to be here because of the monthly financial support of a few churches and several individuals who desire to see God glorified and lives changed in Papua New Guinea. We are currently at 47% of our monthly recommended support level. Would you please consider giving on a monthly basis to allow us to keep on in the work God has here? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information about partnering with us for PNG.
Thank you again for keeping up with the Cookes!
Until they’ve all heard,
Chris & Sarah, Riley, McKenna, Amelia, & Lucy
With a very sick patient needing IV fluids and extra care, Chris was working late in the clinic one night this week. It was around 8pm and the girls were already asleep so I decided to snuggle up in front of the tv and watch the original Karate Kid. A classic:) About 15 minutes into the movie, I get a call from a neighbor telling me that one of our security guards is enjoying the film with me! Sure enough, I look out the window behind me and there on the path in front of our home stands one of our guards, a national gentleman, with bow, arrows, and spears in hand, watching the movie with me. LOL! Shortly after the phone call, Chris came home and when I told him about it, he suggested that we take him out some popcorn! We sat down and continued to watch the movie and he stood out there the entire time watching it with us. A few times, I reminded Chris to turn this way or that so as to avoid blocking our friends view:) When the credits finally rolled at the end, he just turned down the lane and went about his night. I wonder what he thought of our home country by the glimpses of it he saw in the movie? Strange Americans:)
Today I went with Mason (our language and culture teacher) across the street from our mission center to join in a community work day with our national neighbors. The short 15 minute walk involved following winding muddy trails and fording a waste high, very cold, fast moving river (luckily with no Pacu, the man eating fish). We passed through a small village with homes made of woven grass (pit pit) walls and thatch roofs. I met many new friends along the way and had a chance to practice my limited Pigin (the trade language). As the only two “white skins” to go on this outing, it was hard to blend in and hope they didn’t notice my severely lacking language skills. But our new neighbors were so incredibly friendly and forgiving as I fumbled to remember phrases, names, and pronunciations. Our project today was to dig ditches on the sides of a well-worn path to prevent it from wash out during the rainy season. It was a great opportunity to build relationships with the people as well.
The ground here is very hard and dry this time of year so in order to make digging easier we filled 5 gallon buckets of water in the little stream (lik lik water) and carried them up the path (not an easy task) just to pour them out on the ground. Surprisingly enough, their method was very effective and we finished about at 30 yard section (2 sides) in around two and a half hours. The work was rough at times but there were many hands to switch off and help. During a break time we were given fresh roasted peanuts; not quite like home but they were good just the same. Work was often interrupted by groups of people walking down the path we were excavating. Everyone would stop as they approached and each person was greeted with “moning” and a hand shake. In PNG, respect for each other and the community as a whole is extremely important and this is just one way they show their respect for each other. Schedule is not as important as taking time to meet and talk with people. A concept some of us type A Americans should consider adopting
I’m kicking myself for not taking a camera with me today as there were so many sights I wish I could share with all of you. The good news is I am planning to go again in the next couple of weeks and I won’t make the same mistake twice. I have, however, included a picture of me in town with my new hat. Several of the local men commented that I was a PNG man now:) What do you think?
Random thoughts from the weekend:
*Do I freeze and sift the flour for bugs like many others do here or do I just use it without sifting? If I find bugs (which I will someday), it’ll just freak me out. And at these prices, you don’t throw the flour away anyway. If I just use it, I’ll be none the wiser, any bugs will die when I cook the dough anyway, and a little extra protein never hurt anyone:) I’m leaning towards the later.
* With a solar water heater, showers in the early morning are cold! When rainy season hits, we hear most showers will be this way. Well, it does wake you up!
*I’m counting my blessings that the only critters I’ve encountered in my home thus far are geckos. Just this weekend, a friend told me a rat crawled out from under her chair right between her feet. Thankfully, my Father knows how much I can handle right now:)
*Is the rooster I hear crowing at all hours defective or just jet-lagged like us?
*It gets dark here around 6pm every evening, all year long. This is when it feels the most like home. Since we can’t get out much and there’s nothing to entertain even when we do, many missionaries have awesome home entertainment systems. On Friday evenings, it’s like “war of the sound systems” around here with many having family movie nights. Dad bought us a nice flat screen TV from another missionary that was leaving the field. It’s quite easy to forget where we live on Friday evenings:) We also built up quite a DVD library while we were at home knowing we wouldn’t be able to get any here. It has been such a blessing to us and the other missionaries as we’ve organized it so that others can come and borrow them too. It’s the little things:)
*It took a few days to figure out, but if you ever find yourself needing to know what the two buttons on the toilet are for, just ask us.
*Raising your eyebrows at someone of the opposite gender is similar to whistling at them but with a much more serious connotation. For an extremely expressive person, such as myself, this creates an almost comical situation. My conscious effort not to make this suggestive gesture ends up in an awkward battle of my eyebrows. I’m glad you’re all not here to see it:)
*Chris is riding a PMV (public motor vehicle) into town today to get his license. It’s much cheaper than renting a center vehicle and is a fairly safe and fun way (for a man) to dive into the local culture. To get his Papua New Guinea driving license, he just signs a piece of paper that basically say, “I’m a good driver” and they hand him a slip of paper that gives him the go ahead. He’ll then be able to rent a center vehicle for future trips into town with the family. Vehicles do come up for sale here but they are usually in bad shape because of the roads and are very expensive because everything is imported. Twenty year old clunkers go for the same price of a new one back home. Economically, it is much more practical and just plain easier for us to rent the center vehicles. As far as getting around on center, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for a deal on a golf cart or an ATV of some sort. The hills make hauling groceries and such around a killer chore! But for the meantime, our “fluffy” American bodies could use the exercise:)
* I’ve figured out the secret to being satisfied and confident about every outfit you put on: Do not own a full size mirror! It’s very freeing:)
* The new sights, sounds, and smells (Ohhh, the smells!) are vastly different than home and can be a little frightening at times, especially in town. With all that said, I’m pretty sure God created the most beautiful scenery and absolutely perfect climate right here in the mountains of Papua New Guinea.