Mission Partner Gives Update on Life in Papua New Guinea

Feb 10, 2023 | News

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By Nikki Wheeler
Mission Partner in Papua New Guinea

Kapuna, in the swampy jungle isol­ated bush, has a cap­tiv­at­ing nature to it – life is more simple. We thirst for rain if there hasn’t been any for a few days because we are con­scious of how much water we use on a daily basis and how the tank water levels are slowly drop­ping. And there is a palp­able relief when the humid­ity reaches its peak and the skies open and the droplets start falling. The cool it brings is a relief, as well as the sound of water rushing off our steel rooves into the pipes leading to the water tanks. I find myself pausing every time by the window mes­mer­ized by the sight of water rushing into the tanks.

Har­vest­ing fruit you have planted and watched grow for months is not uncom­mon to many of you in NZ and, when it allows the family to have fresh food at lunch time, I appre­ci­ate the process of growth and how valu­able each piece is.

We had a won­der­ful time back in Wel­ling­ton con­nect­ing with all our amazing sup­port­ers and prayer war­ri­ors and meeting our two new nephews for the first time. We were blessed to fill our love tanks and fuel tanks before heading back to PNG, quite a few kg heavier in all cases! The response of our PNG friends when they saw Scott with a bit of extra weight ‘on board’ was hil­ari­ous. Cul­tur­ally they cel­eb­rate being more well-rounded as a sign of wealth and being able to feed your family, so Scott’s tummy was openly cel­eb­rated by all we saw. Of course, this is quite an uncom­fort­able exper­i­ence from our Western viewpoint!

We were wel­comed back with open arms and rushed straight into work! I’m not sure we have sat still since the dinghy arrived (Feb­ru­ary Nikki is nodding!). The kids settled back into their friend­ship groups and school classes quickly and we are now nearing the end of the school year so they are pre­par­ing for their exams.

The shop work here for me (Nikki) is taking a life of its own. Within this last year a com­pu­ter­ised system has been intro­duced to assist with stock taking and also an EFTPOS system. This is because with the upgrade of the hos­pital some of the staff can now be paid by the gov­ern­ment elec­tron­ic­ally instead of in cash through the hos­pital funds/lack of, and so we now need a way for staff to access bank accounts. There are no banks in the jungle! So EFTPOS is trying its best in the shop. The poor inter­net makes this system only func­tional for 1hr per day which has its own chal­lenges, but we’re getting there.

There are a lot of volun­teers leaving Kapuna this month and next as the hos­pital rebuild has come to a close. This leaves many gaps, some of which are being filled with some local staff however there are some roles which need people with higher levels of edu­ca­tion to fill. We are in need of someone with account­ing skills to help straighten up and manage the finance system for Gulf Chris­tian Ser­vices and also someone who can work beside me in the shop and who can be trained up to take over when we leave. There is also a need for more teach­ers here for our Kapuna Life School, so please pray about it if you have a nudging for this kind of adven­ture (and get in touch with NZCMS!). Don’t be put off by all my stories of spiders. I’ll issue evac­u­ation notices to all offend­ers if they are a deal breaker for you!

We had a cool weekend trip recently to a village nearby, Ubuo, which is three hours by boat). One of our friends who does Bible trans­la­tion with S.I.L. has spent seven years living and working with a par­tic­u­lar lan­guage group and has suc­cess­fully trans­lated the Gospel of Luke into the Kope lan­guage. It was won­der­ful being part of cel­eb­rat­ing the ded­ic­a­tion of this book and knowing that these people will now be able to hear the stories of Jesus in their heart lan­guage. S.I.L. works mainly in Bible trans­la­tion but we also have friends cre­at­ing teach­ing resources in one of the local lan­guages. This is the first time kids can be taught with resources in their mother tongue.

We went to a youth con­ven­tion in a neigh­bour­ing village largely organ­ised by Kapuna. This is par­tially to encour­age youth in the area to focus their atten­tion on whole­some things and Chris­tian virtues prior to the school hol­i­days when many people and bad influ­ences come back to the vil­lages from Port Moresby and risk leading them astray. Scott shared with the people several times across the event and came back very encour­aged by the response by the Youth. There was a similar con­ven­tion for the men in the region earlier in the month, hoping to strengthen them as good leaders and role models in their fam­il­ies. Domestic viol­ence and witch­craft are still major issues facing the people as well sub­stance abuse so pos­it­ive responses to these Chris­tian events is very encouraging!

On the home front, it is lovely to be back in our house. I never get tired of looking at the sil­hou­ette of the coconut trees against the sunset in the evening and watch­ing the plants grow fast in the heat and humid­ity. Garden­ing is very hot and hard work, but very satisfying.

Abby had a fall in October and frac­tured her wrist (both the distal ulna and radius) and I feel very grate­ful to be at a hos­pital where we could run around, just as the power was going out, and find the medical team who could X‑ray her wrist and plaster it. Blessed to have some Plaster of Paris, but unfor­tu­nately it was poor quality and went soft every few days so we needed to repeat the plas­ter­ing much more often than you should need to. All seems to be healing well so far.This is where Novem­ber Nikki stopped and hasn’t come up for air since!

As I read back I see that I men­tioned that a lot of volun­teers were leaving at the end of the hos­pital rebuild. That there is the main reason we’ve been so busy. Less people on the ground, as I said, fewer with edu­ca­tion levels high enough to manage the jobs the involve spread­sheets, com­puters and cash flow issues. We are doing our best to train local people up into these roles but it’s hard with such low levels of edu­ca­tion. You can see why having a good school here is so crucial. Thank you to those who have given money to support Kapuna Life School. Most of the teach­ers have been away until this week and so we will discuss the ‘pig project’ with them to ensure their buy in before we start build­ing pig pens! There is also talk of build­ing a library to encour­age the kids to read some books that have been donated over the years instead of sitting mould­ing in a corner. So growth is ahead for edu­ca­tion for the Gulf! Praise God.

The Christ­mas hol­i­days allow many people in Kapuna to return to their home vil­lages around the Gulf which is import­ant for them but leaves Kapuna low in numbers. Scott and I become the village engine room in most areas – refilling fuel tanks for the dinghies late at night, keeping the inter­net func­tion­ing, troubleshoot­ing when keys trav­elled out of Kapuna when they shouldn’t have – all sorts! Thank­fully the hos­pital still had suf­fi­cient medical staff that we weren’t called in to help with surgery!

In a nut­shell, we have been very busy and I’ve per­son­ally found it stretched me very thin. The kids have been left alone at home for many weeks while we’ve been at work, so we have had a period of wrest­ling with this with our amazing NZCMS support crew and we have some plans for how to better care for our family rhythms in this year ahead.

Scott has many pro­jects this year to help Kapuna, the local vil­lages as well as the other GCS Hos­pital, Kikori with; toi­let­ing, solar energy systems and build­ing pro­jects. He is still helping with the sewing class and keeping the Days for Girls project running. To help support him and the kids I will need to downs­ize my role in the shop a bit (this is what we are working on) which is tricky as we are the only shop in this area. It’s not like you can go to New World or the dairy if Count­down is closed. So I feel a big pres­sure and respons­ib­il­ity to keep things func­tion­ing for the wider com­munity but need to pre­serve myself and our family too.

This is a prayer point please for us as we nav­ig­ate this and then also hope to recruit someone to support me and then take over from me next year. This will be our final year in Kapuna so we want to set things up well for the future and can see many areas for improve­ment and better systems but we need the right people. This place has been blessed by God and has grown gradu­ally, and the hos­pital has helped so many people for decades. We know His plans are good for those who love Him and this is a place where amazing things are hap­pen­ing in His name and lives in this tough place are being turned around for good. Please join us in praying for the right decisions and steps guided by His plan and not ours.

One benefit of this email being so delayed is I can update you only a few para­graphs after you found out that Abby’s arm is com­pletely healed! We are for­tu­nate to be here with the X‑ray machine that we could reg­u­larly monitor the healing and recast/brace as needed along the way despite ter­rible casting materials.

We have been really healthy after our stint in NZ, I think the good food boosted our immune systems! We are now in water­melon and pine­apple season, so that’s good for the body, mind and soul! I have suc­cess­fully grown nine full sized water­mel­ons myself and we are har­vest­ing almost one pine­apple a day from our garden. It is so reward­ing to lit­er­ally be getting fruits from my labour!

Please keep us and Kapuna in your prayers. We will be having a short break out of Kapuna soon to rest and recu­per­ate, then back into the new school term, new classes and teach­ers and more chal­lenges, but we pray for strength that comes from the well that never runs dry.

Thanks for loving and sup­port­ing us and Kapuna.
From Nikki, Scott, Isaac, Abby and Levi Wheeler

1 Comment
  1. Alison Taylor

    Awesome email. Lits to praise n pray for Nicky. You sre an awesome family doing God’s

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