Is this your plan Lord? Really?
I ask myself the question as I step out of the mission van and pause in the heat outside the old transit building in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
It’s an emotional return. The mission compound has a sad feel, even though some life has returned after the volcanic eruption of 1994. Roofs are missing, some buildings are completely gone—like empty spaces in a row of teeth.
To my left, the former mission president’s house hardly seems liveable. It’s really half a building, and the exposed roofing timbers extending over the missing section remind me of the brim of a scarecrow’s hat.
I ask the question again. Two years of fundraising for the They are Not Alone Project (TANA) have led to this moment. I’m aware of all those who have made donations for the first low-cost refuges operated by the Church in PNG and I feel my pulse quicken.
The interior of the transit house is dim. Light filters in through gaps in the walls and I catch a glimpse of the bathroom, long disused, hiding behind an embarrassed door. The floor creaks. Paint peels from the walls. Only the gleaming corrugated roof seems hopeful.
“This is my house!” a young girl says proudly. Her radiant smile is an infectious burst of joy and happiness in the gloom of the interior. Giggles fill the hallway as I arrange a photo and the staccato flash of my camera captures her grin.
Thank you, Lord.
A moment of confusion follows as I notice her family’s possessions stacked in neat piles on the floor of an unlit corridor. I realise that she is in the process of moving out. Beneath my feet, the timber groans.
The walk through the old transit building has triggered mixed emotions. I feel like an intruder whose good intentions have potential to do great harm. Absently, I run my fingers along the jagged edge of a hole in the wall. And stare down at the fibres in my hand. And blink.
Asbestos! God, it’s too dangerous to live here.
Heavy-hearted, I smile and thank the residents for allowing us to see inside. The Mission president, Pastor Peter Yambe, is at my side. The girls beam at us. And then, beyond the old president’s house with its scarecrow roof, he points it out.
The abandoned treasurer’s residence stands silently, a shell of its former self. Volcanic ash has filled the family room. A tree grows amid the sturdy walls. They look like strong walls, built on firm foundations that have endured earthquake and catastrophe. With a new roof and windows, and a fly’n’build team, anything feels possible. Maybe. Just maybe.
And then the music starts. Mysteriously, it’s in me.
Something beautiful. Something good. All my confusion, you understood. The melody builds. I find myself humming through my disappointment.
All I had to offer Him . . . was brokenness and strife . . . but He made something . . . beautiful . . . of my life.
And then comes a new awareness. This site is perfect. When the buildings are restored, they will stand as a testimony—that what is broken can be made whole again. Pastor Yambe and Dianne Pelap, the director of women’s ministries, have plans. A women’s refuge will be built. And if not that, a centre for adolescents in trouble with the law.
Peace floods over me. I can sense God’s goodness.
Something beautiful . . . something good . . .
“We’ve also set aside land for a refuge at another site,” Pastor Yambe assures me. “If we can’t use the treasurer’s house, don’t worry. God will provide.”
Something beautiful . . . something good . . .
So here I am. Waiting with Pastor Yambe and Dianne. We’re believing that in this place, or nearby at Kenabot, the sound of hammers and saws will ring out. Men will build. Children will heal and play in safety. Victims of family violence will weep and receive counselling.
As I depart for the counselling skills training offered by colleagues Paul Bogacs and Trafford Fisher, the melody is still with me. I don’t know it yet, but in Port Moresby the leaders of Silver Memorial Church are waiting too. They have dedicated part of a building to what will become the Church’s first low-cost refuge in Port Moresby.
Something beautiful, something good, all our confusion He understood. All we have to offer Him is brokenness and strife. But He makes something beautiful of our lives.
Dr Brad Watson lectures in International Poverty and Development at Avondale College. He was recently in Port Moresby with Paul Bogacs, a lecturer in counselling, and Trafford Fisher, the director of Family Ministries at the South Pacific Division. ADRA’s TANA project partners with Church leaders in Papua New Guinea to nurture strong families through provision of counselling skills training and safe places. If you have already donated to the TANA project, or are interested in supporting the establishment of the first refuges operated by the Church in PNG, you can contact Dr Watson by email firstname.lastname@example.org.