All posts by connieloua

What are you focusing on?

Sitting on the edge of the bed in the Surgery Ward, the mattress worn and stained by who knows how many hundreds, if not thousands of patients it has provided rest and comfort for over the years, my mind drifted to those patients. What had been their reason for being in this ward, awaiting surgery.  What had their outcome been?  I am certain that a number of them did not get the opportunity to go home… all these thoughts made my concerns for what lay ahead seem so very insignificant and trivial.

We were not prepared for me to need to be admitted to the ward when we had gone to the consultation with the Surgeon’s assistant.  I had a water bottle with me and a bag of peanuts in my bilum (purse) but that was basically all I had.  When we were led into the ward, and pointed to a bed that would be mine for that night, and possibly the next three nights, they asked if I had bedding.  “I am sorry but no, we had not realized I would be admitted today,” was my response.  So I sat on the edge of the stained mattress, praying that God would help me through this and would help me to have the proper attitude no matter what.

A short while later, a nurse said they found a sheet for me.  I was so very appreciative, as it gave some protection from the well-used mattress, and helped to absorb the sweat that dripped from my body with the heat, not only from being just south of the equator close to the sea, but inside the tin roofed, 12-bed ward were probably 30 people, with a few worn ceiling fans that tried to keep the humid air moving.

I lay back and tried to relax as Todd left to go get some water, some food, and a change of undergarments for me, as the clothes I was wearing were really the only ones I had brought that were appropriate for me to wear being in a ward with men, women and children all together in one room.  

We had flown on an MAF plane earlier that day from Hagen to Madang.  Being told that it would depart by 7 am, we were to check in at 6:30 – so in true Aebischer form, we arrived at 6:00am  to make sure we didn’t make anyone wait for us. No one was there at the base, lines had gotten crossed and other things had taken priority and we had not been informed and it goes on and on……. At first, we were frustrated, very frustrated, but I kept saying – “God wastes nothing” and tried to keep the smile on my face matching the smile I had drawn on my mask with a Sharpie.  A couple hours later, through many different misunderstandings, including our Pilot Glenys having to unload at Hagen, 500 + kilos of rice that she was to have dropped at Simbai, we boarded the plane headed for Madang.

Because we had gone to the airport so early, as the sun rose, the sky lit up and I grabbed my phone and ran out to the plane sitting on the tarmac to try and capture the beauty I was beholding.  I got several shots and as I walked inside and flipped through the photos one photo stood out to me and begged to be used.  It was focused on the gravel in front of the plane rather than on the plane or on the colors of the sky – but I took it and used that photo and posted it. 

As you can see, I wrote in the focused strip near the bottom – “What are you focusing on? And then underneath that “Look up- and see the beauty God has created all around you” I hashtagged it #seekingtobeablessing #eveninthis #usemelordtoday #whatsinyourhand #passionandpurpose .  As I felt the Lord prompting me to see the bigger picture and not focus on the possibilities with removing the basal cell carcinoma (bcc) from my nose – like would it be disfigured?  How would I react to the anesthetic again after just having a general anesthetic 10 months ago in the US, and so on.

Then, once we were airborne,  I pulled out my Bible to read since we had left so early I had not had time for my normally daily time in the word.  With all the crazy emotions going on inside of me at traveling to have this surgery, knowing the dermatologist didn’t want to try and remove it himself but wanted me to see a plastic surgeon to do it, I opened to my bookmark for the next chapter to read. And this is what I saw.

The book of Job.  My mind raced – is this what I am going to face?  As I read chapter 2 vs 21…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  I echoed these words – no matter what happens today – Blessed be the name of the Lord.

We arrived and shortly after, were picked up by a Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) Missionary.  He drove us to the flat we had reserved on one of their compounds and as we rode, he told us about the issues one of their families was facing trying to get out of Madang to go back to the US for their furlough.  Their flight had been cancelled 3 times already and there was just one more possible flight that they could get on to get to the capital (Port Moresby) in time for their flight to Singapore and on to the US.  But it wasn’t looking very likely that the flight would actually go. 

When we got to the flat, we met the family who live in the adjoining apartment and greeted them, the looks on their faces said it all.  You could see they didn’t have much hope that they were going to get out that day or make their connections on what was already very expensive tickets…… what were they to do. 

In walks Todd, and within 20 minutes, he had coordinated for them to fly back to Hagen on the MAF flight that Glenys would be returning for due to the issue of having to have offloaded all that rice for Simbai and many other “issues” that had caused our delay which ended up being God’s perfect timing! He was also able to personally call PNG Airlines and discuss getting them out on the last flight to POM – had his executive assistant meet them at the airplane, transfer them and their luggage to the Terminal and even stop to get them some lunch and a coffee before they checked in.  As we prayed with them before they left the house headed to the MAF hangar, I would say, they were fairly shocked at all of this and how God’s timing was so accurate, for us to have met them and understood the story and had the connections to make it all happen.

Todd and I marvelled as we drove to the hospital to meet the surgeon for consultation, how perfect God’s timing was, how God had given Todd the opportunity to meet the person (just three weeks earlier) in PNG Airlines that he was able to call and coordinate them getting on that flight along with their luggage!  We were on a spiritual high as we walked up to the hospital, and met the doctor.  Which was another miracle in how Rickson Poki’s father, Dr. Poki had coordinated for us to go to Madang to the only Certified Plastic Surgeon in PNG to have this rapidly growing basal cell carcinoma (most likely) removed from the end of my nose. After he had coordinated for us to meet with a Dermatologist in Port Moresby the Week before who strongly urged us to have it removed by a plastic surgeon because of its location and the scarring that would most likely result.

Within just a few short minutes of our arrival at the hospital consultation room, I was close to tears, as the doctor stepped out to get a chart to start for me as he had told me that I had to be admitted to the hospital right then so that they could do blood work and to prep for surgery with a general anaesthesia and most likely a skin graft the next day.  I had felt such a peace about the whole thing since the beginning, I had felt like God had orchestrated it all and that it was going to be such a simple thing, with a consultation on Wednesday and then back for surgery on Thursday morning.  I was not prepared to be admitted and not within the next 10 minutes. 

Todd took my hand while the doctor was out of the room and prayed, for wisdom, for peace and for direction.  I opened my eyes and said OK.  When the doctor came back and apologized saying there were no semiprivate rooms available due to covid and overcrowding in the hospital, and that I would be placed in the ward with the rest of the surgery patients, I said OK.

As we walked what felt like a mile down covered sidewalks winding around so many buildings, obstetrics, pediatrics, general wards and so on.  The nurse pointed out the beautiful new operating theater and pointed out the old operating theater and told how blessed they were with the new facility.  We arrived at Surgical Ward 3 and knocked, the door was opened and we entered and walked down through the center of the ward with nearly every bed full and people laying on the mats on the floor beside each bed. Men, women, children, babies. All eyes were on us as we walked past, I am sure they were wondering why the foreigners were there in their ward. The nurse had us sit on a bench while she spoke with the nurse in charge of the ward.  A few minutes later we were led to the bed in the far corner. I sat down on the edge of the bed looking up at the quizzical looks on each and every face.  I tried to smile at them, I waved at a sweet little boy about 3 or 4 years old with an untreated severe cleft palate who was awaiting the surgery to repair it to make eating and drinking less difficult. He just stared up at me wide eyed.

Todd and I sat there for a few minutes in silence, each deep in our own thoughts.  Then Todd said he knew that faith is my #1 strength, but that he really would like to take me and put me on a plane back to the US and get this done there.  And then he said that he realized that my having our youngest daughter on the island without him or my doctor, in the storm, was really a significant faith stepping stone for me and although he didn’t want me to have to go through this, he didn’t want to take away an opportunity for our faith to grow.  We then discussed what I would need from the few items we had brought with us and a list was made for what he would need to purchase, and he was off.  I laid back on the sheet the nurse had brought and prayed, I prayed for those patients around me that I would somehow be able to encourage them, that God would somehow bridge the gap in language and culture and allow us to be a blessing.  After an hour or so, of me sitting up and smiling and trying to greet those around me, and laying back for a bit and praying that the breeze from the ceiling fan 3 beds away would somehow reach me too, a nurse came with a plastic covered pillow she said she found for me to be more comfortable.

I decided that I would ask if I could go for a walk around the walkways inside the hospital compound.  They were puzzled at my request, but said yes.  I have been doing at least a 30 min workout every day, closing all the rings on my watch for the past 179 days and I was not about to stop!  Several people outside asked if I was lost as I walked around and around.  It was amusing but I just told them I needed surgery the next day and wanted my body to be strong for the procedure.

I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of the nurses even though they were not very comfortable having a foreigner under their care. I tried to reassure them and let them know how appreciative I was of their kindness.  They warmed up little by little and became more comfortable, but with each shift change I had to work hard to reassure the new nurses and they too warmed up after the initial shock of seeing a “white mary” (any foreign woman) in their ward under their care. 

Todd returned a couple hours later, making several trips from the car to the ward.  His first trip included a wooden folding chair he borrowed from one of the PBT missionaries – so he had something to sit on all night to watch over me and care for me, along with two boxes of Snax Crackers.  He dropped those off and out the door he went. He returned with his backpack filled to capacity and a large bag with everything he could think of that I would need.  And let me tell you- he thought of everything!  What a guy!  I am truly blessed.

Once he was settled and set up – we walked around the ward handing out the crackers to each patient that was able to eat and all of those that were there to help/watch over them, along with all the nursing staff.  They enjoyed that and it helped to break the ice a bit and to open up a little more conversation with them.  Then we returned to my bed in the corner and he brought out a container of warmed up Chicken Curry that I had made in Hagen for our trip to eat that night.  He also bought me a lot of water, some peanuts to snack on, a large bed sheet that would wrap around the mattress well, my toothbrush and Bible as well as several other items he thought I might need.

With so many patients, the lights stay on all night and different patients had to have their vitals taken every so often, and with all the others in the ward, it was hot and sticky and noisy and sleep was not something that came easily. Todd, sat up all night working on his computer answering emails, in that hard wooden chair. I dozed off and on, waking from time to time to find him walking around or working from a standing position next to the nurses station with his computer on a tall shelf.

About 3:30 I convinced him to trade me places for a little bit so he could take a nap and lay flat.  He didn’t stay there long and after we traded back, I was blessed with about 3 hours of solid sleep – right up till they came to take my vitals and prep me for surgery.

Todd went with me as they wheeled me down the covered walkways to the Operating Theater building and we were able to talk with the surgeon before the procedure and we discussed what he would be doing and the need for the skin graft and how we had hoped we wouldn’t need to do that but we left it to his expert judgement.  He thanked us for having confidence in him and his team.  We also discussed me being discharged after the procedure once I was awake and up and around, so I could recover at the flat that was just about a mile down the road. With Todd’s medical school training, he could care for me well at the flat and we would come back to the ward for any check-ups that they wanted.  They agreed and I was taken back, IV started, O2 mask in place and I drifted off to sleep.

After the procedure, they wheeled me back down to the ward, where I was warmly welcomed by nurses and patients alike. They put me in a bed closer to the nursing station and on the little table next to the bed was a water bottle vase of flowers from the hospital gardens.  I can’t explain how that brightened things up – and they had taken my bed-sheet and tied all the corners so that it hung on to the mattress and didn’t slip off so fast.  As I woke up more from the general anesthesia, they brought me food, chicken with veggies over rice (it tasted like Panda Express) and a coconut to drink, along with a large knife wrapped in a red and white towel that Todd could use to open it.  If you know Todd’s history with big knives, you will understand why he took it outside and had one of the guys sitting outside open it for him. J  It was so refreshing in the heat.

After a few hours, I was released to go back to the flat – Christina the head nurse seemed bummed that I was leaving – but we told her we would be back the next day for a check-up – and asked when she came on shift – not till later in the day so we said we would come back during her time and we did with more crackers to hand out.  We stopped at the store on the way and picked up a box and a couple packs as we hadn’t used two boxes the first round.  We handed one to every nurse, patient and family member there to watch over them and we had exactly enough!  A God thing for sure.

The day of surgery, later in the afternoon and the next afternoon, I was so thankful to be able to go for a walk with Todd next to the ocean, to see the beauty and feel the breeze – and to get all my rings closed!  181 days and counting! 

Sitting here in the flat, looking out the window past the rooftops and gently blowing palm fronds, I can see little glimpses of the gorgeous blue water of the ocean, I feel the breeze off the water and all I can say is thank you Lord – for this opportunity. The opportunity not just to be here in Madang by the ocean, but to be used as an agent of blessing for others, for helping me to look up and see the beauty God has created all around me in the people He has placed around me, and not to focus on my pain, my fears, myself, but to be open to what He has for me each step of the way.

Unity

UNITY

1a: the quality or state of not being multiple ONENESS

2a: a condition of harmony ACCORD

b: continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action)

3a: the quality or state of being made one UNIFICATION

One of the prayers Todd and I have for the MAF PNG Team is that we would have Unity, as Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17. That is asking a lot when you consider that we have a group of people from 11 different countries with National coworkers from many different tribal areas (that don’t always get along with each other).  Now add in the fact that they all come from numerous denominational backgrounds and there is a significant age range to consider as well. Now put them all together living in close quarters, in what can occasionally be a somewhat hostile region of the country, and then expect them to work together in unity.

MAF PNG Team Christmas 2018

With all of those variables, am so very thankful that we do have unity within the MAF PNG Program!  And this is once again evident in the way the team has come together in this crisis we now find ourselves in across the globe. 

Todd with his executive assistant Rickson Poki

I am so very thankful for the team we have there in PNG that is looking after my husband as he opted to not come to America with me for the surgery that I am needing, but rather, we decided together that he would remain in PNG to help guide the team in this difficult time for the best possible outcome that we can obtain!  From dinners, to snacks, to checking in with him – the team has been so great at making sure that even though he as the Country Director is putting in really long hours every day, he is taking as good of care of himself as possible. 

The PNG Program is on stand down (not flying) and now the Government there has issued a stay at home order for 2 weeks that includes NO crossing provincial border by foot, vehicle or air. With this order, there is very little movement at our main office or other bases, however many of our staff continue to work long hours from home.  Prayers are greatly appreciated, as some of our mechanics are working to get a plane operational in case of emergencies, as well as HR and Finance working to get payroll out when possible. 

The team went out and purchased food stocks for the National team members, as many did not have cash available to do so at such short notice of the stay at home order.  I am so thankful for the whole team and how they have been looking out for each other. 

The Immediate Response Team (IRT) have been meeting daily in conference calls to keep everyone informed and have been putting in long hours working on getting approvals for emergency flights from the government and working with Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in the next province over from our Hagen Base to verify that they will accept patients, should we have anyone of our staff contract the virus, along with approval from the govt/police to cross that border if needed.

As I sit here in self-isolation, alone in a small flat in Idaho, I read facebook posts of people in the US struggling with the isolation. I am doing all I can to keep in contact with our team back and in PNG and those who like me, for various reasons have had to leave the country, and as I focus on ways to do that, I forget about my own isolation. I am thanking God for technology that allows me to what’s app video talk to my friend in India who is recovering from a recurrence of cancer, and with my husband in PNG.  I am thankful for the group chats I am a part of that help me stay connected to our team and to individuals around the world.  And I get to witness via those messages, their love and unity!

I just posted on social media a photo of a girl from an isolated community we serve and that I was blessed to be able to visit with medicine, eye glasses, solar lights, and Bibles.  The community was so thankful for everything we brought.  I have thought of those people so much over the past days of isolation….. Especially here in America with several stores open within walking distance, we cannot comprehend what isolation really is.  My prayer is that everyone across the world would really take a look at what is important and what is just stuff!  That we would all look beyond our comfort zone and see the needs of the world around us, and that each one would take steps to help meet those needs.

Our youngest daughter is a 3rd grade teach in Boise Idaho, the school has a large refugee population and serves the underprivileged, with the schools shutting down by government order, she and some of her fellow teachers, along with the help of her sister, have been putting together healthy snack bags with reading books for her students and then leaving the boxes filled with them at the apartment complexes that many of her students live in with a note to take as many as needed…..I love the big hearts of my girls, to see the needs around them and do what they can to meet those needs. 

My email signature has included a quote from a great Christian woman.  “Victory in life isn’t about personal success; it is about helping others who have a need that you can fill”.        ~Ellen Cole Landreth (yep – that’s my Mom) J

What is a need of others / your neighbors that you could help fill?  I challenge you to think about that and then act on it!  As you do, reach out and help, your perspective will change and you will be filled with a joy that doesn’t come from binge watching your favorite TV program, or eating all the isolation snacks you bought.  And don’t stop with one act of kindness – keep it going, looking daily for ways to bless others.  And it doesn’t have to be physical – it can be spiritual or emotional as well, as you reach out in prayer for those you know need it, or with a word of encouragement via social media or email or even with an old fashioned card or phone call.  

Lets turn Covid 19 into the starting point of a better tomorrow!  Of a more caring, others focused, life for everyone across the globe!  Don’t let it bring you down – look up and as you do, your body will follow, your spirit will soar and you will be a blessing to others!

Praying together with you for our world!

Connie Lou

For Todd too

all about focus

As I sit in my tiny studio flat on this the 3rd day of self-isolation, I reflect back on our lives in ministry/missions across the globe.  This was prompted by a fb post I saw from one of the younger brothers of our twin sons who just lost his newborn baby. 

As I mourn with Louis and think about his loss and the way he became “one of my boys” and how many people there are across the world that are so precious to me it causes my heart to overflow with gratitude for all the amazing people God has placed in my life! 

I also am reflecting on different situations that we have lived through, such as the devastating Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever outbreak in the islands (flu like symptoms resulting in death within 24 hours of onset) where Todd was flying to the places and bringing these patients back with at that time, an unknown illness that we assumed might take his life as well and yet we knew God had called us there to help as best as we could.  And we trusted Him for the outcome

Then my mind drifted to the war in West Africa when 3 moms and 11 kids were evacuated to South Africa leaving all the Dads in the civil war zone to wind things up for the mission and houses, and then attempt to get out if they could…. The longest 3 weeks of my life as we waited, hoping to hear anything we could from the men…..trying to keep the homeschooling going with all 4 of our kids in our tiny apartment with the kids all sleeping on thin foam mats spread across the tiny living room. And how we as a family had a pow-wow and decided that we would do what we could to help the other two families, so the girls would go and wash dishes for the other families, or volunteer to feed the baby breakfast, and the boys would help babysit so I could take the other gals out for coffee to de-stress and have some adult conversations, and also have a safe place to voice their fears and then pray together.  Our kids look back on that time with fond memories because they didn’t just sit and feel sorry for themselves, they concentrated on others and they thrived through that time.  (yes there is still some ptsd from it all but the overall memories are good ones for our family)

Then my mind drifted to the Super Typhoon in the central Philippines where Todd was going down into the middle of the disaster zone repeatedly for over a month to assist with assessing the needs and relief efforts.  The World Mission Communication (WMC) team and I worked long hours, several times we would go home from the office well after midnight as we attempted to keep the global church informed of the situation, calling for prayer and also assistance to help the people with relief supplies and to rebuild.  And yet God….. gave us the strength we needed, the wisdom and insight and abilities throughout it all.

Now we are dealing with a global pandemic with Covid 19.  I am in the US in isolation, trying to keep in contact with our friends and team spread across the world now, and Todd is in the Highlands of PNG helping to lead and encourage our team still there in country. 

I am seeing a trend here…..being separated from my wonderful husband with each of us focusing on helping those that God has placed us with……

This morning about 5am Idaho time, and 9pm Mount Hagen time, as Todd had just come home from a long day at work, we were able to talk on the phone.  I was greatly encouraged by the sound of his voice and the things he told me about, and asked me about (how to make the dog food, ratios of water to veggies and rice etc…) and how normal it felt.

Since being in isolation, I have had a few distance visitors come see me.  What joy it brings to my heart to see family and visit in person rather just by facetime.  I have yet to be bored!  Working with the team across the world on several different projects and with issues that have come up, doing my best to be a support and encouragement.  I have some plans to work on organizing my photos etc… but have not had a chance to work on that yet.  However, I am only on day 3 of isolation, so I still have time. Haha

I pray that each one who reads this would see the opportunities to encourage and bless those around you as you have more than normal time on your hands no matter what your situation is, with the restrictions and closures of so many schools, businesses and churches.  Look for ways to be a blessing to others – you will be blessed in your efforts and you will be given what you need, strength, energy, wisdom and insights, to do so!

Your prayers are still very much needed and appreciated,

Connie Lou (and Todd too)

Leaving on a jet plane~

I really don’t know when I’ll be back again……. 

What crazy/uncertain times we are living in right now.  Just when we think things are going to start to normalize, Covid 19 shows up and turns life upside down.  And yet God…… (still my favorite saying) along with He Is Able!

In the early morning hours of Saturday, 14 March 2020, amidst the multitude of emails coming in and going out from the CD’s home office (aka bed)  it was decided to send some of our higher risk staff out of PNG along with myself over the following days. Given the fact that there is next to no advanced healthcare support available in the Highlands.  (Big thanks to Journeys by Jan for organizing my tickets!  Always perfect planning!)

Have mask – will travel!

I was due to head to the US on 21 March for Doctors appointments and an upcoming surgery that is not available in PNG (Female stuff) But with the rate at which we were being notified that borders were shutting to different countries, we decided it would be best to get me out immediately rather than risk having to postpone surgery even longer.

After a very long 32 hours of travel, with very tight connections, I arrived in Boise, Idaho minus only one of my two action packers – yes, filled with TP and Peanut Butter J And a little coffee/tea from PNG.

My welcome party – our kids – keeping strict social distancing from me!

My welcome party met me at the curb shortly after midnight, keeping strict social distances from me, giving air hugs and leaving the car running with the heat on high (of course I was freezing in Idaho).  I had to load my own bags to avoid possibly contaminating them after my travels, luckily TP doesn’t weigh too much~ Haha. And soon I was headed down the freeway to MAF US Headquarters and a cozy studio apartment set up and waiting for me for the self-isolation period of at least 14 days.

As I was preparing to hurriedly leave, I was deeply touched by the love and well wishes and send off from the MAF PNG Team – both National and expat!  Bon Voyage parties had been planned and that really means a lot to me.  Todd, along with “Our Boys” and Sonali saw me off at the airport and the guys all stayed airside to wave, and I got a quick hug from Todd, as I walked to the awaiting aircraft.  It really touched my heart that they all took the time and stood in front of the MAF Base to wave good bye as my plane taxied to the runway as well.

As I traveled, I saw some who were fully decked out in anti-virus gear (The woman at the airport in Brisbane speaking with Godfrey about self isolation) while transiting to NZ.  And yet hundreds of people not taking any precautions whatsoever!  I had been supplied with a mask that I saved to wear when the social distance got greatly reduced once I hit US Soil! As I read that prolonged use causes the mask to be less effective as breathing causes moisture and then it becomes somewhat useless – although I will say it was difficult to breath with that mask the way it seals so well!   I wore the mask until I was settled into my little hideaway in Nampa.

I chose to self isolate not just so I don’t get the virus, but to protect those I love, and also those I will come into contact with here in Idaho, as well as those that they will then come into contact with, from possible contamination because of where I have been!  Social distancing is the key to reducing the spread so that health centers can keep up with the sick once they contract it and need intervention.  Most of us may just get nasty flu symptoms, but it is not most of us that I am concerned with – it is the elderly, the pregnant, the premature, those with significant health issues to begin with, like my sweet nephew Ronan that recently received a Kidney transplant at a very young age!

My heart yearns to see may granddaughter Noortje, that I only get to see once every year or so…… She is just 10 minutes away from here….. but I choose to self isolate to keep her safe, and to keep those safe that she will then come into contact with. 

As I sit here in my little hideaway, stocked with food by my daughters Courtney and Jess, and also other family have brought things for me, like fuzzy blankets and books from my Mom.  I am praying for Todd and the team as they make decisions on how to address this virus in an area of the world with very little access to healthcare.  And as they deal with the social issues that will come once it hits the highlands….  I have lots of time on my hands to do so! 

And Surprise! My last action packer showed up on my doorstep! Thanks MAF US, especially, Ruth, Barb, and Gene for your love and support!

I look forward to seeing how God will use this time to grow me spiritually as I spend more time in His word and reading books that will help me be a better person/leader/wife/mother/friend.  I would love to hear what God is teaching you through this time….He is Able! 

Your prayers are greatly appreciate for Todd and the team still in PNG as they continue to serve the remote communities, taking every precaution possible and having continual update meetings to be sure we are doing just that! These are difficult times as we deal with the unknowns, and yet maintain a positive outlook – None of this has caught God by surprise. He is still on the throne and still working things out for our good. When we need wisdom, He gives it. And boy do we need it!

Your prayers especially for the team to keep a positive attitude, to be wise in decisions and safe are very much appreciated! God hears and answers – and He calls us to lift our requests to him, with thanksgiving and praise!

Thank you all so very much,

Connie Lou

Are We There Yet?

Kids in back seatOh how I miss hearing this from the back seat as we drive.  Mother’s Day is a perfect day to remember, especially for those with children spread across the world – or having gone before them to heaven…

For Mother’s Day, Todd took me up the mountain to a beautiful little resort to walk around the gardens and get a bite to eat and relax for a couple of hours before heading back down the mountain to the business of another week.  The drive was long and slow – because of the uneven, rocky terrain that they call a road.  Our vehicle works, fairly well, and usually gets us where we want to go.  We made it up and back and once back in our parking spot, it stopped and wouldn’t go any more.  Oh well, a problem to solve on another day.

Ron Don

Despite the vehicle problems, my day was picture perfect.  Talking to my girls, parents, and friends across the world via many forms of communication.  What a blessing to have this level of communication available to us where we can not only talk, but see each other across the world!

Are we there yet?

I still miss hearing that, and now I find myself asking Todd this same question as we work through the many challenges along with the great joys of working here in PNG.

Are we there yet?  Have we arrived at where we set out to go in Missions?

Are we there yet?  Have we accomplished what God has called us to?

Are we there yet?  Is our life reflecting our Lord and Saviour in such a way that it draws others to Jesus?

No, not yet…a little farther still…

I was reminded to enjoy the journey and not just the destination as we meandered slowly up the road to avoid having to replace tie rods and ball joints too soon.  The many different shades of green in the tropical highland foliage and gardens.  The neat and tidy houses along the road that someone has taken much pride in cleaning and weeding.  The gorgeous views as we round the bends along the winding road up the mountain.  I sat and thanked God for each blessing as they came to mind – and I prayed for many with great needs who came to mind.

Partnership TourAs we finished up with Mother’s Day weekend, I have been busy working on preparing our calendar for our time in the US the end of June through July.  We do hope to be able to catch up with many of you as we pass through your area.  We welcome any and all connections!  A coffee date, chat over a meal, or an invitation to speak to your church / group.  You can see our schedule by clicking here. Please let us know if you will be anywhere near where we have a scheduled event and let’s catch up!  J

Please check back often as the schedule will be filling up fast!

Disaster Response in PNG

IMG_7722Five days after returning from my time in the US to say goodbye to my brother @curtlandreth and spend time supporting my family after his loss, we experienced the most severe earthquake PNG has had at 7.6 on the richter scale.  We woke around 3:42am to the bed shaking and soon realized the whole house was shaking severely.  We thought we would ride it out and stayed in bed for a few more seconds.  When we realized it was not ending and the shaking actually intensified, Todd suggested we get out of the house as it is on stilts and perhaps not built to withstand such a force.  I grabbed my cell phone and torch (flashlight for you Americans) put on my robe and headed for the door.  Todd was trying to get the keys into the locks while swaying with the quake as it continued to roll.  One door open, then working on the metal security door, finally getting that open as well and we were outside!  We quickly went down the stairs and away from the house as the earth continued to shake.  It slowly started to quiet down and our pulse rates with it.

Todd headed to the other compounds to check on staff, and called others.  Thankfully we were able to get back to sleep as the power was now out and so an early morning in the office was not going to be very productive, and with that severe of a shake, the possibility of fissures in the road was likely and so traveling in the daylight was deemed to be much more prudent.

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The aftershocks continued and were at a level of 4.0-6.0 and are still occurring three days later as I write this update.

Tuesday morning I was briefed on the need for photos of the area and so Mandy Glass who is the Comms Officer for our Base and I climbed into a Caravan with her husband Mathias flying along with Luke Newell and three Government Disaster Response Team members.

The photos were sent to MAF I Disaster Response and Security to review and issue a press release.  You can see that below, along with a link and directions on how to view the images on a google map so that you can see the exact location where the picture was taken.

Please keep PNG in your prayers! Pray for safety as our pilots continue to do med-evac flights and for those on the ground helping people dig out from the numerous land slides. Pray that MAF will continue to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in the name of Jesus as we work with different agencies and organizations in the response to this disaster.

 

173 Earthquake Survey Flight[2]173 Earthquake Survey Flight[3]

Watch Your Language…

Down Under in Australia still:

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Tree Tops Lodge – Guest House where we are staying in Cairns, Australia while studying language

Learning a new language is always an adventure!  We are learning Tok Pisin which, is the trade language used by Papua New Guineans as there are some 800 +/- different languages in PNG!  Luckily for us, Tok Pisin uses quite a lot of English and German words that are spelled slightly different but have very similar meanings to the English and German words they came from.

Here is Genesis 1:1 in Tok Pisin

(Read it out-loud as the sound of it helps you understand the words.)

STAT  1:1

Bipo bipo tru God i mekim kamap skai na graun na olgeta samting i stap long en. 


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A few years ago, Gary and Eleanor Zweigle, from Tumwater CotN in Olympia Washington, introduced us to the Gideon Bible App that has many of the different translations of the Bible in one very easy to use App. The App has the entire Bible in Tok Pisin as well as an audio version of the New Testament.  What a great help that has been to hear the language spoken and read along with it!

Although there are many familiar or similar words, there is a tendency to “Pidginize” English words to make them sound like Tok Pisin which, does not work!  Tok Pisin is an independent creole language that originated as a Pidgin. There are some words that we have been advised not to use! Some words that in English are very common and do not have a negative connotation, and yet their Tok Pisin equivalent can be offensive.  We need to really watch our language!

Friday, August 18th was a Staff Development Day that we were blessed to attend along with the MAF Staff in Cairns and also the folks from Mareeba.


Living Wisdom Workshop

Dr. David Riddell of Living Wisdom, Nelson, NZ, was the presenter and we worked through a lot of helpful information on leadership and making friends with your mind. He explained what that means and how it helps each of us deal with all the different things we deal with. He wrote a book on this and once the dust settles a bit for us, I will have to see if I can download this book!

Praises:

  • Connie Lou’s new passport with more pages came back this week!
  • VP and Nirmala’s (our colleagues) Visa/Entry Permits were granted this week!

Prayer Requests:

  • Our Visa/Entry Permit process. We are still waiting for the paperwork to be approved so that we can obtain our visas.
  • Please continue to pray for our language acquisition.
  • Pray for VP and our Regional Director as they will be going to PNG for meetings Monday, August 28th to Thursday, August 31st.

 

We are only able to be here because of the prayers and financial partnership of you, our friends and family!  If you are interested in partnering with us financially, please visit the MAF US Website – Be sure to mark your gift –  Aebischer #8214 

Thank you so very much!

Todd and Connie Lou

Update from Down Under – Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings!

Some of the Manuals we are working our way through

As we finish up our first week Down Under, our heads are full with all the information that has been given to us in the meetings with various leaders and department heads.

We are thankful for jet-lag that has helped us to wake early in the mornings so that we can get a lot more reading done before we head to the MAF Cairns Office for each day’s meetings.

The team at Mareeba with Nirmala, and VP beside Todd

On Monday we met our colleagues VP and Nirmala on our trip to visit the Mareeba site.  We are so excited to be working with them in this capacity.

Our room at Tree Tops with our luggage.

 

We have a nice apartment in a complex owned jointly by MAF and SIL missions. It is located just north of Cairns by a few miles. We are doing training here while we await the finalization of our entry permits and visas. It is a 3-step process. 1) Work permit, 2) Entry Permit, 3) Visa.

Praises:

  • Our Work permit was granted last week (we had applied in June) and we immediately made application for the Entry Permit.

Prayer Requests:

  • Connie’s passport was getting low on pages so we also had to apply for a new passport through the embassy in Sydney, and it should be back the last week of August.
  • Also for the finalization of the Visas / Entry Permit process.
  • We start language school on Monday and this last through about the 3rd week of September.

Thank you for partnering with us in prayer!  We know that God hears and answers your prayers and we so appreciate your willingness to lift us and this new ministry in which He has placed us to the Father.

MAF has just added a new profile bio for us!  You can view it here:

https://www.maf.org/Aebischer

Exciting Days!

Our work weeks are busy, quite busy! But if you know Todd, you already know that!

No matter what job he has, he does it with his whole heart and works hard at it no matter whether its scrubbing floors, or working as the Regional Communication Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific Region along with all the other hats he wears.

Our weekends…… are even busier!

This past Saturday saw us at the race track for the Diamond Motor Supercross 2017 event! Todd helps the medics, from his perch at the highest point on the track so he can see when a rider goes down and he can go running! I position myself in various places to get great action photos! But it typically starts earlier in the morning with set up and various activities, all the while looking for opportunities to share with the riders or pray with them before they gear up and start practice.

Saturday we woke to a downpour. Our hearts sank as we thought of a muddy track, which always means more accidents, as it can be so slick when it is wet. The rain did stop after a few hours, and since the official practice time was not till late morning, the puddles had pretty well soaked in. By the actual start of the event, the track was perfect! God is so good! There were a few accidents and Todd got a lot of running in to get to them quickly to assess them, but no one had to go to the hospital! That is a big praise in this sport.

I got some great shots of great races! (Click here to see) Trying to get the majority of the shots with the sponsor signs in them for promotion. 🙂  There is nothing like the thrill of plunking yourself right in the center of the track with racing dirt bikes all around you and just turning and shooting all day long!

Then, in the evening, as Todd stayed to help clean up all the tables and chairs and trash…… I went home to start editing and posting. That is a much longer process than just spending the whole day taking photos! I started working on them again on Monday after work hours, and I finished up the last batch about 9:00pm Monday night.

Then into Sunday!  Race track Tent Church in the morning, including interaction with riders and family members for a few hours and then race home, take a shower to get the dust off, swallow something to keep us going and off we go to the Makati church!  Ending up back at the house around 9:30pm!  What a whirlwind weekend, but what a full heart we have as we reflect on all that God has allowed us to  be involved with, the new connections made and the lives that we continue to witness being transformed by the love of Jesus!

Daily Following Where The Spirit Flows…….

My special spot for Devotions and favorite place to sit
My special spot for Devotions and favorite place to sit

What is your idea of the perfect home? Perfect place to live? Perfect job? Perfect relationship?

We may have our ideas of what the perfect life looks like, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect place…. But living day-to-day following the flow of the Spirit is ultimately so much more fulfilling and refreshing than anything we could possibly do on our own.

Throughout our lives, we have lived in many different places, in varying degrees of conditions, different lifestyles etc….. but as we reflect back, the most fulfilling times in our lives, have been when we were in places that were not comfortable, and quite often not what we had planned for ourselves. Typically at that moment, we may not have seen the bigger picture, but looking back, we can see how God moved in and through and how that event or time made an impact on our lives, our ministry and our outlook.

Living daily, often moment-by-moment going where the Spirit flows takes a conscious effort to think outside of the box. Looking beyond the situations we face at any given moment, to what God might want to teach us through what is going on in our lives. It is in this place that we find fulfillment and purpose.

The Motocross Messiah Fairground Fellowship officially recognized on November 19th.
The Motocross Messiah Fairground Fellowship officially recognized on November 19th.

When we came to Manila to serve as the Regional Communications Coordinator and wife, we never dreamed we would be a part of an out-of-the-box organic church plant at a motocross racetrack on Sunday mornings. We never dreamed that we would don the gear and get on a dirt bike and take a few lessons. But as we came alongside a young pastor who was feeling the tug of God in his heart, to leave the comfort of an associate pastor position in a large church, this is where we found ourselves.

The people we meet on a weekly basis, the lives we are fortunate to share with on a daily basis, have been a blessing to us in a way that we never could have foreseen. Stepping away from the traditional church on Sunday mornings, with the singing and the order of worship that we were used to, was not an easy decision to make. We had to look beyond our comfort and what we were familiar with, to what God had for us. The doors He was opening for us to walk through. And after a while, this has become the new normal and we love it!

We continue to see lives changed or refocused, marriages strengthened and families united. We see others putting their faith in God and not in themselves, or their circumstances. This is where the real blessings come in! As we see what God is doing in and through them, our faith is bolstered and we eagerly seek what God has for us next! We expect to hear the Holy Spirit prompt us daily; urging us to speak to someone, giving us an open door to walk through and with each encounter, our faith is strengthened.

wpid-IMG_2443.JPGLife is not just a bed of roses, there are a few thorns in there, but we choose to look past the thorns, to see the beauty of what God is creating. There are days when the rain is pouring and we are at the track in the mud and yuck and only a few show up and we wonder, “What in the world we are doing?” There are days where nothing seems to click and the traffic is bad and we are late and we just can’t seem to catch a break. But as we continue to focus on the Lord at the start of every day, spending time in prayer and reading the Word, we refocus on the bigger picture. We see the opportunities God places before us and the relationships He brings along that are not only for us to share with others, but to encourage us as well.

whats-in-your-hands-ballersAs you look at your life, where God has placed you and the skills, passions, abilities, and life experiences that God has put in your hands to serve Him, may you sense where the Spirit is flowing and follow, keeping your eyes on the Lord and daily spending time in the Word. You will be blessed and life will never again be the same!