“You will not be afraid of the terror by night”
We landed at Jackson Airport in Port Moresby in June of 1978. The first thing that struck me in PNG was the blast of hot air that struck me as I stood at the open door of the plane preparing to disembark. We were definitely in the South Pacific! Even Hawaii’s hottest summers could not have prepared us for the humid welcome we received. For the next several years, polyester clothes were banned from my wardrobe! Praise God for cotton!
The second thing that struck me was the dark complexions of the people that soon surrounded us in the airport. I never felt so pale in my life! But interestingly, after several years in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the people’s complexions became the norm. One afternoon, while watching a rugby match with some nationals, I sat on the ground amongst a sea of Papua New Guineans. When I finally left and climbed into my car, I was stunned to see my lighter complexion in the rear view mirror. Having lived with the darker PNGers, I just assumed I looked like them! It was a mild shock to realize that I didn’t.
The third thing that struck me was the cost of living there. When they sell petrol (gasoline) by the litre instead of the gallon, you know the price will be high. But the real sticker shock came when we had to look for a house to rent. As I scanned the classified section of the local newspaper, the Post Courier, several homes and flats were available, and the rents did not seem too high. Most were going for $500 pw. Not knowing what the ‘pw’ stood for, I asked a local missionary. Was I surprised to learn it meant ‘per week’! That calculated out to more than $2000 per month, twice as much as our monthly missionary salary!
With rents like that, how would we ever find a place to live? Exactly where God had planned of course! His ‘real estate agent’ was a Lutheran missionary who was ministering to University students at the University of PNG in Port Moresby. He showed us a very nice three bedroom house that stood on a hill side in the suburb of Hohola. It was owned by the Lutheran mission and was just vacated. We asked about the rent, ready to cringe at the anticipated answer, but was surprised when he said $450 per month. What a bargain! So what was the catch?
He told us that the house had just been vacated because ‘rascals’, or gangs from the surrounding settlements, kept breaking into it. In fact, the house had been broken into 13 times in the previous 12 months! I had been wondering why all the windows had half inch bars on them. But if the windows were barred and the doors bolted, how were they getting in? His answer was quick, which he gave with his characteristic smile. The rascals had come right through the wall! Sure enough, there was a large patch covering the most recent hole.
My first reaction was to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’, but with no other options available, we accepted. The house would put the LORD’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 to the test. Psalm 91:5 did say that we ‘would not be afraid of the terror by night’, and do you know we never were.
We lived in that house for 5 years and never experienced a break-in the entire time. The LORD was faithful in keeping His promise to us as we raised our three children there. Interestingly, when we finally moved (a story in itself told in a later chapter), the family that replaced us in that house experienced several break ins soon after. It was a confirmation that God had indeed watched over us there.
I do not encourage anyone to tempt the LORD by venturing into dangerous situations. But if God has called you to a perilous place He will not allow any trials except what He has ordained. Our years in Port Moresby, a place recently designated the most dangerous international city to live in outside of a war zone, attests to this. But if we had not followed God’s lead, we would have missed out on living in a place I would vote for as having the finest Christian men and women any where!