This last weekend Grace, Jonathan, and I attended the annual MAF PNG Family Conference. Due to several people feeling sick, Dad and Mom stayed with the younger kids, while us three teens made the trip.
The conference was held at the SIL Base, Ukarumpa, which is about a twenty minute flight away from Goroka. All the MAF/CRMF staff in Goroka showed up at the MAF airport early Thursday morning. We weighed ourselves and our cargo, then watched as it was loaded into the Twin Otter. It’s one of MAF’s larger airplanes, seating twenty, and took only two trips to fly us all there. The flight was very short, but allowed for a chance to get a glance at some of the other towns and bases in the surrounding area.
SIL has an beautiful conference center with dorms, classrooms, gorgeous gardens,and the most important spot, the large cafeteria. Grace and I shared a room, and Jonathan shared with Joshua Wakefield, from the other CRMF ex-pat family. We also took the chance to do some shopping at their base store for things like dried fruit and oats that we can’t get in Goroka. It is the largest mission compound I’ve been in yet, hence it’s nickname ‘Little America.’
The theme for year’s conference was the “Weird Normality of Following Jesus.” That theme spread to everything: we had weird family photos, we put together videos to show of the weirdness of each base, the rewards given out were weird t-shirts found at the secondhand shops, and there was even a weird tie contest for the men at the formal evening.
Grace attended and helped film the adult’s sessions, while Jonathan and I were part of the teens program. However, Jonathan came down with some sickness halfway through, so he sadly was in his room for a lot of it. Most of the teens were from Goroka, as there is an excellent MK school there, but we did get to meet the few from other bases. It was a smallish group, and we had a blast doing everything together, though we may have made a bit more noise and gotten less sleep than we should have.
Us teens put together and ran a scavenger hunt for Sunday afternoon. It was slightly similar to the TV show ‘The Amazing Race.’ We had a station for every country represented there (12, not counting PNG) with a trivia question and then challenge based on that nation. We tried to put a teen from each nation where we had them, so I was on America, and Grace was on Indonesia. Some of the challenges included doing the traditional Maori Haka, pretending to be a Canadian Mountie, yodeling like a Swiss, and putting together a survival plan for being stranded on one of Indonesia’s many islands.
Overall, it was a lot of fun. We got to spend a bunch of time with other MAF staff from all over the globe, and off of regular routine. I love spending time with other missionaries, they always have great stories and insights into life. It’s got to be one of my favorite things about being an MK, meeting all the wide variety of people. We as Americans were definitely a minority there, with maybe 3 others. Canadians and South Africans were the majority, but we had people from as far as Europe to Malaysia. It really broadens your view, being able to converse and learn about all the different cultures of these staff