Oil, Prayer, and Reflections on Leaving

March 29, 2014 by

Today I have a short story and some prayer requests, and Diane has reflections on leaving. There’s also a snapshot of the family.

John Uytcho recommitted himself to God recently, and at the same time he declared his addiction to smoking tobacco and chewing betelnut–and his decision to quit. He was restored by three Christian brothers in accordance with James 5:14, which in our ERV Bibles says, “Are you sick? Ask the elders of the church to come and rub oil on you in the name of the Lord and pray for you.” He got a full back massage and foot massage with various healthy oils, and at the same time he heard prayers, songs, and words of encouragement.

This verse used to seem strange to me, but now that I think about it, even we westerners often pay people to massage us with oil for healing purposes. I remember a similar scene in the Chariots of Fire movie–a coach rubbing oil on the back of an athlete after a stressful race. So why shouldn’t Christians do this for each other while praying for each other? I continue to learn, and I’m thankful for the Spirit of God at work in the world.

Thanks to those of you who have given thanks with us and prayed with us through these letters for over thirteen years! Please offer up thanks and prayers for the following . . .

Two of our leading Christian women have stopped their bad gambling habits.

Craig, Jeri, Eric and Erin from the USA paid a helpful visit.

House sale, amazingly, is happening on schedule.

Plenty to do during our last weeks in PNG. We arrive in the USA on May 23, 2014.

Robert T. has done well coordinating the Easter Camp without our help, but he’s running into trouble as our normal venue, Hagita Primary School, no longer has a kitchen. He may try to make one.

John Kirarata has been preaching at the market and hospital and recording messages for the local radio station.

John K. baptized Leah’s sister Doris and her husband McKensie.

Local funds have paid for new Bibles and World Bible School courses.

Robert baptized Beatrice Eustace.

At Gama, Carson Aresina was baptized.

Gama church is praying about appointing elders.
Reflections on the Clean-Up Stage of Life and Mission work
by Diane Reese

I have likened ourselves to flies in a spider web, trying to get free. We are not, of course, unhappy about having been caught in this beautiful web, so in that way the analogy is a poor one. But we are being held by some very sticky threads, and as much as we try to snip them to wriggle away, it feels like we are constantly landing in some other sticky place.

The Sticky Thread of Possessions:

Because of the high cost of shipping possessions as well as the hassle we’ve seen other missionaries have with it, we have chosen to break free with limited baggage, so we are not going to ship a crate or container. That means we must wriggle free of many of our possessions. In many ways, this is a decision of great joy. We will leave our mildewed things behind with people who will appreciate and enjoy them, and we will be freed of the things that weigh us down. The idea of living an uncluttered life with only that which truly adds quality to our lives has great appeal to me, and the truth is, a lot of our possessions take away quality of life instead of adding to it. Of course, there are also some other possessions that are more difficult to wiggle free from—like the tub of family photos I am currently going through. The beginning of our lives and the life of our oldest daughter took place before the advent of digital cameras, which means we don’t have the super-light digital copy of a lot of these photographs. So we have been sorting and scanning so that we can have digital copies of those memories.

Selling and distributing our possessions carries challenges as well. For over a year we’ve had “requests” about this possession or that one, and it is difficult sometimes to know when to say yes and when to say no. But it has given joy as well, as we see people who are excited to have this book or that bedsheet. Occasionally I get rid of something that simply sat in my closet, unused for years, and when I see how happy a person is to have that thing, I wonder why I held onto it in the first place.

Our little house is sold as well. This is a source of great relief to us. Of course, there is also that twinge that everyone feels when they move out of their family’s first home. We planted a mango tree years ago, and other children will climb in it now. Someone else will cook on my stove. Someone else will battle the rats and cockroaches. Someone else will look at the mountains in the distance while they’re washing up their dishes.

The Sticky Thread of Home, Water, Food

We have long lists of things to do as we leave this place, and I am sometimes struck by the irony of how much time we have to spend on simple survival—providing food, water, and housing for our family. Pipes still need repaired, grass still needs cut (a necessity not just for aesthetic purposes, but practical ones as well), food still needs cooked, and my family still needs adequate nutrition to help our bodies fight off sicknesses during a time of more stress. And when little glitches happen (like our water being turned off or our power being turned off or our shower leaking), I am tempted to grumble and complain. I so easily forget that my conveniences mean that I usually spend less time than most of the world’s people for a higher quality of life than most of them have. So when my photo sorting or class planning or homeschooling is interrupted by having to haul water, I try to remember Jesus. I am no theologian, and I truly do not understand much about Jesus’ temptations in the desert, but I am grateful to Jesus for not turning those stones to bread, whatever his reason was. He shared in our humanity. He was part of the human family, part of those who must spend time and energy to guard the fragile thread that tethers us to life. He had to survive, but in that moment, he didn’t take the powerful “son of God” short-cut. He was truly one of us, and he shared our hunger, and he shared our thirst. And so when I haul water, I thank God that I’m not some sort of superhero who is removed from the human family in some sort of superior other-worldly way, but I am one of the human family who must do things to survive. I am fragile. I am frail. And I need water.

The Sticky Thread of Ministries

I am currently in a series of lasts: I have just had my last school board meeting–I hope! (I have actually had several “last” school board meetings, but they keep calling another one. I will hopefully be replaced on the board in April.) I am about to take my last turn teaching the children’s class at church. Next week, I hope to teach my last Religious Instruction class at the International School, and I will have my last church encouragement group meeting. In April, I plan to make one last visit to each of the currently meeting village churches.

We have gone through the filing cabinet we inherited as the last expatriate missionary family in Papua New Guinea. We ran across everything from old passports of Christians from various parts of PNG to old missionary files. After getting advice from former missionaries and PNG Christians, we have burned many of those files.

We have built a shed close to a church member’s house and have transferred teaching aids for the church, Bibles and other books to that shed. Many of the items that churches have donated in the past are getting good use there, as John and Siggy check out teaching aids to church members for use in children’s classes. We’re thankful for the thoughtfulness that inspired the gifts of many of those teaching aids, and thankful that they continue to bear fruit even after we leave.

We had our last visit from abroad—former teammates Craig and Jeri Ford and their friends Erin and Eric McDonald came for a lovely visit, and everyone was encouraged by their coming. Along with their visit, we hosted our last “church dinner.” The rhythms and routines of hosting large groups will change in the US, and I will have to learn new ways of doing that, just like I had to learn how to do it here. Here I learned to bake rolls, cook some fried rice, mix up one cooler of cordial and one of ice water, and bake a couple of cakes, lay out trays, plates, and plastic cups. I could probably do it all blindfolded. But my routines won’t transfer to our new situation, and I will learn again by trial and error, just like I learned here.

And we are getting ready for our last Easter Camp. Easter Camp has been an annual event since we came, a time for the various Christians from the Bay area to get together and get too little sleep on hard floors under mosquito nets. We peel potatoes together, cut up greens, and wash dishes with the light of someone’s mobile phone. (I am usually the designated phone flashlight holder, because it takes such extreme skill . . . ) Of course, we also listen to classes, sing and pray and worship. And a good time is usually had by all.

Marcus has been visiting people for “one last Bible reading.” There are also some people he’s trying to spend extra time with, especially those who are shepherding and caring for other people.

And we’re also realizing that some things we planned to do won’t happen. That last marriage seminar we intended to teach probably won’t happen. The woman I intended to train to teach children’s classes didn’t turn up, and probably won’t be trained by me. But someone can train her if she decides to learn someday. For most of these ministries we have found replacements. Leticia will teach my RI. The children’s class at church will continue with one less person in the rotation. We are not irreplaceable, and others will come and give their gifts and talents and time.

The Sticky Thread of People

I think that the hardest thread to break loose from emotionally is the people we have grown to love. It is interesting to see how different people react to our leaving. Susan, our dear friend who has had foot and leg problems, is finally wearing her shoes that we bought her, because her children told her, “Mum, the Reeses are leaving. You must get your leg well before they leave.” We hear about our leaving in sermons and during announcement times. We are occasionally dismissed during announcements at church so that we won’t hear whatever they’re up to.

We are learning to not talk too much about our futures with our PNG friends, even though much of what we plan now is no longer here, but in the States. It makes our friends here sad to hear us talk about a future they are not a part of, so we focus on the present, and on their future, when we are together with them, and keep our ponderings private (“What will cafeteria food be like?” “What immunizations will the kids need to get before they can start school?” “Are red jeans really ‘in’ in America? Do teenage girls wear makeup?”)

But in some ways, that thread is releasing us without too much effort. People are letting us go in a very natural way. Their plans now do not include us, and it makes it easier for us to be released into our futures as well. We cry and they cry, but we know we’ll all be okay.

Because the people here have been the most important part of our experience here, it’s good that we’ll be moving out of our house on May 1 so that we can spend two weeks concentrating on people before we leave here May 16. So April is the month of getting rid of our possessions and cleaning and preparing our house for the new owners, and May will be for goodbyes.

They say that good endings are important to the new beginnings that follow. And so as we begin to get stuck to new threads that will carry us over the ocean to another life, we concentrate also on saying goodbye to the web we’ve lived in here. The precious people we have loved here, the places we’ve visited, the home we’ve enjoyed, and the ministries we’ve tried have all added to the people we’ve become. And so we say thank you to God, to you all, and to our precious friends here who have allowed us to be part of their lives for 13 years. We commit them to God’s hands, where they will live safely until we meet again someday.


New Year Greetings from the PNG Reeses

January 10, 2014 by

Diane wrote her traditional annual letter, which I’m attaching. I will therefore restrict my comments to a few things she didn’t mention . . .

Join us in praying with joy for 12 new Christians and their families: Doris Togarewa (JK’s relative, wife of Neville), Letma (wife of Chris Doga), Ben (transient from Rigo), an unnamed person at Taramugu, Nathan (Thresa Peter’s son at Sineada), Nicola (Helen Jerry’s daughter at Sineada), Onen Jacob (Susan’s), Josiah Wasi, Karina Wasi, Allison Mumna (Pastola’s), Siggy Mileka (relative of Siggy), and Thelma (Felicity’s grown daughter). And for more to come soon–we hope.

Pray also for some of our fairly new Christians and their neighbors who are being accused of witchcraft and physically threatened.

I’ll be sending the 2013 work fund report separately to those who usually receive it. If you think you may be left out and want to be included, let me know.

The churches are still small, but thank God that the recent baptisms and youth camp have boosted their morale. Pray for this acceleration to continue.

Enjoy Diane’s letter, and don’t forget to send up prayers as you read!

Marcus Reese

PNG Reese new year letter

More About John Kirarata

October 9, 2013 by

JK showed excellent leadership at the recent national lectureship, and more and more churches are trying to hire him, but our churches are grateful he stays here. Many trials arise here to discourage him, so please pray for him and Siggy and Immanuel.

They gave us a beehive shaped flower I’d never seen before (to add to the other amazing PNG flowers on our table). When JK gave it to me, it had flowers sprouting lower down. Those fell out, and later new ones came up a little higher. “If God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will he not much more clothe you?” (Mat. 6:30)Image

A Place For Bibles Etc.

October 9, 2013 by

A Place For Bibles Etc.

With help from Gama men, I organized a “cockroach-proof” storage shed for the area churches at John Kirarata’s house. JK has a long-standing non-profit ministry of selling Bibles and song books and distributing WBS courses. (And that’s not their baby, though they pray God will give them one.)


October 9, 2013 by


Gama church’s old building rotted, so they’ve been working on a new one. Other churches have been donating materials and labor.