There’s an old proverb that says, “He who would travel happily must travel light.” But I get the sense that the wise writer of that proverb was not moving 8,672 miles to a remote part of Papua New Guinea where many conveniences of life are…well, not so convenient. That being said, we are also making this big move with the hopes of living in PNG for a good while. We know our first assignment with World Medical Mission will last two years, but it is our hope that the Church of the Nazarene will appoint us as career missionaries at the end of this assignment. So, when it came time to pack up our things and sell our home last summer, we decided we’d keep and ship to PNG those things that would make our house feel most like home (and might make life slightly more convenient). After all, we had accumulated some nice things during our ten years of marriage and it seemed a pity to put all of our artwork and that leather La-Z-Boy recliner in storage. So we didn’t!
Our packing journey began 8 months ago when we decided we would build, pack and ship a 4-foot wooden crate. That seems simple, right? We were rookies in the crate-building department, so we consulted with our good friend Steve Doenges who had built a similar crate for his daughter Steph when she moved to PNG where she served as a family doctor. Steve gave us lots of good advice and offered to help, but we were off and building before he knew it! Katherine’s Dad even drove 40 minutes out of town to purchase the special heat-treated plywood necessary for the crate. There were, of course, the usual mishaps of a small building project. But within a few days, the crate was ready for its large plastic liner and then we got to start the huge puzzle that is filling a 4-foot cube with NO room to spare. We certainly didn’t want to waste any of that precious space so we even created small pallets with gallon-sized ziploc bags and our favorite Target brand diapers that filled every single crack between Rubbermaids and boxes. We made the final arrangements, put on the side wall, wrapped up and taped down that black plastic like a huge Christmas present and screwed on the lid. It was done. We breathed a sigh of relief and left for our Stevens family beach vacation knowing that Ben’s brother Tim would be there when the shipping company arrived to pick up the crate a few days later. I remember the phone call from Tim as we sat relaxed in our beach house. “Ben, did you leave keys for the Camry parked in front of the garage?” Right. So we built and filled our 900-pound crate just inside the garage door for the convenience of pick-up, but we failed to move the vehicle sitting directly outside the garage. Nor did we leave keys for someone ELSE to move said vehicle. Well, Tim still had a bit of time before the truck arrived for pick-up, so he carefully put the car into neutral and backed it down the drive and off to the side just enough for the crate to be moved past. Success! Until…the gentleman arrived with his pallet-lift which was about two inches too wide to fit around the 4×4’s at the base of our crate. This was the news we received in Tim’s NEXT phone call to us in North Carolina. We couldn’t believe it. Our crate could not be picked up because of two inches. Tim thanked the gentleman and we decided to sort it all out when we got home a few days later. But, unfortunately for us, “sorting it out” meant discovering that there was no shipping company that would be able to pick up our crate as built because of the space allowed for at the base of the crate. Well, it was a good thing we thought ourselves to be pretty good crate-packers, because we were going to get to do it all over again. That’s right. We were forced to unpack the ENTIRE crate, flip it over, remove one of the 4×4’s, re-pack the ENTIRE crate and find a new shipping company to pick it up within 24 hours to get it to Oregon in time and on the container to PNG. If that sounds exhausting, well, it was. We even took pictures on our phones of each stage of the unpacking so that we’d remember exactly how
to put it back together. But, to make this story short, we did it! And about 3 months later we received word that the container with our crate on it had arrived at the mission station and it was being unloaded into our new home. We breathed a sigh of relief and said more than once, “Glad we don’t have to do THAT again anytime soon!”
Fast-forward to the end of November. Ben received confirmation that he was having an entire set of laparoscopic equipment as well as other OR equipment donated to the hospital in PNG. We were doing it again. All over again. But this time, we got smart. A simple google search found a pre-fab 4-foot crate ready to snap together. That thing was on our door-step four days later! Fortunately, we knew the routine and filled the SECOND crate with essentially no snafus. The equipment did not fill the entire space, so we were “forced” to add a few extras, like a Rubbermaid of books, a stove-top waffle maker and heavy-duty “we live in the tropics” door mats (just to name a few). We packed it full. Maybe too full. But, last Friday, with a little help from our brothers again, it was sealed and the pick-up was successfully done the next day! I love it when that whole “live and learn” thing actually works out. That crate has arrived in Oregon where it will be loaded into a container in April and then shipped to PNG. If it makes good time, we’ll receive it in Kudjip mid-summer.
The remainder of our packing, including 10 suitcases and 5 carry-ons, has felt like a breeze after two crates! We’re glad to say that the 10 bags are now packed (with 3 days to spare, I might add) and we’re making the final touches on the carry-ons before our departure on Saturday. And, apparently all the packing has made quite an impression on Simeon (age 2.5) who walked by the counter after my quick grocery trip for dinner. He noticed a new box of trash bags on the counter and inquired, “Are we taking those to Papua New Guinea?” No, sweet child, we just need a place to put our trash! We may not travel light, but at the end of a long day, we’ll be really glad to kick off our muddy shoes on a heavy-duty door mat before relaxing with a good-read and a warm-crispy waffle.