It took us almost 5 hours. We had to walk through the jungles of Papua New Guinea to get to an airstrip where we would climb onto a small plane for the flight back to SIL’s mission station at Ukarumpa. I had prayed a lot, knowing that rain would make the trek difficult. God answered my prayers. There had been little rain all week so the rivers we had to cross weren’t flooded and the trail was relatively dry.
We chatted and laughed as we walked, my seven-year-old on the shoulders of one of the national men, my other two daughters easily keeping up using the walking sticks one of the men had provided. We had started out early in the day, but the jungle was already steaming with humidity, making our clothing cling to our bodies and our foreheads bead with perspiration. We used our water bottles often but the tepid water was not as refreshing as the chunks of sugar cane the men cut from time to time. The natural electrolytes in the stalks gave us the energy we needed to keep going.
An astonishing variety of insects kept up a constant buzz and hum and our heads often swivelled as brilliantly coloured birds and butterflies crossed our path. Their appearance spurred us on each time. The men got especially excited when a huge black cockatoo swooped by as we crossed one of the many rivers. The rare bird, they told us, was a good omen.
We stayed beneath the canopy of green, stepping out of it only when we reached the airstrip and realized how that high roof of foliage had protected us from the punishing tropical sun. The plane was waiting for us so there was no time to rest. My husband took off his shoes and handed them to the translator we had been visiting. His were falling apart. We pulled sweaters out of our packs and had them ready for the chilly temperature as the plane reached a high elevation, soaring over mountains and into the clouds.
By the time we arrived at our home at Ukarumpa we were all exhausted and thinking about only one thing – a refreshing shower. My oldest daughter made it into the house first so the rest of us had to wait our turn. My husband pulled out the box of mail that had accumulated while we were away. There was much excitement when we realized there was a “care package” from home, complete with newspapers, letters and photos from members of our Canadian congregation, packages of candy for the girls and many other delights. Suddenly our exhaustion was forgotten and we oohed and aahed over each new discovery. When Kate emerged from the shower none of us were eager to pull ourselves away from that connection to home.
But oh, the delight of that fresh running water! I had been almost ready to collapse when we arrived, but the shower and the delight of watching my family’s excitement over that care package revived my body and soul.
Refreshment. God provided it, in the laughter as we walked, in the delight over the beauty of the jungle and its creatures, in the natural boost from the sugar cane, in the joy of finding mail waiting for us and in the delight of a long cool shower.
“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jer.31:25). That is a promise God made to the Hebrew people through His prophet Jeremiah. It is a promise He keeps to all His people, to this day.