mango cutting

I noted on facebook that I finally learned the easy way to cut a mango, and I had an overwhelming amount of people demanding that I show them. Thus, this post.

You need a ripe mango, a good knife, and a cutting board. Also be prepared to get that yummy juice all over your hands.

1. The pit in a mango is really weird. It’s flat (about a half inch thick) and runs the length of the mango.  Its width goes the way my finger’s pointing.


2. With your knife, find the spot about a quarter inch to one side of the center and cut down the length of the mango.  If you hit the pit with your knife, just scoot it out a little and carve around it.



3. Turn your mango around and repeat.


4. Now you have three pieces… two good chunks of flesh and one pit.


5. Holding one half in your hand, cut around the edge of the skin about half an inch in.


6. Carefully peel back the skin from the flesh.  (Repeat 5 & 6 with the other half)  If it’s proving hard to pull off, it probably means you don’t have a good, PNG mango.  It’s ok to use your knife to help it.


7. You can try to get little slivers of flesh from the piece with the pit, but to you it might not be worth it.


8. You can now cut up your mango to be eaten, frozen, or dried. Or you can just chuck it all into a blender with coconut milk and frozen [fresh PNG] pineapple to make yourself a tropical smoothie.


Yum… I hope this post has made your mango-eating life much easier. 🙂


theology of failure

Sometimes God calls us to a task that will fail.

SONY DSCWhat if God never promises success in what he calls us to do? What if sometimes he promises failure?  God did promise failure in the life of Ezekiel…

Ezekiel 1:1-3:15. You should read it – crazy stuff! The way God chose to reveal himself to Ezekiel is far beyond imagination. But this post is not about that. It’s about chapter 3:4-11.  After God revealed himself to Ezekiel, this is what he says…

And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them.  For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel — not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.”  Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears.  And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

Did you catch that?  God essentially told Ezekiel, “I’m sending you to people who will never listen to what you have to say.  You will fail.”

The speaker at my church last week proposed this as a theology of failure: We need a deep understanding of the need to die to self – die to the need of success, of recognition.  Those things are about you.  They are self-focused.  Your call was not about you – it was only about God and him glorified.

So… if you knew that there would be only failure in your future service to God, would you still be faithful to the call?

This week has been a tough one for our community.  A young family’s life has been altered forever.  The father was in a terrible motorcycle accident and lost his leg.  He was in the final stages of training to be a pilot.  So I guess we could call that a failure.  What was it all for?  Will he ever be able to fly again?  (Pray for this family –

Jesus lived to the age of 33, only 3 years into his ministry.  Upon his death, he had already lost most of his followers because what he required of them was too much.  Many of his closest friends even deserted him at his death.  So yes, we could call that a failure.  But we already know the outcome of his “failure” – and it is good.

In the last part of God’s call to Ezekiel, he is saying, “Just be filled with me, listen to me, do what I say, and remain faithful, no matter what.”

Matthew 25:21 does not say “Well done good and successful servant.”  It says “Well done good and faithful servant!”

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)

If I knew that there would be only failure in my future service to God, would I still be faithful to the call?

It’s hard in our humanness to not focus on things like success and recognition.  It’s ingrained in our nature.  So how do we remain faithful in life’s failures?  We allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Ezekiel did – “…the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet.” (Ezekiel 2:2)  He’s the one who sets us on our feet.  He’s the one who empowers us to go, to do, to remain faithful.

In this journey we call life, expect God to do amazing, awesome, out-of-this-world things.  Expect him to get all the glory.  Expect him to love you – oh, how he loves you – beyond any kind of love you can imagine.  But don’t count on success in everything he’s called you to do.


*Parts of this post were taken from a sermon by Rene van den Berg, a member of our community.  I thought it needed to be shared with you, too.

being called

I was asked a series of questions by my church’s missions department, to be used in a future publication to connect with a reader who may have some inkling that s/he is being called to full-time missionary work, but they don’t know what it is or how to define it.  So I thought I’d share my answers here, too…

SONY DSCHow did you know you were being called to missionary work? What happened internally or in your environment that let you know you were being called to ministry?  I think I’ve learned over the last couple years that not everyone on the mission field has been “called” specifically so much as have answered a wide calling of all Christians to join in the work somewhere – they just happened to have chosen to answer that call outside of the “normal world”.  With that being said… in college I was afraid of being called to missions.  I loved going on short-term mission trips, but I was afraid God would ask me to leave everything I knew.  When I moved to Atlanta to work at FBA, I quickly saw I was immersed into a church who loved and supported Missions.  I went on a few mission trips to other countries, but it was a week at JAARS in North Carolina that got me.  I learned that week about Bible Translation and a lot of what’s involved in that – specifically that if Jesus were here, he would speak to everyone in their heart language, so His Word should as well.  I felt a tug in my heart that I’d never felt before – like I belonged in that world.  So after that week I applied, and the rest is history.

What were the signs, or clues, or indicators?  My heart broke when I realized that I had my thinking all wrong: I had this underlying thought that if the Bible was in English or other major languages, that all could have access to it.  And once that thought was shattered, and I realized how much help was needed to get the Bible in every language, I couldn’t help but be a part of making it happen.

As you examined these indicators, what was the final affirmation that it was indeed missions work that you were being called into?  I guess the final indicator would be that I’m actually here, now, in Papua New Guinea.  The doors were wide open, God provided the funding, and there was a great need for someone with my experience here.

Do you have any advice for someone who may be feeling that same spiritual restlessness and is seeking answers?  Ask questions, seek answers, and if you find something that breaks your heart and you can do something about it, do it.  God will provide.  My personality is that I can easily jump into something without asking many questions, so for others it might not seem that easy.  But if you are truly allowing God to guide you and work through you, you’ll be where you’re supposed to be.

If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?'” -Isaiah 6:8

amazing aviation

Can I tell you how awesome our Aviation department is? We all rely on them so heavily. My first experience riding in one of our little Kodiaks was the first time I came to Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea. I remember that bumpy ride, and I remember the cool and steady pilot who got us through the turbulence and landed safely at my new home.

At the dedication of our 4th Kodiak aircraft

In the last few years, I’ve learned that there are a lot of people who work really hard every day to make sure we have trusty aircraft to get us where we need to go. So I thought I’d write a post letting you know how awesome they are!

Since I am a support worker (that is, someone who works in support of Bible Translation, not directly involved in the translation), I mainly just use Aviation as a means to get to/from our Capitol city of Port Moresby so that I can get to other countries. Flying is the only way to get in and out of Port Moresby.

Don’t worry… before he started the plane, the pilot told me “hands off!”

Recently, though, I worked with Aviation when the Finance department (where I work) had a small crisis. Normally when we need cash on hand, we have a security transport service bring the cash from another city a few hours away. When a local bridge fell down, we couldn’t get anything in or out of Ukarumpa. And we needed cash! So we ordered some from a bank in another city, and I flew to that city to pick it up. It was a sight to see… the security transport brought the cash to the airport, out on the tarmac and into the plane where I then counted it all!

One of our awesome pilots taking a break while waiting on some cargo.

Also while the bridge was down, our store ran out of beef.  We like our beef!  So our Aviation department stepped in and offered to pick some up – they carried 900kg (that’s almost 2,000 lbs!) of beef up to our store.

One of the many, many amazing views the pilots get to see on a regular basis.

There are lots of other things Aviation does besides transport us missionaries. They also do several runs a week for local coffee growers to get their coffee to the rest of the country! They fly to Cairns, Australia, about once a month to pick up things we need not available in country. They are also used whenever we have need of a medevac, to take the patient directly to Cairns.  And they are available for other missions and commercial work throughout the country (which helps to subsidize translation work).

So next time you’re able, say thank you to our Aviation staff! 🙂

Aviation staff hard at work offloading some coffee

One of our great pilots in his office

The controls are crazy! So fun to watch them work.

This might be my favorite photo of all time… taken at the dedication of the 4th Kodiak aircraft.


Something I never thought about before moving to Papua New Guinea: that things I say or experience will mean something entirely different than in America. Here are some examples!  (They’re mostly relating only to Ukarumpa, in PNG)

A plane flying overhead. In America, it’s just another plane and we don’t even give it a second (or first) thought. In Ukarumpa it means something: a new family coming to serve, a translation team heading out to the village or coming in for training, someone on a medevac to Australia, a family going on furlough or leaving forever, hundreds of kilos of coffee to subsidize a translator’s flight, etc.  Here are the Woods getting on the plane to head off to America for furlough…

SONY DSCGoing to the store. In America, it means that we’re going to a couple of the hundreds of stores in town to pick up a few things. In Ukarumpa it’s going to the one store on our center to buy necessities, check out new things they may have gotten in stock (this week: Arizona Green Tea!!!), seeing only one brand of pretty much everything, and connecting with others we don’t see very often.  And making sure it’s open before we go!  Here’s our store…

SONY DSCBuying new clothes.  America: go to Target or the mall and get new clothes for at least $20 for each item.  In Ukarumpa: rent a car, drive to the nearest town, go to the second-hand stores and get excited when you find the perfect skirt for only 50 cents!  Here I am in Kainantu after second-hand shopping with Rachel and Annie…

SONY DSCPizza night!  America: order delivery 30 minutes before you want it and wait around for the delivery guy to show up.  Ukarumpa: go to the market to get veggies at 7:00am, the store to get sauce, cheese and meat, knead the dough, let it rise, cut the veggies, spread out the dough, top it, and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.  Yum!

It’s Friday!  America: woohoo!  Ukarumpa: Better get to the store and run any other errands before 4:00pm since nothing will be open until 8:30am Monday morning!  …and woohoo!

The clouds.  America: they’re so far away!  PNG: they’re so close!  (I paid attention last year flying to America: in PNG we passed through the clouds at 10,000 feet.  In America more like 25,000 feet!)

Weight.  America: pounds and ounces.  PNG: I don’t even know how much I weigh in pounds anymore!  Kilos are better, anyway – much smaller number. 🙂

Getting a package.  America: must be something I ordered from Amazon.  Ukarumpa: best-day-ever-somebody-loves-me-I-need-to-go-home-and-open-it-right-now excitement!!!

-brandy 🙂

the art of buying plane tickets

My memory is horrible these days! I forget meetings, appointments, a conversation I had yesterday, a decision a friend and I made together, things I’m supposed to ask others, the grocery list. A friend today asked when I’m going on furlough… “four months from now”. That’s it, you have transition memory loss. …I’ll take it!

I don’t know if that’s really true, but I have been thinking a lot about furlough lately. [Furlough is the time that we missionaries take away from our main assignment to go home to family and friends, report to our supporters, raise more support, and have a home assignment.]

I’ve been looking at plane tickets almost every day for about 3 months now. Buying tickets around the world has to be an art form… and I plan on mastering it. Somewhere I read that it’s possibly true that when you’re flying between America and the Pacific, your best ticket prices are at about 4 months out. But disclaimer: Christmas time throws any research right out the door. And right before Christmas happens to be my traveling time.

In 5 days, it’ll be exactly 4 months from my scheduled departure date. In the last week, I have seen ticket prices for a few flights I’ve been tracking rise about $6 (staying around $1,500). This is my train of thought almost every day: “When will be the day they jump by $100. $500? Will there come a day soon when they’ll plummet before making that jump? Should I just accept that this might be the lowest ever and go ahead and buy them? But what if the price drops tremendously tomorrow? What if…?!”

And what do I get from all that thinking?  A headache.  And memory loss, apparently.

One thing I do know… once I buy my tickets, there’s no way I can allow myself to even think about going online to see anymore ticket prices.

Do you have any pointers?  Do you want to do my research for me?  Maybe even buy my tickets so I never have to worry about it again? 🙂

Oh the joys of a transient lifestyle!


enjoy life!

imageI’ve written before about the hardest thing to experience on the mission field: goodbyes. June is crazy here – school is over, so people think it’s a good time to leave for furlough or permanently. It seems like half of our population left (including lots of my favorites) last month, but then the group that left a while ago comes back to fill those holes in, and new people are coming in all the time.

This was my third June here, but the first one that I’ve really experienced the mass exodus (I had just gotten here the first one, and I was in the US for last year). I got a lot of advice on how to deal with it better, even though I’ve been warned that it really never gets easier. I never want to become indifferent to it.  Goodbyes are important!

One piece of advice was to go away for a little while once they leave, just to get away and come back renewed, and I took it! I jumped at the opportunity to take 10 days off to go to Cairns, a very touristy, tropical city of Australia, only a 1.5-hour plane ride from Papua New Guinea’s capital city.

My friend, Jude, and I were able to stay with a lovely couple who have spent the last 25 years opening their home for missionaries. I was so happy that my friends, Sarah and Evan, were also in Cairns for most of the time we were there. Together we got to enjoy the beauty of Cairns, the amazing food of restaurants, browsing through all the shops, and checking out the new fashions (hello, shortest-shorts/dresses-ever, printed pants, messy hair, and leggings-as-pants!).

Jude and I snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef! I’ve never seen such beautiful fish. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll try diving.  And I’ll buy an underwater camera so that I can share the amazingness with you!

So I’m glad I took the advice… it seems to be working so far. I don’t miss my friends any less – there’s still that hole they left in my life. But I find it easier to enjoy what God has kept in my life, and even added to my life. He has given me a new housemate, so I’m not so lonely without Leah. I do have great new friends who I am so looking forward to getting to know better. And I’m energized and ready to finish up my last few months in the Finance Office well.

I try to come up with a “word of the year” for myself each year, but I never did for 2014. Better late than never, I guess, so for the remainder of 2014 my word will be “Enjoy.” As I mentioned, God has given me so much. And I want be intentional about enjoying it all… the beauty of this place, the people in it, the work that God’s doing in and through the people of PNG, and most of all falling in love with Jesus more and more each day.

I hope that you are enjoying wherever God has placed you, and the people and opportunities he has put in your life!


friend (frɛnd) — n 1. a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty (from the World English Dictionary)

SONY DSCThat word has been on my heart lately. What kind of friend am I? Is there such thing as a ‘bad’ friend? Probably not, because that person would technically not really be a friend, right?

What characteristics does a friend portray? What actions would they take for someone with whom they want to be friendly? How would they feel toward that person?

I cannot fully answer any of those questions, but I can tell you what I’ve observed and learned. I’ve learned that I’m not much a friend. But I’ve also resolved to work on that. Here’s what else I’ve observed…

We just finished studying Esther in my Bible Study. There are a lot of things you can pick up and learn from that book and the different people involved. I led the study on Chapter 4, and the one thing that stuck with me was how concerned Esther was for Mordecai when she found out that he was mourning, covered in sackcloth and sitting in ashes. She was highly distressed at his state, tried to comfort him, and then sought the reason for his mourning – so that she could really mourn with him. She didn’t just want to cry for him out of sympathy. She wanted to get to know exactly what was on his heart. I can do that. I can train myself to ask the deep questions. I can ask God to give me wisdom to know when and how to ask those questions.

Sometimes at church we have special days for testimonies from the community. Two of my favorite people gave witness of what God has been doing in their lives a few weeks ago – and it reminded me that a friend should be praying for and constantly seeking ways to encourage the people in their lives.  And not just out of sympathy, but by witnessing their lives and getting into the hard things along with them.

I follow a blog that was created by and for women who are not living in their home cultures (Velvet Ashes). One blog post was entitled “Creating Space for God” and included these few paragraphs:

Jesus longs to impart Himself to you – aspects of Himself He wants to embed into the core of your being.

And I need you filled up with Him.  When I need life spoken into me, I need Jesus spoken into me.  When my soul needs encouragement and refreshment, I want to be met with the kindness and courage of God.  My needs run way deeper than what you can touch. But Jesus in you can touch places in my soul I didn’t even know needed healing and refreshment and courage.

So, if you won’t do it for you, would you do it for me? Would you expand your capacity to be with Him so when I meet you, I experience Him?

When I read that, it was like reading a letter from all of my friends.  This.  This is how to be a friend, in the truest sense of the word.  And, oh, how often I fail to allow Jesus to impart himself to me.

in with the new

How water gets to our homes here is a lot different than in the States. Each house has a large water tank where rain is collected from our roofs. A pump then carries the water to a smaller tank on top of the house, which feeds water into the house using gravity. And that’s how we have running water! (Some houses pump directly from the rain tank into the house.)


Gross old pump

My water pump died last week – so of course I had to get a new one (life without running water would not be fun). It’s so shiny and new, and I’m sure it will last for years to come. But it was not cheap! I was definitely not expecting to shell out $700 to replace a water pump just months after I bought a house.


So clean and shiny!

Oh the joys of being a new homeowner!

But some for-real joys: I got my shipment from my parents containing loads of things to make my house more “homey”! And I finished up the painting I wanted to do to the walls.


Living and dining rooms

I really love walking into my house now. It feels like home! This house has lessened the stresses that a transitive lifestyle can bring. With all the other changes happening in life, I know God has provided this place for some much-needed stability.

the hardest part

SONY DSCI’ve been warned about this. But being on the mission field just a short time, I haven’t dealt with it much. And you can never really know what something is like until you’ve experienced it yourself. They say it comes with the missionary life – and it’s the hardest part of it. They say it never gets easier, saying goodbye.  And I completely agree!

SONY DSC I had to say goodbye to one of my dearest friends today. I met her and her family almost 3 years ago at the cross-cultural training course for our organization. They came to Papua New Guinea around the same time as I did. And I quickly adopted them as my second family. Her boys have brought so much joy to my life (and shame, as they always beat me in Mario Kart).  And Susan has been a sister to me.

SONY DSCNow they have “gone finish” (the phrase we use when someone is leaving us for good), back to life in California. A piece of my heart left with them!  I know I can see them again someday, maybe go to California when I’m home on furlough.  But it just won’t be the same without them here!  This was something I never expected, but there’s a unique bond that comes with going through similar things together… and I guess that’s what makes it so hard.

SONY DSCThis does remind me, though, that my true home is not on earth.  This journey brings many amazing people into our lives, and one day we’ll all be together in heaven… never having to ever say goodbye again!

SONY DSCLove you, dear Susan!