Just last week we returned from a wonderful 2 days in the Baiyer Valley, where we went to attend a special farewell ceremony put on for us by one of our Baptist school communities.  It was a really wonderful couple of days filled with sights, sounds, tastes and all kinds of memorable experiences that will stay with us forever.  We washed in a rapid flowing (freezing) river; we ate pig, chicken, kaukau, banana and an assortment of local greens that had been cooked in the ground with hot rocks (called a mumu); we sat up late with local friends singing songs, dancing and telling stories around a lantern and then we attempted to sleep in a round house made from bush materials with a fire in the centre.  I say ‘attempted to sleep’ because we shared our round house with rats and I-have-no-idea-what-that-was falling from the roof as we lay on our mattresses.  This on its own made for an incredibly memorable experience but there is more!

Only 5 years ago, this community was living in darkness.  There was tribal fighting in the area, the school was being mismanaged in every way; corruption was rife; teachers were hardly ever attending classes; students were not attending, in fact, classrooms were being used as brothels.  Their situation was desperate and when Ray first attended a community meeting there in 2007, he saw first hand the community’s anger about their schools circumstances.  Ray is in the process of writing a thesis (literally!) about the changes that have taken place there (and at other Baptist schools) over the past 5 years.  The transformation has been nothing short of miraculous to the point that it looks and feels like a completely different place. 

Many of the tears I shed at our farewell ceremony last week were for this very reason.  Not only are we sad to say goodbye to the wonderful people we have come to know and love out there but as I looked out at the hundreds of smiling happy children dressed in their bright clean uniforms, singing praise songs and expressing their appreciation, and as I looked around at the bright new classrooms where Christ is now taught and honoured, I was moved to tears with gratitude to God for what has happened in this community.  He is the One who changes lives; He is the One who works miracles and restores light and life where once there was darkness and despair.  What we have seen God do here gives us cause to praise and worship Him for He has done great things!

These are the things that will be most memorable to us even more than the rats, mozzies and dips in the freezing river.  These memories will go beyond even this life.  I imagine sitting around in Heaven some day telling stories about the things we saw God do in this place and we will sing and dance in praise to Him.  THAT is awesome!