Last week I had the joy of spending some time with my sister and her husband on their farm in Adams county, Pennsylvania. I was visiting with her because both of our birthdays fall within a few days of each other, and we enjoy celebrating them together. While there, we attended a stamp show. It was my first visit to a stamp show, and the building was packed with vendors dealing in stamps of all kinds, from all across the globe. It was a fascinating experience, and also quite productive for me.
You see, I collect stamps. Not just any stamps, but stamps from Papua New Guinea (PNG), the country where my husband and I translated the New Testament into the Nabak language. The country I lived in for 35 1/2 years. The country where my husband was murdered.
So there I was, in the stamp show, and I found people selling stamps from PNG. There was enough variety and selection that I was nearly able to complete my own collection. It was exciting. But more important than that, I found myself transported back to PNG for a couple of hours. I joyfully flipped through books of stamps, and pawed through boxes of stamps, reveling in the beauty of this adopted land of mine. There were stamps showing the intricate masks the native people wear, and the delicate flowers and colorful butterflies of the island. There were stamps showing Queen Elizabeth II, since PNG is part of the British Commonwealth. And there were stamps showing the animals native to the island, such as the varieties of turtles, skinks and frogs. And, of course, there were stamps depicting the beautiful Bird of Paradise.
The stamps from Papua New Guinea are valuable because there are so few printed of any issue unlike, say, US stamps where millions are printed. Since the entire nation of Papua New Guinea has a lower population than New York City, they don’t need all that many stamps. This means collecting stamps from PNG is fun and challenging. PNG does something else which also increases the value of their stamps: They “over-print” them, meaning when the price of stamps goes up, they black out the old value and print a new value in its place. This unusual practice means more fun for us collectors! I have a special section of my stamp collection dedicated just to these “over-prints”. PNG has also released a series of stamps featuring the Missionary Aviation Fellowship and also the Summer Institute of Linguistics. The Summer Institute stamps were drawn by my friend Michael Harrar, who is an excellent artist. Some day I would like to display stamps that were used on envelopes in some sort of book or show so people might learn about PNG from looking at them.
It makes me happy to think about PNG, but I also wish things could have turned out different for them. After they gained their independence in 1975, things began to deteriorate, and to my eyes, PNG now suffers from a sort of national bi-polar disorder. They have so much going for them: A wealth of natural resources, many young people going to university and gaining higher degrees, beautiful wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. But they also suffer from crippling problems: Corruption, lack of infrastructure, poor schools and hospitals, bad roads and, worst of all, terrible issues with law and order. It could be a world-famous destination for tourists if the crime wasn’t so bad. There are many Bible translators working in PNG, diligently laboring to place the word of God into the native languages of PNG, of which there are over 800. Perhaps the word of God can bring some peace to the country. I’m not sure what else could except His word.
In some ways I feel like Moses when he was in Egypt in that he had a sort of dual citizenship – he knew he was Hebrew, but he was also Egyptian at the same time. My heart is similarly torn between the United States and Papua New Guinea. In Exodus 3:11, Moses asks God “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” I’ve done my small part to free the people of PNG from the bondage of ignorance, and who was I that I was trusted with that task? And now I must trust He knows how best to reach Papua New Guinea, my dear love, my second home. Will you join me in praying?