The World’s Most Hospitable People
Last December, I had the opportunity to lead a Hope Volunteer Corp group to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
My initial thoughts were that the country sounded so unfamiliar and foreign. I’m no stranger to discomfort, but this sounded like it was going to be a whole other ball game. Where is this place? What is its culture? Why is everyone asking me to be careful? And most importantly, why is it called the “land of the unexpected”?
Before I left for Papua New Guinea, I took along with me a whole packet of Milo, a bag of my favourite snacks and said a prayer, “God, I know that it was not in my plans to lead this trip, but yet it is in your plans God. Help me to see why you want me to be there and humble me to the glory of your plans. Your thoughts are higher than mine, and your plans are greater than mine. Amen”
I’m not going to lie, I was afraid. On one hand I wanted to fully embrace this experience and allow myself to grow and learn. On the other I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted the group I was leading to have the best trip of their lives and for everything to go without the slightest hiccup. But of course, we all know that’s not how life works.
The first night greeted me with a power and water cut. I thought to myself, “Wow I’m truly having the full experience here.” I was staying with a sister-in-Christ, Kobsey, and as we waited for the electricity to come back, we decided to sit outside where it was cooler. What we did not realise was that we had spent the past four hours fellowshipping and sharing about our lives and that it was already 7pm. We stepped outside, and could not stop marvelling at the yellow and orange hues spewed across the sky.
It took a power cut for me to intentionally pause and quite literally smell the flowers.
The following two weeks flew by at lightning speed, the participants arrived and we began our work at Mercy Care School. We built cement floors and brick walls, painted classrooms, had parenting classes and were able to play with the kids in the school. Between smashing rocks and sweating it out in the sun, we had Bible studies daily.
Besides going around and making sure that everyone was safe, fed and happy, I got to play volleyball with the kids. I discovered that for some reason I was always in the shade. I decided to swap places with one of the locals to be fair and stand in the sun. It was then that I found out that they had intentionally let me stand in the shade and bore the heat of the sun themselves because they did not want me to get burnt. Knowing that just made me feel so loved and taken care of.
Amongst the Bible studies were two individuals – Steven, a security guard at the school, and Roselyn, a mother at the school.
I personally had the chance to reach out to Roselyn and be her friend. Roselyn is a single mother of three and is two years my senior. We started chatting when I was sitting by the side, taking a long break.
At the young age of 25, Roselyn had already been through a lot. She decided to make the difficult decision to leave her husband for the sake of her children. She wanted to give her youngest daughter away when she was born, but could not bear to do that when she saw how beautiful baby Cleo was. What made this bond between Roselyn and I so special was how she looked for me every day at school and allowed me to carry Cleo the entire day, with 100% trust that the baby would be okay. She joined all the services we attended.
Today, both Roselyn and Steven are part of our family in Christ.
I left Papua New Guinea feeling so loved and taken care of. This “dangerous” place actually made me feel so safe and belonged. The last day left us in tears as we turned into the airport carpark and saw some of the children from the Mercy Care School trailing behind our bus with trolleys to help us with our bags. They had walked in the sun just to send us off and say goodbye for the last time.
Papua New Guinea has found a spot in my heart and I know for sure it’s not a “Goodbye”. Rather, it is “See you again soon!”
“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
Steffi Cheong is 24 this year and working as a Behavioural Therapist for children with special needs. She has been a disciple with the Central Christian Church for 8 years. She recently graduated from being a global service intern for HOPE worldwide where she plans philanthropic trips for volunteers.