It has been two weeks since we completed the DTS! After a lot of last minute departures, canceled flights and changed plans, we ended up with 6 students from the October DTS. Although it initially appeared that the COVID-19 restrictions in Australia were not that bad (compared to the Netherlands), last week they decided that the campus will be locked down indefinitely, which literally means that the doors are locked; no one is allowed to leave or enter the campus.
Although it is slightly frustrating not being able to go for running or swimming, or to go to the supermarket, it's a blessing that we're still able to do indoor activities. The campus is quite large, consists of several buildings and apartments, with a courtyard and a hill behind the parking lot that contains a small greenhouse and a few vegetable gardens. The vast majority of the hill is littered with large bushes of weeds, all of which must be removed; and let me just be placed in the gardening team! Fortunately, this is a temporary job (2 weeks), because as my former roommate Hannah knows all too well, gardening is not my greatest talent, haha!
Every day I work in the gardens from 8am to 5pm (mowing, weeding, planting flowers, cleaning tiles, more weeding, etc.). It's hard work in the blazing sun (31 ° C), but despite the exhausting heat and blisters on my hands (which are currently showing inflammatory symptoms), I use my time proactively by listening to audiobooks or worship music and I have a lot of time to pray. My Brazilian supervisor is very chill and in the afternoon there are 2 students from the January DTS to help us. One of these is Messach, from Papua New Guinea.
After I finish spraying the tiles on Thursday, I go with Mesach to make the bushes of weeds on the hill smaller. I hadn't bothered going upstairs to put on closed-toe shoes, which wasn't the smartest move. Unfortunately, when we load bunches of weeds onto a metal gate to take to the garden debris at the top of the hill, I overlook the sharp boulders, making my foot ugly open. When Mesach sees that it starts to bleed profusely, he tears off an edge of his good shirt without hesitation and ties the (sweaty) piece of cloth around my foot. A touching gesture and a beautiful reflection of the PNG culture in which caring for each other is seen as important value.
Today (Monday, April 6) I start with the Discipleship Bible School (DBS), in which we go through the entire Bible in chronological order in 12 weeks. Every morning we have lectures from 8 am to 12.30 pm, followed by lunch. After lunch we have small groups till 3 pm. Then ministry placements from 3 pm to 5 pm and homework in the evenings. It is an intensive program, but I see it as a valuable investment in my life (especially with a view to long-term missions). I am very curious about the Biblical truths that God is going to reveal through this DBS!
The DBS will last until the end of June, so at least I'll be in Townsville until then (the borders to PNG have been closed for at least 2 months, so going back to the ship was no longer an option either). Due to the whole COVID-19 situation, it is not yet clear whether the Birth Attendant School in Perth (Australia) will start on July 5th, but that will become clear as time goes by.
Despite the rapidly changing situation, plans that got cancelled and the fear and anxiety spread (by the media); it is a great security to be able to hold on to a loving God who never changes! He gives so much rest and peace, that enables us to be filled with an inner, unchanging certainty and hope. We don't have to suffer from any kind of fear!