Family Update & Plans for 2023

January 2, 2023

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We have been back in North Carolina since June of this year for medical reasons, and we’ve gotten good answers and made lots of progress. Some of you probably remember that Nate had sepsis and briefly went into septic shock in PNG. After several appointments back in the States, they figured out the reason was a UTI that was caused because of a stricture in the urethra. He was able to have a procedure done to fix the urethra, and this should hopefully prevent recurring problems. This was a huge answer to prayer because once someone has had sepsis, they’re at greater risk of becoming septic again from an infection. Returning to PNG without any answers as to why he had sepsis and how to prevent it again would have been risky.

While in Papua New Guinea, we were also concerned that Erin’s speech delays were in fact a greater problem, and we were advised to go home to get a professional opinion. We were told by three separate therapists in the U.S. that Erin most likely has apraxia of speech, which involves a neurological disconnect between what she wants to say in her brain and how that comes out in the way she forms her words when talking. We were able to get her into speech therapy back in June just a couple weeks after we arrived home. Three years old is the earliest that apraxia can be diagnosed, and we were grateful that we were able to get help for her specific needs as soon as we could. Since she’s been in therapy, we have seen tremendous progress with her intelligibility. It has taken a lot of work on her end and tons of repetition to start establishing new neuron pathways that can form letters correctly. We were told that while this is an issue that she’ll need years of therapy for, after a year of professional help (which will be this June), I’ll be able to exclusively continue that therapy with her at home, and we are fine to return to Papua New Guinea at that point. What a huge answer to prayer! Thank you so much for your support, which has enabled us to return home and receive extensive medical attention without the added burden of how to pay for it all. What a blessing that has been, and what a blessing you all are to us!

So Nate’s all ready to go back, Erin will be ready to head back in June, and now it’s just up to our soon-to-be-born daughter, Emily! I’m due with our second baby girl near the end of February, and we’re excited to welcome her into our family. Please pray that we’ll have a safe delivery and that we’ll be able to pack things up and head back to PNG this summer. With Erin, I had preeclampsia and had to be induced early. So far everything has gone well this pregnancy, and hopefully Emily can just come when she’s ready. I would appreciate prayers for both of us that we will stay healthy for the next couple months.

We’ve of course been enjoying spending time with family and church family while we’ve been back. We’re so grateful that the vast majority of our support base lives in NC and we don’t have to travel all over the place but have been able to feel settled. God provided us with a car and a house that we have been able to have and will be able to have the whole time we’re home. It’s been a huge blessing, and I’m especially thankful for the settledness for Erin’s sake.

We left Papua New Guinea this past June at a really good point. Before we had to come home, we completed and passed our formal language study of the national language and completed all the field orientation requirements - bush orientation/shadowing, living in multiple locations, medical training - if you remember us talking about those things in previous newsletters. When we head back to PNG, Lord willing in June, we’ll obviously need a time of refreshing ourselves with the language and spending time with people, but all of our official training is behind us. That being said, we’ll be at the stage of deciding on a region of the country to move into long-term (mountains, swamp or islands). There are tribes asking for missionaries in each of these locations, and there are pros and cons humanly speaking to each region of the country, so we’ll need to weigh those. Our organization does not just send missionaries into a designated tribal location, but largely leaves the decision up to the missionaries and how God is directing the team. So, we’ll need to find teammates or join a team. Ideally there are three units (a unit is a single, married couple or family) that move into a tribe together and commit to work together long-term. We have two options with this: We can either become one of those three units of a team and move into a new tribe to begin a new work, or we can join an existing work that is missing their full team. An existing work is a work that at one point had a group of three missionary units, but for various reasons, some of the missionaries have left and the work is incomplete and suffering. There are several of these tribal locations where just one family is in there sticking it out and greatly needs for another unit to be willing to join them in order to continue the work of learning language and ultimately sharing the gospel and translating the Scriptures.

We know God will direct our steps. Pray for us to walk closely with Him and thereby find the confidence to follow where He leads. Thank you all so much for your prayers and love and kindness and financial support that allows us to do this. Sincerely, you are such a treasured part of our lives, and we truly all go to Papua New Guinea together as one big team working to advance the gospel into places where it’s still unknown.

If you’d like to keep up with the different tribes and missionary families that are currently working in Papua New Guinea, you can follow the group on Facebook “NTM Papua New Guinea.” You’ll get to see pictures and videos of the different faces and people groups in PNG and see how things are going in each stage of church planting all over the country. God really is building his church, and it is exciting to watch it unfold.

Nate and Laura