by Shelli Owen
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Here’s an overview of what we’ve all been up to since Mary’s misadventure:
After her incident on Mount Hood, Mary went on to make up the classwork she missed while in the hospital. She graduated from George Fox University with honors, married Benjamin Grimm (the day after her graduation), and move to Lynden, WA to begin her graduate work in linguistics, just across the border, at Trinity Western University in Canada.
While attending Trinity, Mary (with Ben) was invited by a village leader in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to come there to help them translate the Old Testament into their language. Mary and Ben accepted the invitation. Before leaving for PNG, Mary gave birth to a healthy baby girl and graduated from Trinity with honors and a master’s degree in linguistics. Mary and Ben then traveled to their newly constructed home, built for them by the people in their destination village of Baku in PNG.
Before they could stay in PNG for longer than three months, they had to spend several months in Australia awaiting long-term PNG visa and passport clearances. After their return to PNG, Ben and then Mary came down with a severe case of Malaria. (This was when we learned there are four kinds of Malaria in PNG!) Thankfully, they both fully recovered. Our biggest challenge was getting reliable communication devices to them (a working Satellite phone and cell phone) for their use and safety, and that of the people in their village as well. During this time, PNG was hit by a major earthquake and not long afterward one of the offshore PNG islands (where people were living) became an active volcano. Mary and Ben’s village was not ill-affected by either event, though they felt and saw evidence of both.
At the end of 2018, the Grimms returned to the U.S.A. on furlough and for the birth of their second, healthy girl. They had also joined up with a Christian organization, called Word Made Flesh, which they felt was on the same page and would help with their mission support. They attended their first conference with WMF while on furlough.
After their return to PNG, they continued the learning curve—basic survival skills (growing their own garden, making homemade bread and cheese, etc.), languages (Tok-Pisin—the trade language, and Yamano—the language of their village), PNG culture, the needs and desires of their village people, tropical agriculture, further EMT training (for Ben)—so they could in turn teach and help other people with their skills. They were able to help their village obtain a portable sawmill and to give skills training and so viable employment to some of the village people. Ben began “First Responder and Primary Care” training for some of the villagers, and Mary was beginning some language and translation work as well. During that season, Mary gave birth to their third child, a son, born in PNG. They continued the learning curve and began to have more opportunities to serve to help save, prolong, and prosper people’s lives physically and spiritually—and in their words— “according to God’s will and timing.”
In 2021 they set out to return to the U.S.A. for furlough for a few months. Their “sending organization,” Word Made Flesh, was supposed to be holding another international conference in the U.S.A. for staff. After travel delays and with great difficulty because of unforeseen COVID restrictions in Singapore, the Grimms finally arrived in NYC in time to briefly visit Mary’s sister, Rachel, and her daughter. While they were in the U.S.A., Mary and Ben learned they had to be vaccinated to return to PNG, and so they were (by Johnson & Johnson). The Word Made Flesh conference was canceled (our guess is due to COVID restrictions). Returning to PNG was equally difficult as their children, one after the other, tested positive for COVID, and they had further unanticipated travel and PNG re-entry requirements to meet. They spent an extra several weeks in Maryland, with family members of friends, before they could leave the United States. Travel with three “littles,” or Grimmlings, as many fondly refer to their children, was already a challenge. With this trip, it appeared that travel had become the Grimm’s least favorite thing.
On their return to their village in PNG, they had an extended delay in the town where they generally resupply. This town is two days away, by automobile and motor-powered canoe, from the remote village where they live. They were having issues with their canoe’s boat motor. While they were delayed, they had the opportunity to help bring assistance to people from the village of Kamambara. These villagers were in need of clean water, food, clothing, and rebuilt homes—after theirs were looted and burned down by a war party of angry, revenge-seeking young men from a neighboring village, due to a death in a drunken altercation. Cycles of revenge are common and seemingly never-ending between various villages, tribes, and individuals almost everywhere in PNG. It seemed God had postponed the Grimm’s return to their own village not just to help with basic living needs, but to take part in encouraging the people involved in this incident to find a resolution or understanding rather than furthering the cycle of revenge. Shortly afterward, the Grimms were able to return to their own village.
The next year another, less anticipated, but joyfully received son was born to them in PNG. Meanwhile, they were able to help their village toward resolving an embezzlement dispute concerning funds for the closest medical clinic (a day away from their village). Also, they were able to help arrange for the funding and work to restore the cell tower in their village that was accidentally damaged by someone clearing vines not long after the Grimms first moved to PNG. (Imagine a cell tower being considered a need, but not other common infrastructure like indoor plumbing, electricity, passable roads, reliable transportation, etc.) They were also able to assist in the building of a learning and language development center in their village among other projects. They have joyfully welcomed visitors from Australia and the U.S.A. who have already been highly supportive of the work they are doing in PNG.
Mary, with Ben, currently continues juggling life as a spouse, parent, language-development facilitator, Bible translator, and community-development facilitator amidst five villages in Papua New Guinea that speak the same language. (There are over 800 independent languages spoken in PNG.) Mary and Ben are doing all that they do—as they repeatedly tell us—with God’s Help. Their oldest Grimmling is six years old and the youngest eight months. They express appreciation often for being able to live in PNG. Besides the people they’ve grown to love and consider family, along with daily living in tropical beauty, they get to camp in the outdoors year-round—all things that feed their happy souls. Not to mention, there is never a dull moment. Adventure is around every corner and twinkling in each of their children’s eyes.
I won’t go into as much detail about Bruce and myself.
Bruce is still working at GFU in the finance department. He is also Mary and Ben’s authorized representative for their U.S.A. banking. He is a deacon at our Calvary Chapel (Bible-teaching) church and also uses his accounting skills for the church’s benefit.
Life is sometimes said to be a battle. That’s been literally true for Bruce, and he has the wounds to prove it. In one year, ending in October of 2022, he garnered three large gnarly scars on his legs. One was from an inadvertent metal trailer “bite” while we were Christmas tree hunting. At a Christmas tree farm, he received a gash at least four inches long and a gaping three inches wide—until I pushed it shut and held it, and it was zero inches wide. He had his first ride in an ambulance. Bunches of stitches later it looked Frankenstein-ish. Thankfully no infection followed. That was one battle wound.
The other two scars are much cleaner, even if longer. They are from total knee replacement surgeries, one on each knee. Being tall, a previous football player, a former construction worker, a dad (doing “Insanity” workouts with our son, for example), a husband (walking at angles in the slip-slidey sand on the beach with me, his wife, for example), as well as other full-life activities is apparently tough on knees. No going back. Except He’s back to walking tall and mostly without a cane these days.
Besides trying to keep up with family and friends, which is an almost full-time job by itself, I’m writing. And writing. And writing some more. Books and blogs, blogs that might become books. The main topics I’m currently focusing on are: “My Spiritual Journey Toward True Identity” (a faith memoir); “My Encounters with God in Crisis and in Daily Life,” and “Considering the Issues through the Lens of Jesus.” My website describes other projects I’ve got going. If you’re interested in any of these, here’s a link to my website: https://www.wordsintime.net/
A friend moved away to Ohio last year and left me as the facilitator for two writing groups and an “Author Spotlight” program at our church. She started the spotlight platform for the support of Christian authors in the Pacific Northwest (CAPNW). If you are such an author or know of one who might like to be featured, you can contact me through my website for more information. We also have a couple of upcoming book fairs for CAPNW and readers in the works. You can learn more and sign up on my website for these.
So, that’s what we’ve been up to in a nutshell. We hope you’ll travel with us on our journey going forward.
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