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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

Beyond Mt Hood - on to Papua New Guinea

Updated: Apr 10

by Shelli Owen

Three of Mary's children and a friend sitting on a bench overlooking the Sepic River in the East Sepic Province of Papua New Guinea

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What Mary has been doing since her misadventure on and rescue from Mt Hood? Where have her life and interests taken her? For those interested, these are updates featuring her and her family's further adventures. If you would like to request a subscription to the Grimm's periodic newsletters so you can pray for or otherwise support their ministry, please use the "contact us" option on this website.


From the US to PNG

After Mary's incident on Mount Hood, she 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 moved 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.


In order to stay in PNG for longer than three months, they had to travel to and then spend several months in Australia while waiting for long-term PNG visas and passport clearances.


Not long after their joyful return to PNG, Ben and then Mary came down with severe cases of Malaria. (This was when we learned there are four kinds of Malaria in PNG!) Thankfully, in time, they both fully recovered.


Our next 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 period, 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. Baku, Mary and Ben’s village was not ill-affected by either event, though they felt and saw some evidence of both. (This was when we learned these, especially big earthquakes, are regular occurrences in PNG!)


2018

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 such as growing their own garden, making homemade bread and cheese, and so on were essential. Also, language acquisition, which includes Tok-Pisin, the trade language of PNG, and Yamano, the language of the five Yamano villages where they live was a priority. Other things they were trying to learn include PNG culture, the needs and desires of their village people, tropical agriculture, and additional EMT skills (for Ben). Their end desire has been to use their skills to help the Yamano develop into a healthy society spiritually and materially.


The Grimms were able to help their village obtain a portable sawmill and to give skills training, which gave 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 “according to God’s will and timing.”


2021

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 the Grimms 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, probably due to overwhelming COVID restrictions.


Returning to PNG was equally difficult. On the first leg of their journey, from Seattle to NYC, the children, one after the other, tested positive for COVID. Then, because of further unanticipated travel and PNG re-entry requirements that they had to meet before they could leave the United States, they spent an extra several weeks in Maryland. Family members of friends blessed them with a place to stay.


Finally, after retracing their previous travel destination points and hours in transit—minus a delay in Singapore—they made it back to PNG. Travel with their three “littles,” or "Grimmlings," as many fondly refer to their children, ended up being a gargantuan challenge. Beginning with this trip, long-distance travel became the Grimms' least favorite thing.


After they made it to Port Moresby, where PNG’s one international airport is situated, they flew another two hours by plane to arrive in Wewak on the coast. But they were not able to return to Baku yet. The remote village that they consider their home, is another two days away from Wewak. The first six-plus hours are generally spent in a POV/Van/Bus and the second six-plus hours in a motor-powered canoe. Their ancient boat motor had been abused and needed fixing before they could return. So, the Grimms had an extended stay in Wewak, the town where they generally only go for resupply.


While the Grimms 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. The whole village had been looted and burned down by a war party of angry, revenge-seeking young men from a neighboring village. It was an escalation following a rape and then the retaliatory killing of a young man 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 in understanding rather than furthering the cycle of revenge. Shortly afterward, the Grimms were able to return to their own village.


2022

The next year another, less expected, but no less joyfully received son was born to the Grimms in Wewak. Both of their sons born in PNG were delivered by Ben. For different reasons the midwives did not make it to either of the births. On this occasion, the Grimms were not able to get a call through because the power was out. Why? Gangs were burning a portion of Wewak. Ben's EMT training inadvertently ended up being a godsend for them, again.


While the Grimms were in Wewak, they were able to assist toward the resolution of an embezzlement dispute. Substantial funds had "gone missing," which were meant for the completion of a medical clinic for the Yamano people in Ambunti. (Ambunti is two hours downriver from Baku.)


Also, the Grimms were able to help arrange for the funding and work to restore the cell tower in their village that had accidentally been 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.)


Going forward, the Grimms have also helped acquire and bring materials used for the building of a learning and language development center in their village, a water catchment and portage system, and other projects. They, with the villagers, have joyfully welcomed various visitors from Australia who have been highly supportive of the work the Grimms are doing in PNG with the Yamano people.


Mary, with Ben, currently continues juggling life as a spouse, parent, language-development facilitator, Bible translator, and community development facilitator amidst the five Yamano villages in Papua New Guinea. Villages that all speak the same Yamano 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 often express appreciation 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.




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