To Build a Home.

August 6, 2005

7 years ago, Evie and I got married. Ever since, we have lived in ‘student housing,’ the houses of our families’ or occasionally even our car. Not having children gives us a certain amount of flexibility that we are VERY thankful for sometimes, and VERY resentful of other times. We decided early on in our marriage, that on this journey to see a church planted in an unreached people group, we would need to make a huge, serious, and coordinated effort to learn language, and that we’d be mutually better equipped for the task if we to postponed ‘starting a family’ until we master the tribal language of the people group we will minister to.

This decision too has had both negative and positive consequences. We believe we are doing the wise thing here, but it is sometimes tough to see your greatest friends starting families and enjoying kids while we sit at home alone, and feeling like we are being left behind, or missing out on something rad.


So soon, we will be moving yet AGAIN… This time, though, from our support base in Wewak, PNG, to our “final destination” on this road we’ve been traveling the last 7.5 years. Pei. This is what every move in the so far has been gearing us up towards… this is a BIG deal. Depending on the resolution to some tribal politics going on, we will be moving to one of two village locations. We could be building our very first home as soon as November, and as late as January (don’t you just LOVE PNG?)!

Our first HOME! We have never lived in our own house that we could paint, break, or remodel to our heart’s content – and we are pretty jazzed at the prospect! We have been spending a good chunk of the last few weeks planning and making construction supply lists for the big build… It is some SERIOUS WORK figuring all the logistics of building a bush house! We have to plan exhaustively, and lace orders for everything from nails and cabinet hinges, to plywood and steel roofing. It has been fun to work up a floor plan together, and plan life a bit in a new home… But it is a bit surreal as we will likely spend most of the rest of our lives in the house we will soon build, and (if we can even have children), we’ll need a bit more room than we usually cram ourselves into to raise some progeny eventually! There is a whirlwind of feelings about all of this stuff… this is a very emotional time.

So I downloaded this cool little program to help us work out some of the housebuilding challenges… SweetHome 3D. It has been fun to play with, and is surprisingly easy to use for a cross-platform 3D application. It has been super helpful with consolidating our ideas, and visualizing them after we build a virtual scale model. Figuring out stuff like how many pieces of metric sized plywood we’ll need for floors and walls, and figuring where to put sinks and toilets to economically plumb and wire the home have been much easier using this little gem!

So we finally came up with our final draft, and the only adjustments left to make will be minor to accommodate the realities of construction. We have a building team from our sending church in Winona Lake, Indiana that really wants to help us build and move in, but we wait upon God’s timing, and the resolution to the tribal drama playing out on the Walio river. Whenever the time comes though, we now have some direction for them!

These computer renderings are all from SweetHome 3D, and are a rough estimate of how our little home will look once we get it built. About 35 feet long (the widths of 9 pieces of plywood), and 25 feet wide (the lengths of 3 pieces of plywood), it sports 2 bedrooms (one for us, another for… well… KIDS!), a little loft for storage and guests, an indoor bathroom with flushing toilet, shower and sink. We’ll have a kitchen with a stove, a chest fridge/freezer, a closet, pantry and cabinets for storing supplies, dishes… the usual.

We’ll have a living room,(Note: All the furniture pieces you see are scale models included with the program so you can get a feel for the space we’ve created… and our solar powered lighting system will not be as bright as what is pictured either) and a “dining room” on our porch. Unlike the pictures, our windows won’t have glass in them, but “flywire” to help keep bugs out. All the walls are almost 8′ – 2400mm – tall (the length of a standard metric sheet of plywood for convenience), and all the windows are all 1200mm x 2400mm placed precisely 1200mm up from the ground… enough to place a sheet of plywood perfectly underneath it. We will use 4mm thick plywood for all the walls (it’ll take about 58 sheets), and 14mm plywood for all the floors (about 40 sheets). We also will have a screened in ‘mud-porch’ for a place to do laundry, for more help keeping bugs outside, and to clean muddy bodies (we’ll install a sink on the floor) a bit before coming indoors. The width of the porch will be the length of a sheet of plywood, and 5 sheets’ width long.

Our corrugated steel roof is very important, as we will collect rain into a large plastic tank off of it. We will filter the rain water for drinking, and use 12 volt electric pumps to get running water to the house. We’ll mount our PV panel array on our roof for our electricity, as well as a special water panel to heat water (so we don’t have to use expensive propane). We’ll dig a large septic tank for waste, and have a burn pit for trash. Nearly completely ‘green’ and self sufficient!

The whole house needs to be up on posts AT LEAST 4 feet in the air as flooding on the river is really common. We’ll side the house in the native fashion, using a plant material called “pangal” which is the stiff “bone” of a certain palm tree here in PNG. The same trees’ leaves are usually used for making thatch for roofing as well.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of what it is like to build, live and work here in this profession. We are privilaged to be able to live like this!

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