four-square (n) – 1. a game played perpetually by students in Ukarumpa, PNG whenever a flat surface and a ball can be found in the same place at the same time, 2. a pentecostal denomination of the Christian Church, also found in Papua New Guinea.
1. It’s true. During class breaks in the school day, after school, and on the weekends, children as young as 5 and as old as 20 can be found playing Four Square throughout Ukarumpa. The rules, I learned shortly after trying to join in a few games myself, are quite different in the Southern Hemisphere. The ball is smaller, the place-you-must-bounce-the-ball is different, and anyone at any time can say “death wheel” (which does something), “death match” (which does something else), or “death platypus” (which does nothing at all, but they say it all the same).
Just to throw the students off, a group of teachers decided to take over the Four Square court at the Secondary Campus a few weeks ago and challenge them to a grand competition. We had fun, yes, but we were sorely defeated.
2. What I really wanted to write about, though, before the first definition of the word distracted me (as so many things are prone to do), was the Four Square church service I went to last week in a nearby village. It was the first regular service I’ve attended outside of Ukarumpa, and though I understood very little of the two-hour sermon, the music was delightful and the service was most encouraging.
It was a special service in honor of the widows and the women of the church, complete with speeches, gift-giving, and a feast afterwards.
In short, I was blown away by the hospitality of these people. All of the women chose one other woman in the church to bring gifts to, and so the great exchange of blankets, pots, pans, and electric griddles (it’s true!) took place right there before us. On top of that, the three widows of the church stood up front and the people lavished them with all sorts of goods.
In the midst of all this, an elderly woman stood up with her walking staff in hand, and in a speech that would make you think her grandfather was Moses himself, proclaimed that when she was gone and past away, these people would pick up her staff and carry on the mission of the church. At least, I think that’s what she said.
After this, Luke (a friend of mine) and I chopped down a thick bamboo shoot and played a rousing game of whiffle-ball with the childfolk. Thanks to Luke’s curveball, I was the first to strike out.
In other news, I made a loaf of bread last night, pulled it out of the oven and proclaimed (in all seriousness), “It smells like Thanksgiving.” In reply, one of my 9th grade boys took a whiff, smiled and said, “Mmmm…. That does smell good. And I don’t even celebrate that holiday.”