Story by Verna Stutzman

Oct 9, 2000


In my house in Cedar Hill, Texas, I have a large master bathroom less than ten feet from my bedside. It contains a counter with two sinks, a mirror that measures 3.5’ by 5’, a bathtub and shower with lots of water pressure, an adjoining room for the ‘throne’, and a large walk-in closet. So what?

Let me tell you about bathrooms in Papua New Guinea.

In Sopu village, we had an outhouse. It consisted of a deep hole in the ground, which was covered with logs and dirt. The two center logs had a crack between them about six inches wide. We had to be very careful when squatting across this opening especially when the logs were wet. Once Robert’s foot slipped and his leg fell into the hole.

For showers, we heated water in a large pot over an open fire. Then we poured the water into a shower bucket and hoisted it up with a pulley in our shower room. The bucket had a nozzle underneath, which we turned to let out just enough water to soap ourselves. Then we opened the nozzle a little more to rinse off the soap. It’s amazing what a nice shower you can have with one quart of water!

On Lou Island, the people used sea toilets. There were two toilets per village – one for the men and one for the women. They were at opposite ends of the village a long way from our house. To get to the toilet we had to walk along a narrow plank about 150 feet from the beach out to sea, balancing carefully so we didn’t fall into the water below. The most interesting thing about this toilet was watching the fish each time they heard a ‘kerplop’. That was their dinner bell.

One night when we were staying with a local family, I had to get up to use the facilities. I felt very dizzy as I made my way down the long stairway in the dark. Because the sea toilet was half a mile away, I decided to use a tree instead. While squatting, I was so woozy that I collapsed in the mud. When I revived, I made my way carefully back into the house and up that long flight of stairs. I was hanging on for dear life, hoping I wouldn’t faint on the stairway. It was a long way down to the concrete floor at the bottom.

Finally, I got to the top of the stairs and turned down the hall. I didn’t hear the loud crash that woke up everyone in the house. When I came too, I was surprised to see so many people crowded around me in the hallway asking me, “Are you all right?” Apparently, when I hit the floor, the whole house shook and woke up everyone.

In embarrassment, I muttered, “Yes”, as I crawled over to my mattress on the floor. In the morning, we determined that I had succumbed to fumes from a kerosene lantern our host had left burning as a nightlight for us.

When we first bought our house in Cedar Hill, I was overwhelmed with the beauty and comfort of the bathroom. I cried with gratitude every time I used it. When friends came over for the first time, I always showed them my bathroom first. I was so amazed that the Lord gave me such a beautiful bathroom after all those bathrooms in PNG. Even now, five years later, I still ‘tear up’ when I think about it. “Thank you, Jesus for my lovely bathroom! Let me never ‘take it for granted’.”