Now that we’re back from Australia, we’re focusing on 3 main priorities while we’re here at Hoskins: 1) spend time getting to know the New Tribes area leadership and the support missionaries here, 2) start meeting with our potential national coworkers and their sending churches, and 3) begin plans and preparations for building a small house in our coworkers’ tribe so that we have somewhere to live while we learn their language/culture and build relationships with them. We’ve talked about those first two priorities a bit in our weekly prayer updates, so now we want to talk a little bit about that third priority: preparing for housebuilding! 🙂
The house we’re planning to build won’t be big, and it may not look fancy, but it should be adequate for our needs while we learn our national coworkers’ language and build relationships with them and their sending churches. We’ve talked about house designs since we were in missionary training in the U.S., and after thinking through and sketching out 5 or 6 different designs we’ve finally settled on one that we think should work for us. It’s a basic 20′ x 32′ design with corrugated tin roofing (pretty standard roofing, unless you’re making a leaf roof), plenty of windows with screen (don’t want the mosquitos indoors!), and made primarily out of wood. I’d post a picture, but…it isn’t built yet! 🙂
So what does planning and preparing for house building look like? Well, so far it has involved a lot of drawing. Josiah’s been busy drawing to-scale plans for the floors, walls, roof, under the house, etc. He’s been calculating angles for the roof, lengths of boards, and the area of the walls and floor. Recently, we figured out how big of a pit we need to make for our septic system, and how heavy one of our filled water tanks will be. All that math we had to do in school is paying off! 🙂
Once we figure out the quantities we’ll need of pipes, fly wire, nails, screws, tin roofing, cement, gutter pipes, etc then we’ll start making trips into town (about 1 hr by road) to find out how much those supplies will cost and where the best place is to get them. We’ve heard that a lot of other missionaries usually spend $30,000 – $40,000 on building a house (and half of that cost is transporting the supplies into the jungle), so that’s a pretty safe estimate to shoot for, but we won’t have a clearer idea of how much this house will cost until we actually do this step of crunching the numbers. We’ve started a special “house building account” to use for designating money for buying the supplies for the house and flying them in to the location where we build it.
We know that doing house building means there is a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re excited to build a house that will be useful not only for us as we learn language and culture and build relationships with our coworkers, but hopefully for other missionaries in the future, who could possibly live in that house for bush orientation, or missionary pilots could stay overnight in that house if needed. This house could also be a big help to us whenever we fly in or out of our future long-term ministry location, since this house will be at the shuttle location where our supplies (and us!) switch between a helicopter (maybe be the most common route into our future location) and a Kodiak single-engine airplane. We pray this little house will be a big blessing!
It’s impossible to encapsulate in a few words everything we learned in our bush orientation (from Dec 16 – March 14), but here are just a few of the things we learned through our time living in the “bush” among a group of believers:
There are many more things we’ve learned, but it would be hard to explain all those things in just a blog post, so here’s just the tip of the iceberg. 🙂 We’re so grateful to God for all the things He taught us and all that we were able to learn from the believers during bush orientation.
While we’re out here in bush orientation, I thought I’d take a chance to write down some of the things that have taken me a little time to get used to about living out here in “the bush”.
· There are pigs everywhere. This may not be the case in every village, but it is the case here. These pigs dig up the grass all over the place, but especially near the water tank next to the house we’re living in. They can turn a beautiful patch of grass into a dug-up mud pit in less than 10 minutes.
· The roosters here have no concept of time. They crow at all hours, don’t respect anyone’s naptime, and because they wander freely around the village, there’s always one crowing nearby.
· You can see the stars here. I mean, you can REALLY see the stars here. On clear nights, the whole sky is full of stars, and they actually do twinkle. I just thought that was a myth in a song, but nope, they actually do twinkle!
· I’ve had to learn to live in the dark. We use solar panels and batteries for getting electricity out here in the bush, but since the batteries in this house are old, we have limited power supply after the sun goes down. So after dark, we live in the dark, navigating around the house with a flashlight. This has taken me a while to get used to, but I’m finally to the point where I’m not running into everything when the lights are out.
· Staying healthy is a constant battle. The climate and environment here in the jungle make it easy to get sick. The humidity saps our strength and dehydrates us quickly. It’s also a veritable greenhouse for making little cuts or scratches become infected sores in no time at all. Many of the mosquitos around us carry malaria, the flies spread germs, and the centipedes have deadly stings. The sweat, dirt, and grime from everyday living can easily stick to our skin and, if we’re not careful to scrub well, before we know it, we have a boil.
· Wherever I am, there are always critters nearby. Whether it’s a gecko eating bugs inside the house, or a frog jumping onto my foot when I’m walking outside in the dark, or a spider in yesterday’s dirty laundry, or a rat scampering in the bathroom at night.
· Life out here in the bush really is impacted by the weather. If it’s sunny, we get good electricity from the solar panels, so it’s a good day to get some work done on the computer. If it’s raining, there won’t be much electricity today, so maybe let’s wash clothes or do something to use the extra water that’s overflowing from the water tank. It’s very different than living somewhere where you basically have unlimited water and power, unless there’s a drought or big power outage. It just takes some getting used to, and definitely has grown me in flexibility!
I (Rachel) don’t know how many women have told me “I could never be a missionary, I’m afraid of snakes and spiders!” Well, if not fearing creepy crawly things is a requirement for being a missionary, then I’m not qualified for this job! I share the sentiments of many other women towards all critters which creep and crawl and scurry – a feeling of both fear and loathing.
Though missionary work in many places in the world will not necessarily increase your chances of encountering snakes and spiders, it is true that being a missionary in a tribal (i.e. jungle) context does bring those critters into my life more often than you probably see them in the US. For example, since moving to the jungle for bush orientation, I have had numerous encounters with creeping and crawling things, such as:
· On December 27, while in the bathroom, a 6-inch praying mantis landed on my back, crawled up into my hair, and wouldn’t let go despite my repeated attempts to remove him.
· On December 28, I wasn’t feeling well and was napping in bed (a thin foam mattress on the floor), and a small 2-inch centipede decided to snuggle under the sheets with me (and ended up stinging me).
· The next evening, while walking down some wooden steps, a rhinoceros beetle decided to hitch a ride on my ankle, and just clung to my ankle and hissed and hissed while we tried to pry her off.
· We’ve had three episodes with rats – once right before we left the village for a medical trip, and twice more since then. They’ve gotten into the house twice and eaten some food, but mostly they seem to hang out downstairs, where the bathroom is. The live trap we brought with us seems to work pretty well so far (it’s caught 3 under our house, and 2 in the house next door), and thankfully the people here in this village aren’t fans of eating rat, so we didn’t have to eat any of them. J
· On January 27, while Josiah was gone trying to get our computer working again, I had another centipede adventure. I felt something on the other side of a bath towel scrape my finger, and dropped the towel like a hot potato. I wrapped that towel in a big plastic bag, grabbed the bush knife and Mortein bug spray and took the towel down to the cement pad under the house (all the houses are built up on stilts here). There I dropped the towel, and used the bush knife to gingerly open up the wadded-up towel, and out came a 6-inch centipede! He made a run for it, but I pinned him down with the bush knife, and sprayed him with the bug spray. It took about 10 minutes of hacking at him with the bush knife, and spraying him with the bug spray before he died.
· Last night was a rainfly night. I don’t know the science behind it all, but basically if it’s been a while since it’s rained, and then we get a big rain, our evening is going to be full of rainflies. Any light you turn on becomes a magnet for hundreds of rainflies, all buzzing and flying in dizzy circles. They dive bomb the food on your plate, crawl all over your skin and hair, and will even fly into your mouth or up your nose if you aren’t careful!
· The arrival of the rainflies also brought out those critters that like to eat rainflies. Last night, as I was on the porch trying to brush my teeth amid a flock of rainflies, I noticed a shadow that kept flying by the edge of the porch where I was standing. “What is that?” I called to Josiah. “Probably just a moth” was his reply from inside the house. But as the shadow swooped by again, he could tell it was too big to be a moth. “Nope, that’s a bat”…enjoying the feast of bugs on this particular night.
While I am not one to scream at bugs or rats, I have been fairly startled in a number of these encounters, and emitted a few yelps. J And the combination of all these different adventures with critters, especially in such a short time, has often left me wondering – "am I cut out for this job?" (though I haven’t doubted that this is what God has for me) But the fact that I fear bugs, spiders, snakes, rats, etc, doesn’t mean that I can’t be a missionary, even a missionary in a remote context. God’s grace is sufficient, even when rats scurry into the bathroom at 4am. God’s strength is manifested in my weakness, even when I am stung by a centipede. Though I will probably never overcome my fear of creepy crawlies, I don’t have to be overcome by my fear of those things, and they (the bugs or my fears) certainly aren’t a good enough reason to not go make disciples of all nations. God uses even these things to grow us in our walks with Him!