Posts Tagged With: daily life

You know you’re back in PNG when…

I wrote this just after our arrival back to Papua New Guinea. It encapsulates just a few of the cultural and physical adjustments we had to re-make.

  1. The flight attendant announces that there is to be no chewing of beetlenut on board the aircraft.
  2. You sweat through your shirt by 7:30am.
  3. You look down at 10:30am to discover that your shirt is now crusted with salt from your own sweat.
  4. Showering is not just a morning wake-up habit, it’s a daily life essential. You have to wash off one layer of sweat and dust before adding a new one.
  5. You can smell your clothes before you put them on. (Because of the high humidity, all your clothes smell moldy, even if you just washed them)
  6. You put on bug spray to go to church.
  7. Rain outside can make conversation inside impossible.
  8. You look out your kitchen window to a landscape of jungle as far as the eye can see.
  9. You have to pound the salt shaker to get anything out of it.
  10. You re-acquire the skill of racing outside and yanking clothes off the line when you hear it start to rain.
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missionary myth #4: home assignment is a vacation

Road trips, seeing different parts of the country, not reporting to an office every day… I can see why from the outside our life may seem like the break from monotony that many people long for. But somehow it doesn’t quite feel that way to us.

Maybe that’s because in between all that traveling, we are speaking in churches, meeting with supporters, and juggling a load of “behind the scenes” administrative tasks that come with our job. In many ways, our job on home assignment is more similar to that of a traveling businessman or a speaker on tour rather than a long family vacation. We often speak 2 to 3 times on a Sunday, field a lot of questions, and spend most of the day interacting with new or no-longer-familiar people.

During the week, we have several meetings with friends or family who are partnering with us. We also speak at Wednesday evening services, small groups, and/or open house meetings. Often, after speaking once or twice, a meeting or two with supporters, and then a meal with someone else, we arrive back at the home where we’re staying and finally have a chance to catch up with our hosts for an hour or two before crashing for the night. Then the next morning, we pack the car, and we’re off to somewhere else. On average, we log 1,000 miles of driving per week.

In the car, or between meetings with supporters, we write prayer updates, blog posts, or newsletters. We update our website. We stay on top of the paperwork that comes with being self-employed clergy (schedule C clergy income records, vehicle mileage logs, etc). We reply to dozens of emails, texts, and calls from supporters and churches. We confirm or work out details for the next legs of our trip. We pay bills (yes, we have some of those). We make preparations for our return to Papua New Guinea (flights, guest housing, buying things to take back, etc).

And in between those things, sometimes we do get to visit a beach, or take a walk, or even catch a nap. Thanks for praying for us doing this busy time of traveling and sharing what God has being doing in our lives the past two years!

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10 ways to encourage a missionary

  1. Pray for them. And I don’t mean saying, “God bless the missionaries, wherever they are” at a meal now and then. I mean, really PRAY for them. They face the same daily struggles as you, with the added stress of being in a cross-cultural context. They face isolation and loneliness. They get discouraged and feel forgotten. Pray for their spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational struggles, not just for their health or safety.
  2. Write them an email. Let them know you are praying. Don’t just write when you hear from them. Write them out of the blue, and let them know you are thinking of them and you care about them.
  3. Call or skype them. Find out what the time difference is, find out a way to get in touch with them via phone or internet calling, and do it! Call them and tell them you are praying for them (if you actually are). Ask how they are really doing, and…
  4. Listen. Hear what they’re saying. Hear what they’re not saying. Find out how life is really going, and what things they can’t write in a prayer letter. Listen to their stories and put yourself in their shoes. How are they feeling? What’s really hard for them right now? What are they excited about? Ask questions to draw them out. Let them process life. And listen.
  5. Send a video message to encourage them. Video yourself and/or other people sharing an encouraging Bible passage, praying for them, or telling them how much you miss them and love them. It’s the closest thing to a long-distance hug. (If they don’t have internet access, put the video on a flash drive and mail it to them).
  6. Send them a package. Find out what things they miss, what things ship well, and what would just tickle their hearts to see in a beat-up cardboard box on the other side of the world.
  7. Visit them. Fly (or drive) to where they are, and get a glimpse into their world. Don’t take a dozen people and try to do a huge project (unless they’ve asked you to), go with your family or a few friends and just go to encourage them. Seeing what life is like for them on a day-to-day basis will not only expand your world, it will help you know how to better pray for them and encourage them.
  8. Give them a break. Send them on a vacation. When they’re on furlough, offer to watch their kids and pay for them to go on a date. Encourage them to rest. Try to lighten their load.
  9. Help with practical needs. The possibilities of how to do this are endless. Use your skills and gifts to help them in really tangible ways. Help them with computer problems. Offer to help them put together their update video or PowerPoint. Provide housing while they’re on furlough. Help them find a vehicle to use for furlough. Babysit for them. Help them set up their appointments with churches and other supporters. Fill their car with gas. Wash their car. Help them set up doctor and dentist appointments. Get school supplies for their kids. Buy them groceries.
  10. Advocate for them. Encourage other people to get involved in their lives and ministry. Recruit other people to pray for them. Challenge others to support them regularly. Find out what needs they have, and get your friends and family involved in meeting those needs.
  11. (BONUS) Walk with God. One of the most encouraging things for a missionary to see is someone who is passionately following God. Your enthusiasm and commitment to being a part of what God is doing will be contagious and refreshing. And, chances are, if you’re walking with God, when He puts it on your heart to encourage a missionary, you’ll hear Him. And do it.

If you have more ideas that you’ve seen work well to encourage missionaries, share them below in a comment!

 

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Reverse Culture Shock

Since arriving in the USA four weeks ago, we’ve been trying to adjust to life in what now feels almost like a foreign country to us. We both dealt with culture shock moving over to Papua New Guinea, but coming “back” to the US, we’re now dealing with what’s known as “reverse culture shock.”

Here are some of the things we’ve been experiencing as part of our reverse culture shock:

  • Driving on the right hand side of the road. The more we drive, the more we get used to driving on the right side of the road, but it still throws me (Rachel) off sometimes when we turn at an intersection and I forget which side of the ride we’re supposed to be on.
  • You can get literally just about anywhere in the US on roads that are nicely paved (except in Michigan) 
  • It stays light really late here! In Papua New Guinea, the sun goes down by 6:30pm all year round.
  • The climate feels really cold and dry to us here, since we are used to temperatures 80-95 degrees F, with 95%-98% humidity all the time.
  • There are hardly any bugs here! It amazes me (Rachel) how long you can leave food out without it getting attacked by ants, cockroaches, etc.
  • People are always in a hurry. They have so many machines that are supposed to be time-saving (dishwashers, microwaves, etc) but yet no one seems to have any time.
  • Wal-mart is huge, and there are so many options! There are aisles and aisles full of so much food!
  • We get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of media everywhere – billboards, screens, music, ads, displays, etc.
  • Sometimes we draw a blank when we’re talking in English, and we can’t think of how to say something in English. Or we speak in Mouk or Pidgin without realizing it…until we get blank stares from whoever we’re talking to.

Thanks for praying for us as we adjust to being in the USA for these four months!

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not on my resume

“Now, disconnect the ECU from the compressor, and use your digital multi-meter to measure the Ohms of resistance between each of the three prongs on the compressor.”

Um, sure, I’ll get right on that. ?!???!

I (Rachel) am the kind of person that prefers to watch something be done a few times before I ever attempt to do it myself. But living as a missionary in the jungle in Papua New Guinea has rarely afforded me that luxury. When you live in the bush and your stuff breaks, you either have to figure out how to fix it yourself, wait til you can fly in a support missionary that knows what they’re doing, or give up hope of ever being able to fix that thing. And so far, we’ve mostly had to stick with that first option: fix it ourselves. Although for a few things we’ve been able to use the option of flying the item out to someone who might be able to fix it, wait on parts, and possibly fly it back next time the plane is in the area (we did this for our electric board planer that quite working). Here are a few examples of things we’ve attempted:

  • Fix a cracked generator carburator float valve ring by soldering it. At this point, though, our soldering pencil was still on its way to us in our crate of solar electric equipment, so we heated a 4-inch nail in our gas stove til it was red hot, and used that instead to solder the crack.
  • Repair a radio antenna that had a ton of white corrosion in the box where the coaxial cable (connecting to the radio unit) meets the antenna, and then recreate the wire connections in that box and secure them with solder.
  • Diagnose and fix our brand new DC (12 volt) freezer that quit working within a week of getting our first 3 months’ supply of meat and cheese. We got to figure out how to disconnect the ECU, measure the resistance on the compressor, and ultimately install a new ECU (which came on the next flight, much too late to save our meat and cheese, which we had to either home-can or eat).
  • Probably the most befuddling problems are the computer problems we encounter. Unfortunately, in today’s world of connectivity, most computer problems say they need a good internet connection in order to be fixed, and we don’t have that out here. Actually, we haven’t had internet at all since moving in here to Mouk back in July of last year.
  • About a month before we flew out of the bush for a conference, our inverter quit working, which meant that we couldn’t run any of our AC equipment off the power from our solar panels. So every time we needed to charge our phones or laptops, or use our washing machine or blender we had to turn the generator on for power. Fixing the inverter is WAY above our pay grade and IQ level, but through many phone calls to Josiah’s brother Jotham who consulted with some other IT specialists, the source of the problem was identified, new parts were ordered, and now we just have to figure out how to put the new parts in.

Our missionary training included an incredibly helpful course called “Missionary Technology” where we learned to solder, wire a DC plug, and use a digital multi-meter, and some other useful skills. However, hearing about something in class and doing it in the jungle are two very different things. And you won’t find “DC freezer repairman,” “HF radio technician” or “generator mechanic” anywhere on my resume. Which is why we’re so thankful for missionaries like Jotham and Maria, who are headed to Papua New Guinea as support missionaries! Check out their blog.

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a day in the life [of a language learner]

 

Written February 9, 2017fog out window

I tiptoe across the kitchen floor to look out the window. Though I see it every morning, I never tire of looking out onto a landscape of thick jungle with clouds of fog drifting slowly along the valley below. I can’t see the river from here, but I can hear its quiet roar in the midst of the chorus of the bugs and birds that greet the sunrise. My chilly toes remind me that I wanted to check the thermometer — surely it’s in the 60s with how cold I feel. Nope, the little red line tells me that it’s actually 72 degrees, a temperature probably considered warm in many places. Not here. I’m looking for a blanket to wrap up in while I read my Bible and start my day.

 

I was hoping to wash clothes today, but the pitter-patter of rain on the roof makes me question if we’ll get enough sun for me to be able to run the washing machine off the power from the solar panels. Even if there is enough sun for that, I’ll need to use the clotheslines under the house rather than the ones out on the end of the house.

I light the stove and start heating up the water for our morning hot drink. We’ve still not taken up coffee drinking, but a mug of hot tea or Milo (a chocolate malt drink) helps to take the edge off the chilly mornings. After a breakfast of banana bread and some language review time, we’ll be under the house with Andru and Nolas for our language session.

We went on two “field trips” with them earlier this week — one to a group of hamlets we hadn’t visited before, and the other down to the river where people bathe, and wash clothes and dishes. Since then, we’ve been reviewing what we learned on those outings, and have been asking questions having to do with those contexts. Like, “who can bathe where?” “where are people forbidden to bathe?” and “who decides who can build a house in a hamlet?”

After our language session finishes in the mid- to late-afternoon, we’ll be trying to organize all the information we’ve gathered that day. Before you know it, it’ll be time to make supper and turn on the HF radio to “check in” on the evening radio sched. Then dishes and showers and maybe a little time to read or talk before we call it a night and climb under the mosquito net.

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growing up fast

written January 31, 2017

When we first moved into Mouk and started building the house, our big prayer request (as far as language was concerned) was that our mouths would somehow be able to make the sounds of the Mouk language — particularly the uvular R. The uvular R is a sound you have to make way back in the back of your throat, almost as if you were gargling. When we were in language-learning training in the U.S., the uvular R was the one sound that we couldn’t pronounce, so it was really intimidating finding out that the uvular R is all over the place in the Mouk language. Plus, making that sound by itself is one thing, but then trying to pronounce a uvular R in the middle of a bunch of other consonants and vowels was quite the challenge when we first arrived. We probably sounded worse than babies learning how to talk.

A few weeks into language learning, while still struggling to make the uvular R sound, the biggest thing that was tripping us up was trying to remember all the different possession words and how the verb prefix changes based on the vowel of the verb root. In English, if I want to say “my Father” or “my banana” or “my house” or “my leg,” I can use the same possessive pronoun “my” for all those things. But in Mouk, there’s a different way of saying “my” for each of those things. They split all nouns into categories — and so how you say “my” depends on which category the noun is. Banana is in one category, so to say “my banana” I’d say “ngagu obul”, but house is in a different category, so I’d need to say “lugu ninu” to say “my house.” Relatives and body parts are two totally different categories, and they get the “my” attached right to the word:

“lugude” my mother

“ligaw” my father

“luku” my opposite gender sibling

“golngong” my stomach

“kongu” my leg

“omtugu” my eye

And then of course there’s a different word for “your”, “his”, “our”, and “their” in each of those categories, too, which means our brains were often tired and hurting from trying to keep everything straight. We would often get mixed up and use the wrong possession word, which put us probably in the toddler category, since most of the 4 year olds here in Mouk can keep it all straight! It’s still sometimes a challenge to know which category some nouns fit into, but looking back, we can see just how far God has brought us in learning all that stuff.

Now, we can put together basic sentences, but we struggle to know where to put the “glue.” We can say “I get up. I eat. I go outside. I walk around.” But connecting all those things into a story that flows better and doesn’t sound quite so choppy is a challenge. We’re still trying to discover and figure out how to use words that connect thoughts and express the relationship between different events — words like and, then, therefore, so that, because, in order to, with, instead of, like, but, otherwise, maybe, unless, etc.

Besides that, we’re still learning lots of new words, but now the challenge is not only remembering the new words, but differentiating between new and old words that sound super similar to each other. Previously, when we would try to remember or recall a new word, we just had to be able to tell it apart from maybe 100 – 300 other words (“what was that word? Oh, I think maybe it started with an ‘s’ and had a ‘p’ in it somewhere”). Now, however, with the pile of words in our brains is getting close to 1,000, there are more and more words in there that are starting to sound alike, and it’s easy for our brains to accidentally pull up the wrong one.

For example:

“mgo” (he leads) and “mko” (he hits)

“empi” (you pull it out) and “empmi” (you ask)

“pegim” (up there, above) and “pelim” (breadfruit)

“wom” (you) and “won” (thing)

“galo” (sweet, tasty) and “galou” (vine)

“mongmong” (nausea) and “mangmang” (quiet because it’s deserted) and “mangamanga” (crazy)

So, when we accidentally say, “what did you pull out?” instead of “what did you ask?” we just get to laugh and keep going. We may speak better than we did when we were “toddlers” in the Mouk language, but we’ve only made it as far as maybe being 4-6 year olds now. 🙂 I wonder what we’ll sound like when we’re teenagers?

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Shop ’til you drop

We’ve finished drawing the house plans and calculating most of the supplies we’ll need. We’ve counted and calculated and crunched numbers ’til our brains hurt. Now, the really fun part begins…shopping!! We get to go around town, from store to store, trying to find the supplies we’ll need. There is no “Home Depot” or “Lowe’s” here, just a few hardware stores that sometimes have things in stock…and sometimes not. 🙂 We have figured out how much we need of different materials, so now we just find things, figure out the best deals, and start buying supplies.

Buying roofing iron

Buying roofing iron

We’ve ordered some of the “big” things, like corrugated roofing iron, wood (for part of the house; the Mouk are cutting the wood for the house frame), and a generator. The rest of the materials — like fly wire (for screens), 220v wiring, nails, cement, polyurethane, toilet, sinks, etc. — we’ll find, buy, load into a van or truck, and bring back here to Hoskins. I (Rachel) am not usually a fan of shopping, but buying supplies for housebuilding is actually pretty exciting, and I enjoy keeping track of all the lists, price quotes, receipts, etc as we shop. Josiah is great at finding good deals, or knowing the best place to look for those hard-to-find items.

After we bring home the supplies we’ve bought, we get to pack the supplies into boxes, totes, or storage drums. Then we weigh them and label them (with their weight, our name, and the location they’re going to) so that they can be transported into Mouk, either by single-engine plane or truck/boat/dump truck.

Learn more about housebuilding costs and how you can be a part

See our first post about housebuilding

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it’s a jungle out here: bush living through the eyes of a city girl

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!

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missionary myth #3: missionaries aren’t afraid of bugs, spiders, snakes, etc

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!

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