Posts Tagged With: training

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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One little piece of God’s big plan

It started long before January 2013, but that’s when we first discovered the role God would have for us in His story, so that’s where I’ll start. Josiah got an email explaining that there were Mouk believers in Papua New Guinea who had started an outreach to a neighboring people group on their island (the island of New Britain). Having evaluated their skills and giftings, they knew they would be able to teach literacy, develop and teach chronological Bible lessons, present the Gospel, and disciple the believers in this outreach. But there was no Scripture available in that language (as is the case for the majority of Papua New Guinea’s 850 people groups), and these Mouk believers knew they lacked the education and resources to be able to translate God’s Word for that people group. So they asked for a Western missionary who could join their team and do the translation. And that request got passed along and was now in an email in front of us.

We were dating at the time, but we already knew God’s plan was to join our paths and send us to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to spread His glory among the unreached there. We were both in training with New Tribes Mission to become cross-cultural church planters. We had been praying about what God might have for us in the future…was this email part of His answer? We began praying about it. Josiah had been dreaming of working in partnership with PNG believers ever since he was a kid. God had directed Rachel into Bible translation since she was 16. Both our hearts longed to be a part of helping PNG believers reach out to neighboring people groups to make disciples and plant churches. This opportunity to join the Mouk believers in their outreach seemed tailor-made for us.

We were planning to visit PNG that summer so I (Rachel) could meet Josiah’s family, who serve as missionaries there on that island of New Britain. God worked things out so that during that summer trip we were able to make a short visit to see these Mouk believers and talk to them about this opportunity to partner with them in reaching another people group. We couldn’t make any promises, we told them, but we would keep praying about this. We still had a long ways to go before we would be able to come back to PNG as full-time missionaries.

Fast forward three years. We’ve gotten married, finished our training with New Tribes, seen God raise up an incredible team of people to send us with love, prayers and finances, and arrived in PNG as career missionaries. We have completed our orientation to the PNG national language and culture and our 3 month bush orientation. We’re now ready to get officially plugged in to what God is doing here in Papua New Guinea. Through every step along the way, God has continued to point us in the direction of partnering with an existing tribal church in PNG to take the Good News to a neighboring people group.

Josiah with some of our future Mouk coworkers

Josiah with some of our future Mouk coworkers

So a few weeks ago, we flew into Mouk to meet with the Mouk church leaders and some of the believers who have initiated this outreach to another people group. We were trusting that this trip would just confirm to us and the Mouk that God was still leading us to partner together, and that’s exactly what happened. Read more about our trip to Mouk.

Our next step is to move into Mouk and spend a year or two learning their language and culture, as this is crucial to good communication and effective teamwork. So we’re gathering materials for building a small house in Mouk and gearing up for diving into full-time language learning sometime in August. We’re excited to join hands with these solid believers whose hearts beat with God’s heart for the world to know HIM. What God has been doing among the Mouk started before we were born, and we are thrilled and humbled that He’s now allowing us to have a small part in what He’s doing in and through this passionate band of believers in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

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And so what we have learned…

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:

  • We’ve learned how dominant the heart language is for national believers and how crucial it is to learn their language to be able to work well with them. Any issue that involves emotions, values, or spiritual things is discussed in their own language, no matter how fluent they are in Pidgin (the trade language).
  • We’ve learned how to have candid conversations with people about our skin color, and how to point them towards our unity in the Spirit despite our outward difference in looks.
  • We’ve gotten a feel for etiquette in the tribal context:
  • How to wait for someone under their house (you would never go into the house where someone sleeps, if you need to talk to them, you just sit under their house and wait for them)
  • What you can and can’t borrow from others (firewood would be a shame to borrow unless there’s a death or a big party, but you can borrow a knife or an axe or tools that there aren’t many of)
  • How to enter and leave a group politely, and the proper thing to do when someone shows up at the house where you cook (which is different than where you sleep). Example: If you were about to eat, and people show up, you wait for all the visitors to leave (which may be a while), but if they won’t leave (and you’re really hungry), then you feed them. 🙂
  • How to go talk to someone about something (go find them, wait until everyone else leaves, or wait until they ask you why you’ve come, or just wait until you think it’s the right time)
  • We’ve gotten to hear about and observe the differences (of opinions, values, leadership styles, etc) between the church leaders from various villages and what kind of problems those differences present
  • We also got plenty of experience living without conveniences like running water, fridge/freezer, oven, washing machine, cell phone coverage, etc.
  • Rachel learned many practical skills like how to wash clothes in the river, how to bathe in the river, how to wash dishes in a river, how to cook over a fire, how to kill centipedes, how to start a fire, etc.

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.

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a day in the life of a linguini (Oklahoma version)

“Rachel,”   *yawn*   “what does [ʔukʰˈʃoːd͡ʒʌned] mean?”

“Um, it means ‘mountain goat’…why do you ask?”

“That word is stuck in my head….it just keeps replaying over and over.”

The view on our morning walk

This was probably the first time (but definitely not the last!) that one of us (namely Josiah) had woken up with Cherokee words stuck in our head. Instead of re-solving linguistic problems from last night’s homework in our sleep (like we did when we studied linguistics back at the training center, see “a day in the life of a linguini”), here in Oklahoma we have random Cherokee words going through our brains — late at night, first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and even in our sleep. We’re only down here in Oklahoma studying Cherokee for 7 weeks total (and we only have one week left!), but we thought we’d give you a quick glimpse of what one of our days is like:

6:00am Roll out of bed and go take a quick walk around the campground where we’re staying. The walk helps us wake up and get our blood pumping, and it also gives us a chance to talk and pray together before the day gets rolling. After that, we take showers and make (and eat!) breakfast, then spend time with God.

8:20 Leave for our Cherokee language session. It’s a 35-40 min drive to our language helper’s house, so we get plenty of time to pray or listen to the Bible during our travel time.

Cherokee language session

Cherokee language session

9:00-11:00am We get to study Cherokee with our language helper, Lorene. We ask her for all sorts of different words (nouns, verbs, etc), write down each word phonetically, and then take our data back to the camp and try to figure out how to convert the sounds of the language into an alphabet, as well as how all the pieces of the grammar fit together.

12:00pm After driving back to camp, we eat lunch with the other linguistic students and then take turns cleaning up lunch afterwards.

1:00-5:30pm In the afternoons, we get to work on figuring out the Cherokee language. Yes, we know, Sequoyah already did that :), we’re just practicing our linguistics skills so that one day when we’re faced with an unwritten language in Papua New Guinea, we’ll already have the practice of taking a difficult language and working from scratch to come up with an alphabet and figure out the grammatical structure of that language. So, we spend a lot of time making charts to show the order of words in a phrase/clause, and we get to build charts of all the sounds in the language, make lists of words with similar sounds so we can compare them and make sure we wrote the sounds correctly, and a whole bunch of other things that are hard to explain. 🙂

Analyzing Cherokee in the afternoons

Afternoons Analyzing Cherokee

5:30pm means supper time! The husband of one of the linguistic students here has cooked in a commercial kitchen before, so he offered to be in charge of the meals. The rest of us take turns helping him make the food to feed all 14 adults plus children. Then we all help wash dishes, wipe tables, put away food, etc, afterwards.

In the evenings, we have team meetings or work on Cherokee some more. Sometimes we get a chance to go check email, play volleyball, or watch a movie to take a break from studying. This past Friday, we got to take a break and go watch a high school football game! It was a fun event for us, especially because Rachel had never been to a football game before. Another night last week, we went to the nearby state park to watch the sunset on the lake. It was beautiful!

Sunset at Lake Tenkiller

Sunset at Lake Tenkiller

Enjoying a high school football game :)

Enjoying a high school football game 🙂

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Q: Why are you going to Oklahoma this fall?

A: To study Cherokee for the final part of our Linguistic training.

Q: Why are you studying Cherokee? Do people in Papua New Guinea speak Cherokee?

A: No, no one (that we know of!) in Papua New Guinea speaks Cherokee. We’re studying Cherokee in Oklahoma from a linguistic point of view, not to learn to speak Cherokee. We’re practicing all the skills we learned in our linguistic classes last semester — like how to write down the sounds of a language you’ve never heard before, how to develop an alphabet for that language, and how to figure out the grammatical structure of the language. Because Cherokee is a difficult language and we’ve never been exposed to it before, it’s a great language for us to practice our “language analyzing” skills on.

So, we arrived down here in Oklahoma on Friday (8/15), got settled in at the camp we’re staying at, and now we’re diving right into things. Last night, a Cherokee man came to the camp and we took turns asking him to say words like “deer”, “dog”, and “possum” in Cherokee. We wrote those words down using the International Phonetic Alphabet (we write down one symbol for each sound we hear) and now we get to analyze what sounds are in the Cherokee language.

Over the next 7 weeks, we’ll spend 2 hrs a day (5 days a week) with our Cherokee language helper, writing down words and sounds. The rest of our days will be spent preparing for our language sessions, filing recordings and transcribed words (the data we get from our language sessions), then figuring out an alphabet (based on those sounds), and analyzing the grammar of Cherokee (this is the hardest part). After these 7 weeks in Oklahoma, we’ll go back to the New Tribes training center (in Missouri) and spend a few weeks finishing 2 giant write-ups (like term papers) on the Cherokee language (mostly the alphabet and grammar).

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a day in the life of a “linguini”

Beep. Beep-beep. Beep-beep-beep…

I’ve almost got the problem worked out, I just have to double-check two more phonemes. And then the blaring of the alarm clock going off jolts me into realizing that I wasn’t actually figuring out a linguistic problem, I was dreaming about my homework from last night…again. My brain, tired after a long night of trying to re-do my homework in my sleep, groans at the thought of having to wake up and actually function coherently. Here we go again…

While we do know that this Linguistics course will be worth it in the long run, it’s sometimes hard to remember that when we’re in the middle of a long, busy day of classes and homework. For those of you who’ve wondered “what do they do all day??” here’s a little glimpse into one of our “normal” 🙂 days:

Sometime between 5:45 and 7:00am we get up (depending on how late we stayed up working on homework the night before) and get going. Spend time with God, eat breakfast, shower, get ready for classes…you know the drill. Since the weather has gotten nicer, we try taking a walk around 7:30am to help us wake up and just to get a chance to talk to each other before the day gets busy.

8:00am finds us in chapel for small group prayer times (we get to hear about how God is working through missionaries around the world, and then spend time praying for them). By 8:30am, we’re done with prayer time and sitting in Linguistics class, ready for some brain stretching! 🙂

Rachel diagrams a sentence on the board

Rachel diagrams a sentence on the board

Josiah works on a BIG Grammar problem










8:30am to 12:05pm we have Linguistics class, usually focusing on one particular topic or concept for the day. After learning some of the concepts, we get to ‘practice’ what we just learned on a few languages (usually 3-4 different languages per day). For example, yesterday we learned that in some languages, one sound could actually represent two different sounds in the same environment. Then we practiced that concept by working with four different languages to see how each of them applied that principle. In one language, the ‘sh’ sound could represent the ‘ch’ sound in some places, or a hard ‘j’ sound in other places. Talk about confusing!

We make and eat lunch from around noon until 1:20, when we have to be back in class for another hour of linguistics. We usually work on homework during that class period, but sometimes if we were struggling to grasp the concepts from that morning’s class, we talk through the principles some more.


Rachel cleans the lobby

At 2:30pm (on Mondays, Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays) Josiah does his grounds crew work detail until 5pm. I (Rachel) have work detail for an hour each day, cleaning the lobby of the main administration building here on campus. If either of us gets a chance to, we start on homework before supper, or do some housework so that we don’t get buried in laundry or dishes. 🙂

Josiah on Work Detail

Josiah on Work Detail

After supper, we work on homework until it’s done…which sometimes means we’re up until 1am, or other times means we’re done as early as 8 or 9pm! We usually average about 4-6 hours of homework per night, unless the homework is harder, in which case it could take more than 8hrs of work a day. If we finish homework before it’s too terribly late, we try to catch up on other things that need to be done (like paperwork, sewing, finances, etc). All in all, we have pretty full days, but in the midst of the business our goal is always to…

“make the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
(Eph 5:16 ESV)
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drinking from a fire hose

Even as I sit here writing, I’m wrestling with writer’s block. Not because my brain is empty…but because my mind is threatening to explode from the sheer volume of information that it is trying to contain, organize, digest and remember. The past month here in training has been like drinking from a fire hose—you want to take it all in, but the overwhelming volume of information makes it impossible to swallow fast enough.

In the past four weeks, I’ve been taught everything from the life cycle of malaria in the human body (it starts with a mosquito, and ends with you being sick…no fun) to how to run a twin-tub washing machine (see below), to how to chart verb and noun phrases in languages I’ve never even heard of before, and everything in between.


A twin-tub washing machine (L side is agitator, R side is spin cycle)

In Field Health, I learned that missionaries have one of the most high-stress jobs in the world, and that adequate rest, exercise, and water can help prevent a lot of big health problems (that would probably require medically evacuated from the tribe). I’m having to put this knowledge to use even now in training, where it’s easy to get so busy with ministry, classes and homework that I forget to take good care of myself. This was especially true during a week of training where we spent 8 hrs a day in class (talk about brain overload!), and I spent every evening just trying to digest everything we’d covered in class that day.

That’s why I am SO glad that “succeeding” as a missionary is not about remembering everything I’m taught in training, but about using this time of preparation to make me more like Christ. As our teachers have told us many times, this training is more about “becoming” what it takes to be a church planter (and, in my case, a Bible translator), rather than just “knowing” all the facts and formulas about how to plant a mature church. Is every part of this training important? Absolutely. But is it a replacement for simply walking with God and becoming more like Christ every day? Absolutely not. My job is to learn everything I can through this training, while at the same time keeping my eyes on the ultimate goal of being conformed to the image of Christ.

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“hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work [detail] I go…”


Chopping vines with an axe 🙂


Using a chainsaw for the first time!

To help keep the training costs low, the students here pitch in and help with work projects (like cleaning, maintenance, etc) for 7.5 hours each week. We call it “work detail.”


Hauling firewood with Josiah 🙂

Last semester, my work detail was cleaning the Construction Maintenance Team building, plus cleaning outside (like windows, cobwebs, sidewalks, etc). This semester, I asked to be put on Grounds Crew so I could do more outdoors work. I love it! So far, I’ve gotten to help cut down dead trees, haul and split firewood, clear brush and vines, prune bushes (preparing the plants for spring) and drive a dump truck! I also get to help haul furniture every so often. Here are some pictures of my adventures on work detail:


I got to drive a dump truck!

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