Posts Tagged With: traveling

your prayers kicked in

The wall of humidity hit us as we stepped off the plane in the capital of Papua New Guinea. We made our way down long corridors and a few ramps to be funneled into the lines for immigration. Getting a visa for my sister Diana took place without a hitch, and our multi-year visas were still good, so we sailed through that part of entering PNG pretty quickly.

It took quite a while for our suitcases to come through on the conveyor belt, since all the luggage from all the international flights were coming to one small carousel. Our bags retrieved, we waited in line for customs. “This is the part where they decide whether or not to let your stuff into the country,” I explained to my sister. Her customs form showed that she had nothing to declare, so she got waved on through while we were pulled aside to have our bags checked.

“Your form says you have items to declare that are new and exceed 1,000 Kina in total value,” the customs official stated. “What are those new items?” We started to list off the things we’d purchased in the US to bring back to PNG. “It’s things for our house, not for resale,” we assured her. When we got to the part of the list that mentioned the laptops we’d picked up to replace our dead and dying computers, her eyes lit up.

“What kind of laptops? Are they Apple?”

“One is made by Dell, the other one is Apple.” We showed them to her, explaining that we use the computers for learning the language of the tribal people we work with.

“How much did you pay for the Apple computer?” She called a fellow customs official over and they began mentally calculating how much to charge us for the laptop we were bringing into the country. Any new items brought into PNG are susceptible to a tax of 10% of the item’s value. While that tax was designed primarily for businesses importing goods, it affects incoming travelers with new items, too. Whether you were charged or not depended on the customs official and their assessment of your situation.

“When did you buy it?” she asked.

“As soon as we went to America. That was four months ago.” I braced myself for hearing the total they’d settled on.

Then, I saw it. And I felt it. Your prayers kicked in. “Just leave it, let them through,” the official she’d called over said. “Yeah, it’s alright. You can just go on through,” our customs lady said.

Stunned, but not wanting to give her a chance to change her mind, we grabbed our suitcases and headed for the door. We swerved to avoid colliding with suitcases that skidded across the floor as they came off the x-ray machine. Then we were around the corner and out in the airport lobby where Diana waited for us.

“Someone was definitely praying for us,” I said to Josiah. “That almost ended totally differently. We almost had to pay.” Thank you, God.

I don’t know who of you to thank for praying at midnight (CDT) on Sunday night, but whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for responding to God’s prompting to pray for us. Thank you for walking with us on this journey, for standing in the gap on our behalf. Ever wonder if your part matters? We don’t. We can feel it when your prayers kick in.

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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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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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The Partnership Begins

The Kodiak’s bumpy landing on the muddy airstrip. The sea of faces surrounding us as we climbed out of the airplane. Vigorous handshakes. Huge grins. People who knew our names because they’d been praying for us to come join them. A church whose heart beats with God’s heart for the world. It’s hard to encapsulate the events and emotions of our trip into Mouk in just a few words and pictures, but here goes:

Flying to MoukMay 18

We flew from Hoskins to the Mouk airstrip along with 6 church leaders from the tribe where we did bush orientation. Due to the timing of when the plane was in the area, our visit into Mouk overlapped with some meetings between church leaders from 3 different tribes. We were warmly welcomed with food, songs, and the chance to shake the hands of all 350+ people who were there (some were Mouk church leaders from other villages).

Even though we’d never met 99% of these people, everyone knew our names because they’d heard we might come and join their team of Mouk missionaries (believers sent out by the Mouk churches to another people group). Within minutes of our arrival, we found ourselves in conversations about more tribes who still have no access to the Gospel. “The bananas are ripe,” the Mouk kept saying, “but the workers to harvest them are few.” (Luke 10:2)

May 19

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Church leaders from 3 tribes meeting

We sat in on the meetings between the church leaders from the 3 different tribes. They talked a lot about the different needs of their churches, how to help each other grow, and the need for unity in the Body of Christ. How can we work together? How do we help churches that are struggling? How do we build fellowship and unity between us? It was a great opportunity for us to see how relationships are forged between church leaders from different people groups, who live in different areas and speak different languages.

 

May 20

Two New Tribes leaders met with the Mouk church leaders, our potential future Mouk coworkers, and the church leaders from the tribe where we did bush orientation. The church leaders from our bush orientation shared about what things they taught us, what topics we discussed with them, and how they helped prepare us for partnering with the Mouk church. All the different parties represented in the meeting agreed that God wanted us (Josiah and Rachel) to join the Mouk in their outreach to another tribe, so then we were invited to join the meeting.

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Meeting with the Mouk

The Mouk church leaders said they were all excited to have us join the Mouk outreach, and they want us to come learn the Mouk language and culture so that we can have a strong relationship with the Mouk church and be sent out by them to join their outreach. They had already decided what village they would like us to locate in (it was the village we were in for these meetings — the one with the airstrip), and they wanted to know how soon we could move in. They offered to help us build a house to live in while we learn the Mouk language and culture.

Josiah shared the story of how God had worked in our hearts and directed us to pursue this partnership with them. We’ll share that story in our next blog post. Then, since we were all agreed that we (Josiah and Rachel) should join the Mouk in their outreach to another tribe, we all lined up and shook hands to show we were “wan bel” (unified). You should’ve seen the grins on everyone’s faces. 🙂

May 21

Everyone gathered for a church service to sing, pray, and hear God’s Word taught. Two of the visiting church leaders from where we did bush orientation taught on two different passages of Scripture. Afterwards, we (Josiah and Rachel) spent a while talking with our future Mouk coworkers about how the outreach started and some of the challenges they’re facing.

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May 22

We all gathered for another church service, and this time, two visiting church leaders from another tribe shared from God’s Word. Then, we all had a big feast of cooked roots (taro, kaukau, etc.), rice, and pig meat. Having a feast like this at the end of a visit is a cultural way of showing we are all unified and parting ways on good terms.

After the feast, the Mouk church leaders talked with Josiah about where we should build a house in that village, and where to get the wood for the house.

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Marking out the house

The Mouk deacons had a meeting and decided what spot of ground they wanted us to build on, and then we went over and staked out the house measurements (20’x32′). Then we discussed what size of timber we would need for the house frame, and they encouraged us to get the wood for the walls and floor from a place in town, since they thought it would be harder and more expensive to get a portable sawmill to cut that wood and it would take 3 months before the wood would be dry enough to use.

The Mouk offered to cut the wood we need for the frame of the house, and to help us make arrangements for bringing some of our housebuilding supplies in by boat and dump truck. We discussed when we’d be able to return to start housebuilding, and settled on the date July 5th, since that worked best with their plans and with the New Tribes Aviation flight schedule.

May 23

IMG_1730After packing up our backpacks at daybreak, we hiked for 20 minutes to get to the dump truck that was going to drive us (the two of us, all the visiting church leaders, and 2 New Tribes leaders) down to the coast. Two and a half hours of bumpy, muddy logging roads later, we arrived at the coast and then loaded our things into a dinghy. What was supposed to be a 2 1/2 hour boat ride turned into 5 hours of slowly puttering along. 🙂 At sunset, we arrived at a small town where a truck was waiting to drive us back to Hoskins. So, after twelve hours of travel, we arrived back home, exhausted and covered with salt, sand, and sweat, but excited by how God is working. 🙂

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If you were to lick our fingers

We’d finished scarfing down Chic-fil-A nuggets and fries, we’d made one final pit stop at the airport restrooms, and boarding was starting in 20 minutes. With the knot of emotions tightening in our stomachs, we knew it was time. The whole group formed a circle, and a few people prayed.

Then, one by one, we started saying our goodbyes. I (Rachel) had already spent the last few weeks crying at the oddest times – at my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner, in the shower, and late at night in bed. But now, as I hugged my siblings and parents goodbye, the wave of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks. And the tears came.

Goodbyes at airport

Goodbyes at airport

I couldn’t stop them. It was hard to make sense of the whole tangle of emotions, thoughts, and memories that all coursed through my heart and head. I realized I was crying not only because of all the good times we’d had together over these past few weeks, but also because of all that I would miss in each of their lives while we’re gone overseas. Four years is a long time. A lot of life is going to happen to each of them, and I won’t get to be there for it. My niece will be 6 years old the next time I see her. My youngest sisters will be 17 and 20 before I see them again. There will be so many moments of their lives that I’m going to miss.

And so I cried. And I held them tight, trying to etch those hugs in my memory. Trying to memorize their faces, their voices. Trying to choke out the words “I love you” between my tears.

For Josiah, the wave of tears welled up inside him and started leaking out his eyes even before we all circled up to pray. But as our pastor prayed for us, prayed for God’s guidance and peace for us, he felt an incredible sense of calm come over him. It’s not that he wasn’t sad to leave our family, because he was. He cares about them deeply. But the tears and pain were overwhelmed by an even greater sense of peace and security in knowing that this is exactly what God has for us. He still felt the pang of loss as he hugged our family members and friends goodbye, and as we waved one last time before we disappeared out of sight.

Since walking down the jetway to the airplane in Kansas City, both our faces have been watered many times with unbidden tears as memories of our family members flood our minds. I’m sure we looked pretty strange to many people as we sat there on the plane with tears running down our faces.

Please understand I’m not having a pity party, and you don’t need to have one for me, either. I’m just trying to give you a glimpse into the real heart and guts of what it’s like for missionaries saying goodbye at the airport. It is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

So if you were to lick our fingers, you wouldn’t taste the nuggets and fries we had for lunch, or the soft pretzels we ate during our short layover in Dallas….you would taste the tears that we have wiped from our own faces, from each other’s faces, and from our family’s faces. The tears that mean that we care so very deeply for our family, but we have to leave. The tears that realize that no matter how tightly we hold them when we say goodbye, we still have to let go.

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11 days

"We want to be a part of what God is doing through you guys"

"We want to join your support team"

"Hey, how do we support you guys?"

We’ve heard these phrases a number of times recently. Honestly, the last month and a half have been a blur. It seems like just yesterday it was the middle of May and we were at 39%, and now I turn around and it’s the end of June and we’re at 65% of our monthly support. To say God has blown us away with His provision would be an extreme understatement.

When we officially started our support raising journey in October 2014, we knew we were embarking on an adventure unlike anything we had experienced before. Even though we’re both missionary kids, and we’ve seen God provide for our parents countless times, it was exciting to launch out into our own journey of trusting God and watching Him show His faithfulness in our own lives.

The last 8 months have been like a roller coaster ride of emotions as we’ve had good days, bad days, and everything in between. Sometimes are stomachs are in knots, other times we’re just hanging on for dear life.

Besides feeling like a roller coaster, our journey of watching God raise up our support team has felt an awful lot like working out or training for a marathon. God is using this pre-field time right now to prepare us for what He has for us down the road. He keeps stretching our faith, bringing us to the limit of our strength and our ability to endure. As we’ve watched our support level climb slowly, it has strengthened our faith muscles. As we’ve gone through long stretches without seeing any tangible results, that also strengthens our faith muscles.

We’re now 11 days from leaving for Papua New Guinea, and God is still stretching our faith muscles. Sometimes it seems impossible in our tiny human minds to comprehend how in the world God will provide the 10% support we need in time for us to be able to buy our tickets and leave at the end of next week. But we have seen the track record that God has all throughout history — from Abraham, to Nehemiah, to Paul, to now. Over and over, He has provided for His work and His people in His own way and time.

God recently encouraged me through Romans 4, where Paul describes how Abraham trusted God to do what He said He would do. Abraham hoped "against all hope". He "did not weaken in faith" when he considered the impossibility of the situation. He "did not waver through unbelief" but "was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God" because he was "fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He promised." Sounds like God was stretching Abraham’s faith, too!

Seeing God’s faithfulness through time, and over the last 8 months of our lives helps strengthen our faith that God will provide for us. He will get us to Papua New Guinea this July. These next 11 days don’t need to be days of worry, anxiety, or stress. Yes, God is still stretching our faith right now. But now is not the time to weaken in faith or falter in running the race. God is on the move, He is working, and we (along with everyone else) get to watch God display His faithfulness in our lives yet again. And our journey of trusting God is just beginning.

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yesterday

It wasn’t even one of those days that you can tell from the moment you wake up, “this is going to be a bad day.” Nope, no warning for this one. The phone alarm goes off, we pray for a bit, then roll out of bed. I’m the first one in the shower, feeling groggy but otherwise fine. Next thing I know, I have a bad crick in my neck. In fact, it’s so sore I can’t turn my head to the right. Great. I try turning my head any direction to get it to loosen up, but no such luck. Guess I’m going to be stiff-necked today. 🙂

“What time did we tell your brother we’re leaving for church?” I call out. “8:50.” “Eight FIFTY? I thought Sunday School started at 9:15, and we need to be there a half hour early to set up, so we need to leave at eight FIFTEEN.” “No, Sunday School starts at 9:45.” “Are you sure? Let me check their website.”

I check the website, it says Sunday School does in fact start at 9:15. Josiah’s not convinced, so he calls the pastor to double-check the time. He says Sunday School starts at 9:45. Okay, so we’re leaving at 8:50. (turns out I had been looking at the wrong church website – woops!)

We make it to church with enough time to set up our display table, and set up the PowerPoint we’re showing in Sunday School. Josiah checks it, it works great. Everyone comes into the sanctuary for Sunday School, the pastor introduces us, and we get up to speak. The PowerPoint doesn’t work. We can switch from slide to slide, but all that shows up is the slide background and title. Nothing else. No pictures, no text, nothing. So Josiah starts sharing his life story while I run out to the car to get our laptop (that we had just taken out there because the sound booth computer was working great), run back inside while turning the laptop on, and hook the computer up to the projector. Where’s the PowerPoint file? Oh, it’s on a flashdrive Josiah has up front in his pocket. Run up there, he hands me the flashdrive, run back to the sound booth, we get the PowerPoint up and running on our laptop. Yay! Now we’re in business.

Josiah tries to switch to the next slide, and nothing happens. Is it the “clicker” battery? Is the distance too far? Why won’t it work? We set the laptop up on the edge of the sound booth. Now it works! Whew. Thank you, Lord! Now we’re rolling.

The rest of Sunday School is pretty uneventful. I (Rachel) get into the morning service late because I’m trying to fix a toilet that won’t flush. After the songs are done, Josiah gets up to preach. He’s preaching on Luke 24:35-49. He’s in the middle of talking about how Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures that prophesied about Him. My ears start to pick up on some strange sounds. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Is that chirping I hear? I try to ignore it and focus on the message. The noises get louder. Pretty soon everyone in the congregation is well aware of the scratching, scuffling, squeaking, and chirping going on overhead. People start snickering. Everyone’s distracted. What in the world is going on up there?!? “Don’t worry, those are just my friends,” Josiah assures people. 🙂 Everyone laughs, and now we can all focus more on the sermon than on the family of raccoons taking up residence in the ceiling above the right side of the sanctuary.

After the service and some pizza, we start packing up to leave. Some of our friends at the church ask us to hang around until after the church business meeting so they can say goodbye to us. So, after packing up our display table and loading everything in the car, we sit in the foyer and wait, and wait, and wait….Two hours later, the business meeting is done, so we say our goodbyes and drive back to New Tribes Bible Institute in Jackson, MI (where we’re staying). Josiah’s brother texts us with the details for the church service we’re speaking at that night. We’re going to have an hour and a half between getting back from the church we’d just spoken at that morning and leaving for the church appointment that night. Okay, that’s still enough time to take a quick nap (we’re both exhausted). We lay down, pray for the meeting that night, and start to doze off. The phone buzzes. Two different people start texting us. Then the phone rings. By the time we hang up, we have exactly 4 minutes til our alarm will go off. *sigh* So much for the nap. We pray for a few minutes, then we’re up and off to another church.

Thankfully, the evening service went smoothly. The PowerPoint worked great, there were no raccoons, and we had a great time connecting and sharing with people about God’s heart for the world.

No, this isn’t the missionary version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.” These kinds of days are actually pretty normal for us. Plans often change, electronics quit working, but we know God is always in control and He’s using these challenges to strengthen our dependence on Him, and to prepare us for the road ahead. Whatever happens in a day, no matter how crazy things get, God is working, and we’re thrilled to be a part of what He’s doing.

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in our shoes

JR at Niagara Falls

JR at Letchworth State Park

We visited Niagara Falls two weeks ago, and then got to tour Letchworth State Park last week. On Sunday the 12th, Josiah preached on “What has God made you for?” and in the evening service, we shared our ministry. The most unique question we got that night was, “do people there eat hummingbird?”

Weekdays, what keeps us occupied is spending time with people and getting ready for moving to Papua New Guinea this July. To get an idea of what we’re doing, try to put yourself in our shoes. Think, “what would I have to do if I were moving to the other side of the world in 3 months? What would I need to pack? What stuff would I get rid of? Who would I need to say goodbye to? What would I do about things like health insurance, life insurance, and retirement? What would I take with me if I had to fit everything into two suitcases? What would I take with me to help me learn 3 different languages?”

These questions are all things we’re thinking through, praying about, and trying to decide on. We have a lot of decisions to make in these next few months, so please pray that God would give us wisdom with these many choices. We’re putting together a list of things we need to buy for PNG. If you’re interested in helping us purchase some of those things, please let us know.

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never late

Over the past few weeks, one of the most common questions we get from people is, “do you think you’ll make it by July? Do you think you’ll have enough support to go?” I’m not entirely sure what people are trying to communicate by this question. Are they asking how big our faith is? Or if we have doubts as to whether or not we’ll have sufficient support? Or are they asking whether or not we think we can conjure up enough financial support to make it to the field in July? The answer to the first question is – it’s not how big our faith is, but how big our God is. Do we have doubts? Yes, we do. There are days that I (Rachel) am convinced that we’ll never have enough support to go to Papua New Guinea. But honestly, the closer July gets, the fewer doubts I’ve had.

As to whether or not we’ll be able to raise enough support by July, that’s the wrong question. We’re not raising support. God is. There isn’t a thing we can do about our support level. It’s not like if we have just the right amount of meetings with the right churches, and we speak eloquently and passionately, then the support will start flooding in. It’s not like we can say the right things, answer all the questions, and build relationships with people in such a way that we convince everyone to support us. It’s not us. It’s God. We travel and travel and travel, we speak in churches, Josiah preaches, we share about our ministry with anyone and everyone, we answer dozens of questions, we meet hundreds of people. But when it comes down to it, we are not the ones raising up a team of people to send us over to Papua New Guinea. Our job is to be faithful in planting seeds, watering, and exposing people to the huge need for missionaries to go to the unreached. God is the One who will work in hearts to challenge them to be a part of what He’s doing around the world.

So do we think we’ll make it in July? Yes. For the last two years, it seems that God has been directing us to leave for Papua New Guinea in July 2015, so who are we to doubt Him now? We’ve been praying for several weeks that God would bring in our financial support in such a way that only HE gets the glory. We don’t want people to be able to think or say, “oh, Josiah and Rachel were the ones who raised enough support, so now they can go.” No, the only way we can make it to Papua New Guinea in July is if God shows up and provides for us. We want people to be blown away by how God provides for us. We want HIM to get the glory for getting us to Papua New Guinea. And whatever His timing is for providing that support is totally fine with us. As someone recently encouraged us: “God is always on the move. He is seldom early, but never late.”

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short ‘n sweet

What have we been up to? Since October, we’ve been traveling around, speaking in churches and sharing with individuals the passion God has put on our hearts to take the Gospel to the unreached in Papua New Guinea. We’ve been in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Arkansas (again), Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina (again) and Virginia. We’ve enjoyed getting to re-connect with friends and family, as well as meet new people!

Right now, we’re in Maryland. We spoke at a church in Fredericksburg, VA last Wednesday night, then visited some of our New Tribes missionary friends (the Cizdziels) who are also headed to Papua New Guinea in July! On Sunday, we spoke at a church in Maryland, then we’ll be in New Jersey and Long Island NY later this week. We’re traveling non-stop between now and the middle of June, so please pray that God would give us safety on the roads and great times with friends and churches as we share.

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