Saturday, February 23, 2019

Everybody's Trash


This picture has nothing to do with this post. I've found that if I don't post a tribal-ish looking picture on these posts, then no one clicks on them. I'm admitting that this pic of me hanging out and cooking dinner in a Hewa house is simply click bait.


In my last post, I said that I could write an entire post on just this quote alone...

"God will take care of you because you are doing His Work." 

I've heard this SO MANY TIMES and have had numerous conversations with other missionaries over the years who have heard the same thing, (I've also had numerous conversations with people just after my last post about this).

Sadly, I have heard (and seen on Facebook) people actually accusing missionaries who go through times of suffering with health issues of having too little faith. Or, that they need to repent of their unbelief in order to be healed. This has never been personally said to me, because God is faithful and He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear. I could not "bear" hearing this without arguing that this person would need to repent of habitually taking scripture out of context and condemning people with heretical nonsense. All glory to the WISE God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.*

Just like in the last post, I know people are just trying to be encouraging. And they probably really believe it, because in their hearts they really feel like we "deserve" to be taken care of. They appreciate what we do, sometimes to the point of putting us on a pedestal. And what goes on a pedestal? A statue of some great person who did a great thing. They usually use the very best image of that person to form his or her likeness into that statue. They don't usually choose an image of them old or crippled or missing limbs or covered in some sort of boils or pox. So as they imagine the missionaries on the pedestals they can't possibly have debilitating diseases or crippling deformities. Therefore, God has to protect the missionary in order to protect the perfect image in the mind of the believer.

I feel like this idea is just a product of the prosperity gospel that is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture today. God blesses those who have enough faith or who "claim" whatever it is they want in His name. And who has more faith than the missionaries? The people going into the scary, remote, disease infested, crime ridden places to proclaim the Gospel? So if this belief does not hold up for the missionaries, the so-called most faithful, then the whole system falls apart.

But that's exactly what needs to happen. This whole belief system needs to fall apart. The lie that being a believer brings you health, wealth, and prosperity as long as you "claim" and "believe."

I recently read these words that Paul (the very first missionary) wrote to the Corinthian church about the people "Doing God's Work"

"I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die." 1 Corinthians 4:9

An image of the infamous Bataan Death March during WWII where most were paraded to their deaths




This is just one image that Paul uses to describe what it is like to "do God's work."

Not pretty or comfortable. Nothing I'd want to "claim" for myself.

He goes on to say in verse 11-

"Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don't have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home."

Definitely not full of health and wealth. 

And in verse 13-

"We are treated like the world's GARBAGE, like EVERYBODY'S TRASH- right up to the present moment."

Nothing about prosperity. Just garbage.


These are just a few of the numerous verses that promise us trials, suffering, and persecution for doing God's work. If we want to "cling to God's promises" we can't just cling to the promises we like. We can't feel the peace and comfort of the rainbow without remembering the horror of the flood.

Peter reminds us "not to be surprised at the FIERY trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you." 

So the difficulties in our lives- 

A. Should not surprise us
B. Will be "fiery" not just minor annoyances
C. Are not a strange thing happening to us that we need to figure out the reason for or how to fix (i.e. repent of, rebuke, have more faith in)
                                                   
Peter says that instead of trying to figure out what we did wrong and how to fix it, we should "be very glad- for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."                                


Of course, OF COURSE the Bible is also full of good promises. Full of God's unfailing love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. There are also promises of blessings. Of Good and Perfect gifts. It's not all doom and gloom until we get to Heaven and I don't want it to seem like that is all I am "claiming" here. I've just noticed an alarming trend toward our current Christian culture's idea that if something is difficult, or harmful, or just not super fun then it is not from God.


The truth is that the life of Christian service is a strange combination of joy and suffering walking hand in hand. It is the exact opposite of what the prosperity gospel proclaims. Through suffering Christ will be made known to the world. Not necessarily through specials gifts and blessings and miracles (although there are sure to be some of those along the way). A few of the best verses to explain this phenomenon are in 2 Corinthians 4:8-1.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.   Through SUFFERING, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies...

Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies."
So please, PLEASE, stop telling people in ministry (especially missionaries) that God will take care of them or heal them or make everything perfect in their lives all the time because they work for Him. That is just simply unbiblical. If you want to encourage missionaries (or all believers) simply tell them that you love them and you are praying for them. You can absolutely pray for their perfect healing and for miracles and blessings. Those prayers are definitely appreciated and are even answered sometimes. Just also remember that you can encourage people when those prayers are not answered in that way. You can pray for strength, endurance, and a strong testimony of faith through those fiery trials. And if you just can't figure out what to say, you can minister to them by maybe showing up with a hug and a smile and a cup of coffee and maybe a chocolate cake.**

 *Romans 16:27
**unless the person has pancreatitis then leave the chocolate cake at home

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Ghost at the Door


We are rapidly approaching our departure for PNG. I'm still not telling the internet what day we are leaving. I will tell you that we are now counting down days, not weeks or months, D A Y S. 

Because we love to leave these kinds of things to the last minute and because we honestly weren't 100% sure we'd be returning until the last minute, we just sent out prayer cards to our friends, family, and supporters. Here is a picture of what we mailed out... 




But this is what we probably should have sent out...




Just in case you didn't know. That is a pancreas. And I feel like this is probably a truthful representation of the personality of my pancreas. It likes lots of attention and loves to be the star of the show. And whether or not we get to stay in the country and continue our ministry all depends on this temperamental organ that loves the spotlight, so needless to say, I'm a little nervous about our return. I'm just praying, hoping, begging, that we don't get there and immediately have to turn around and come home.

I've told many people this and I just keep hearing that I need to "have faith" or that "Jesus will heal you" or that "God will take care of you because you are doing His work*." I know all these phrases are meant to be encouraging. That people want me to feel like they are rooting for me, and I truly do appreciate it.

But...

None of those things are an actual guarantee. I mean if everything will work out because we are doing "His work" why did I even get pancreatitis in the first place? Why have we been kept out of the work for so long? And I have "had faith" every single time we have gone to PNG, that the Lord would keep us there to finish the task He gave us.

It's not that I don't "have faith." I have faith that no matter what happens He will be there to comfort us, guide us, and provide for us. I have faith that He will give us the strength to get through whatever it is we will face when we get over there. Whether it is staying and finishing on the projected timeline, or whether it is immediately turning around and coming back home.

It's just that I don't want to go through the hassle, heartache, and financial burden of the turning around and immediately coming back home.

So why go back?

This is a question I get a lot too. If I know that having to turn around and immediately come back home is a possibility and a possibility that I absolutely dread, then why risk it?

The answer is pretty simple. We risk it because He told us to. He told us to go back. He told us to go back with no guarantee that we will get to stay. But we told Him a long time ago that we would do whatever He said and go wherever He wanted, and we were so young and naive and zealous that we didn't think to put any asterisks or loopholes on that promise. I mean, honestly, if I could have foreseen all that would happen I probably would have said something like, "Lord, I will go be a missionary and serve you wherever you send me, as long as you provide me with a guarantee that we won't be bounced around a lot and have a lot of chaos and upheaval and health issues. I don't mind isolation, or weird food, or ax murderers, but I really don't handle transition well. So keep the transitions to a minimum and I'll go wherever you send me." Looking back, it was pretty dumb of me (and frankly very anti-American) to not include a fine print on my contract with God.

I mean... I'm so glad that I didn't do that... you know... for my spiritual growth and maturity and humility... and everything else God has brought with all this "things not going my way" business. But sometimes my flesh just wants everything to be easy more than it wants to be "mature."

Just being honest.

I do remind myself when the things continually refuse to go my way, that in the end I really do want the Lord to grow me and conform me to His image no matter how much I whine about it. And thankfully He knows that is truthfully what my heart wants most and ignores my grumbles that indicate otherwise.

But because of all this I have been thinking a lot about why we, as a body of believers, feel like we have to encourage people with the best possible outcome. Why we can't say, "You know God may never heal you. He may make you fly back and forth from PNG to America one MILLION times, but whatever He does or allows, He won't leave you alone in it. And He won't waste it. So, yeah, everything might happen exactly OPPOSITE of the plan, or opposite of what you want the plan to be, but no matter what, God is faithful." Why can't we speak these words of truth into each others' lives? I know similar phrases get spoken a lot after the fact. After everything goes wrong, this is what we usually hear, and they do help to encourage us. But I feel like they would be just as encouraging beforehand, because I wouldn't feel like such a horrible Christian, much less missionary, when I doubt every word proclaimed to me that guarantees a positive outcome. When I hear these words too often, I feel like I'm seriously lacking in the faith department and that maybe everyone else is better at belief than me (and maybe all these people should be getting on that plane in my place).

But when you personally see and face trials and difficulty, sometimes it's hard to have faith to expect good outcomes. And what do you know???  The Word of God has some perfect examples of His people responding exactly in this way.

Acts chapter 12 is a great one. Peter is put in prison by Herod and many of the believers were at home praying for his release. An angel comes to miraculously lead Peter out of prison. So, he goes on to a house where the believers were gathered and praying for him, the house of Mary, mother of John Mark, according to Acts 12: 12. The servant who went to the gate to let this visitor in didn't even open it. She ran back to tell the others that she recognized Peter's voice. The others didn't believe her and said it must be his "angel," or in other words, his ghost.

I've heard this story preached many times about how we should pray and BELIEVE. And look at these dumb early Christians who refused to see the answer to the prayers they were praying right in front of them.

But I never heard anyone preach on the first verses of the chapter. The verses that explain that James...the brother of John... the disciple... was arrested then executed by Herod, executed by the sword is what scripture describes.  And it was such a big hit with the Jews that Herod had Peter arrested in order to execute him as well. These same believers also more than likely witnessed the stoning of Stephen. They watched people throw rocks at him until he died. I have no doubt they prayed just as fervently for Stephen and for James as they did for Peter. I'm sure it was easier to believe that the same thing happened to Peter rather than believe that the angel delivered him. Because in our tiny human understanding we immediately think, "Why save Peter and NOT Stephen or James?"

But that is a whole other blog post. 

My point here is to say that once you see the prayer NOT answered in the way you were asking... once you see the people you love and are praying for executed... once you see the hard and horrific things happen in spite of all your faith and prayers, it becomes harder and harder to accept the miracle. It's not that you've lost your faith in God to DO the miracle. It's just that you think He is only allowing the difficult things and the suffering right now for whatever reason and you just have to get through it.

That's where we've been for a long time I think. I don't know if we even realized it until recently when we had a pretty big miracle come knocking at our door and we responded pretty much exactly like Mary's household. We were actually terrified of this GOOD thing the Lord delivered right into our hands, like it was a ghost coming to warn us of impending doom.

It's messed up I know. And we felt pretty guilty about the way we responded to this incredible thing the Lord had done for us. Thankfully, we got some help and encouragement throughout the process, but I think more than anything this story in Acts helped me realize that I wasn't alone in my reaction or lack of faith. It helped me realize that there are a lot of trials and suffering in the Christian life, but God is faithful to give us the miraculous as well. He will give extravagantly even when we are expecting nothing but the sword or the stones.

So, as I look at my pancreas prayer card, and tremble with fear that things will not go our way wonder as we return to PNG, I will remember that sometimes God does do the miraculous. Sometimes He answers our prayers in exactly the way we want Him to. Sometimes it is Peter at the door and not just his ghost.

But I will also remember that He has been with us through all the trials and sufferings and has given us the grace and strength to get through it each time. So even if everything does go to crap** we will be ok. He will make it ok.

*I could write an entire post about this phrase alone and all the examples in the Bible that are the exact opposite of this. In fact, I might write that one tomorrow. Or possibly next year. You never know. It keeps things exciting between us.

**I will not apologize for using the word crap. I am not Beth Moore.*** If I wrote a million Bible Studies and was the Queen of Lifeway then I would probably apologize, but since I know that most of you that read this blog are ok with me using the word crap, and the rest of you are gracious and forgiving, I will just use it. Thanks. 

***None of this is a slam on Beth Moore or meant to be derogatory toward her or Lifeway. I've done most of her Bible studies and have loved them and learned a lot. I have also been to Lifeway**** and overpaid for many a Bible and other spiritual paraphernalia.

****This of course was before Amazon was invented. I haven't stepped foot inside a Lifeway since I bought my Amazon Prime membership and I'm not even sorry about it. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Itching to Go Back

Hey, remember when I wrote that we were going back to PNG in early January? Well, it's the middle of January and we are still in Mississippi.

I'm getting pretty sick of writing out our plans for the internet to read just to have to turn around and tell the internet that I lied. But maybe the internet is used to it by now.

If you are shocked by our change of plans then you probably haven't been reading this blog very long.

I went to my rheumatologist in December and he said that we needed to stay until at least February so he could get me on the right medicine for my autoimmune issues and wanted to monitor my pancreatitis on whatever medicine we tried.

So after I had a major meltdown, we agreed with the doctor and started the new medication. It was going so well that we went ahead and booked tickets for a time that I am not going to write on this post because I'm done writing our plans on this blog. All you need to know is that we bought tickets to go back to PNG for a date sometime in the near future.

The day after the charges showed up on my credit card, I broke out in a crazy rash that turned out to be psoriasis which the new medicine is supposed to prevent me from getting. At this point, a rash is the least of my medical problems, so I doubt that will do anything to change our plans at this point.

I have to admit that this year in America has made me reflect more than ever about our lives as missionaries. There were times I honestly felt like we wouldn't be able to return. There were times when I honestly felt like I didn't want to return. There are still times when I am honestly scared to death to return. And there were times when I was scared to death that we wouldn't be able to return.

The not being able to return is actually just as scary as the returning with health problems. People seemed to think not returning was the simple solution. You're sick, so you don't go back. Problem solved. But it is so much more complicated than that when it means an entire life/job/country/culture change...when you've been preparing your entire adult life for one thing and then all of a sudden that thing looks like it will be ripped out from under you. 

I remember over the summer I was having a particularly hard time dealing with significant pain from some stents that were placed in my pancreatic and bile ducts. It was the third procedure I'd been through and felt very discouraged that nothing was helping, and was terrified that this meant we would not be able to return to PNG. I was in line at Walmart in North Carolina when a couple in front of me started talking to me about something I can't even remember now. What I do remember is that the man used language so colorful that I fully expected a pot of gold to land at my feet at the end of each sentence. I never said anything to him about it, but when his wife asked where I was from (I told them earlier I was visiting my mom and sister) I answered that I was a missionary in Papua New Guinea. The husband turned white and started apologizing for his $#@*&! language, but I just laughed and told him it was ok.

Sidenote:
Ask any missionary/pastor/person in ministry- this is a very common occurrence. Strangers who strike up conversations with us and speak without restraint usually act as if a trap door will open at any second and send them straight to Hell as soon as they learn what we do. They usually apologize profusely and then tell us about their great-uncle who once was a deacon's best friend and how they waited to get past the First Baptist Church's parking lot before they threw their cigarette butt out the window. Let me just clear the air right now...I have been cursed around and cursed at many times and have never seen or operated a trap door to Hell. So relax, foul language lovers, the missionaries are not the secret language police lying in wait to damn your soul for all eternity.

Anyway, after that conversation, I went to my car to cry about the fact that I might not get to be a missionary any longer and will no longer get to scare people who curse around me with my trap door to Hell  show grace to people who use foul language in my presence. I know it was a stupid thing to cry about, but my stomach was hurting and I was buying a bunch of junk food for my kids that I couldn't even eat, and I might have been hormonal, but there's now way to know because I had a partial hysterectomy five years ago.

But I can assure you that there have been A LOT of conversations between Jesus and myself on this subject (the subject of us going back, not curse words or trap doors to Hell), and I feel pretty confident that He wants us to return.

If He doesn't then He wants us to live homeless and jobless in America.

He has provided us with renewed visas to PNG, plane tickets to get there, and a green light from my doctor in PNG (the one I trust the most with this decision), so off we go.

Our tiny area of existence. Literally carved out of the jungle in the middle of nowhere.


Yes, I'm going back with some health problems. I'm going back with a broken pancreas, a broken immune system, and an itchy rash. But I'm going back. I honestly don't know what this term will look like for us. I know our lives and ministries will work differently than they have in the past. And our goals will be different than before. My biggest goal this time is to just stay in the country for 12 consecutive months. I mean we can't get any Bible teaching or discipleship done if we are not in the country. So, I'd say it is a pretty legitimate goal.

Because of my health situation the last couple of years and because of other events that have taken place in our time in Hewa, John Michael and I have seriously struggled with questions like, "What are we accomplishing in PNG? Are we really contributing anything worthwhile? Is there even any point in us being there?"  And while there are moments we can look back on and see where God was working in and through our time there, we know that ultimately our return has to do with obedience alone. He calls us to go, so we go, even if we have no idea what life will look like when we get there.

 I will admit that rather than going back fully rested and rejuvenated from furlough, we are going back with weariness and trepidation. That's probably not what you want to hear from your missionary, but it's the truth. I feel like we are in a low point in our ministry, but I was recently reminded through a good friend and mentor that God is the author of our story and every good story has highs and lows, unexpected challenges and joyous victories. Our story is no different. In fact, the pivotal point of the Gospel itself is the low point. Jesus comes to earth as the promised Savior, Messiah, but instead of being put on a throne, He is crucified on a cross. There is no lower point than that. But the result of that low point-the Risen Savior who defeats sin and conquers deaths creates the greatest story ever told.

For the first time I'm going back with no expectations, with no grand notions of how things should play out, or look like. I have no idea what God can/will/wants to do with this broken body in a country where it is very hard to live without good health. But maybe for the first time ever, I'm going back the way He wants me to, completely and utterly dependent on Him to even be able to stay in the country much less accomplish anything..at a really low point, with all my plans and pride dead and buried. Now all I have to do is stay in the story to see what He will resurrect and redeem.

This Elisabeth Elliot quote gives me comfort as I struggle with these low points in our story-



No matter what we face, the feelings of fruitlessness or futility, the perplexities of my health issues, or the pain we feel when the story doesn't go as we think it should, Jesus wants to and will fill us with His joy. With His life. We traded our lives for His a long time ago knowing that suffering and death were a part of His story. But most importantly we know that His story (and therefore ours) ends in resurrection and new life, complete joy and perfect peace.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Not Offended

Hi. Remember me? Sometimes I write stuff on this blog. Sometimes I don't write stuff on this blog for a very long time. Thank you for understanding.

It is September. I have been in America for nine months "getting my pancreas fixed."

Spoiler Alert: My pancreas is not fixed. And probably won't be for a long time, possibly never.

But that's ok.

No really, it's FINE.

After my gallbladder surgery, I felt great and was very optimistic...then about two weeks later the pain and nausea came back.

So I went to the doctor 47,000 more times and had 643 more tests and procedures that are too boring to write about, but gave me a million scars on my stomach.* As you can probably guess from the few sentences above, none of them worked. Each time I thought they were working for like a week or two, and then I would start to have pain and nausea again and my pancreatic enzyme levels would still be elevated.

*I will not show you a picture of my stomach (you're welcome). I will tell you that with all the scars, it looks like I had a conversation with this baby** about my stomach trouble and he said, "I can check that for you if you want. I mean I have this knife," and then I answered, "Sure, baby. Take that big knife, cut up my stomach, and have a look around."


But the good news is that my pancreatitis is mild. I can still eat, I just can't eat anything really fun. And my levels aren't  high enough to be dangerous or anything. And I'm not in so much pain that I even need to take pain medicine. Basically, I'm just on a low-fat diet like a mom in the 90s.

The even better news is that all my doctors think it is fine for us to return to PNG. We will have to live on the mission center for the foreseeable future so I can be monitored just like we were doing before, but we get to go back.

Overall, I'm trying to see all the good in this and not focus on the fact that I am returning pretty much exactly the same way that I left. And even though it feels like we just wasted a lot of time and money for there to be no change whatsoever, I know that's not really the truth. The truth is that we spent a lot of time and money to have the peace of mind that this isn't something horrible and I can live with this condition with relatively few lifestyle changes.

In the process of every test and procedure only producing disappointment, a friend suggested I read "The Prisoner in the Third Cell" by Gene Edwards and it was so perfect for this season of life.

John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah. John can't go himself because he is in prison for speaking God's truth to powerful people who didn't want to hear it. He was killed soon after.

Jesus' answer is- 

 “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Jesus is performing amazing miracles in God's name, but John sits in prison. Some people are healed from terrible illnesses, but not all. A few people are raised from the dead, but only a few. There are a lot of people who are still mourning loved ones. A lot people are still blind. And deaf. There are a lot people still imprisoned unjustly. Jesus extended miraculous physical mercy and grace to some, but many more still suffered and died even though the Messiah walked among them. 

Jesus tells John's disciples that anyone who is "not offended by me" is blessed. I love the way Gene Edwards describes John's struggle as it is something most of us still struggle with today. 

Why won't God heal me or my loved one when I know He can?

Why did I not get the miracle that my neighbor did? 

Jesus knew this would be hard for us all. For the people of His day all the way to the people of ours. 
Jesus' own earthly family probably experienced this in a very personal way. Most biblical scholars believe that Jesus' father Joseph died sometime in between his first miracle of turning the water into wine and His death on the cross. Imagine Joseph dying and Jesus not doing anything. Now imagine his family's reaction to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Either before or after- it doesn't matter- it would be hard to for them to reconcile that He saved a friend but not their father.  How could they not be offended? But at least one of them wasn't or was and got over it, and became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and wrote an epistle that is now Scripture. Maybe God didn't lead Jesus to save Joseph for our sake? God heals who He heals and saves who He saves and if He didn't spare Jesus' earthly father and if He didn't even spare Jesus, then how can we be offended when he doesn't spare us or our loved ones?


So even though we won't ever fully grasp why some get miracles and others don't, with our hearts of flesh, our spirits must rest in Him, have peace in who He is, and trust His will for our lives (even when it seems like His will for our neighbors' lives looks way better and we feel gypped.)
 

You have not been gypped. No matter what. Some may receive healing mercies in this life, but all who believe will receive them in the life to come. The one that matters. The one that lasts.  So don't be offended. Take what He gives you in this life, whether it is sickness or healing or life or death, and use it for the one to come. Invest the currency He gives you today for the greatest return tomorrow.

Right now, I'm not going to be offended that I did not receive the healing that I asked for. I'm going to take this bum pancreas and invest it in the Gospel. So, we will still return to Papua New Guinea in early January and will be there as long as His will allows.


**This photo is not photoshopped. This is a very real baby with a very real knife. When I asked his mother, who is a very good friend of mine, if she thought it was dangerous for the baby to have the knife, she simply answered, "Don't worry. It's not sharp." Naturally, instead of taking the knife I took a picture to have as a record of what he looked like with both of his eyes. 
 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

It Happens

I decided to be a good little blogger and not leave you all hanging about my appointment with the doctor on Monday. He started out with, "Your case is very rare and very tricky." That made my heart try to jump right out of my body, but it didn't quite make it. Instead it got stuck in my throat. I quickly attempted to swallowed it back down, but it slid right past my chest and landed in my stomach. It swam around down there for a while making me have to concentrate really hard on listening to what the doctor said and not throwing up all over his little rolly desk.

Fortunately, he was saying some things that made my displaced heart calm itself, and by the end of the visit it was back where it belonged and even feeling pretty optimistic, because even though my case is rare and tricky, this doctor has a plan. And that plan starts with removing my gallbladder. We're hoping that removing the gallbladder will solve most if not all of my issues and this will be end, Amen. I will have surgery on Tuesday and I never would have thought I could be so excited about having a body part removed!

There you go. Consider yourself updated- those of you who were on the edge of your seats waiting for news (basically just my mom).

With all these appointments, tests, and procedures, I've spent a lot of time talking to medical professionals about what we do as missionaries in PNG. I've had some very interesting conversations with varying degrees of response from shock and awe to I don't care would you please shut up so I can go to lunch.

I always find it fascinating to see what really surprises people or what they really focus in on about our lives and work. A lot of people really can't believe that we can/do live without the internet. You know that meme that keeps going around saying something like, "Go live in a cabin in the woods for a month with no phone, internet, or TV for $100,000. Would you do it?" Umm, yeah. One month? Try six months and where is my money?

Anyway, there are lots of different things that people just can't wrap their minds around. I always think it is going to be the witch killing, but it almost never is. Today was one of the funniest though.

I was talking to a nurse, explaining everything, answering lots of questions, and somehow we got to talking about mothers and babies and how no baby in Hewa wears a diaper.

She was shocked. She was speechless. Her eyebrows shot up so high they hit a flock of birds and crash landed into the Hudson River.

"But what happens when they go?" "I mean where does it go?"

And when I explained that it just "goes" on the moms and they wipe it off with a rag and go on with life, it was like I said they mixed it up with dinner and ate it.

"Well, you must never hold their babies then, " was her next response.

"Um, no, I am pretty much always holding a baby."

"Do they go on you?"

"No, they instinctively know that I'm a spoiled Western lady and would die or at least get pancreatitis if I was ever pooped on."

Is what I wanted to say, but instead I answered,

"Yes."

I refrained from showing her the picture my husband took one day after I was pooped on by one of the cutest babies* ever born into this world, but I won't refrain from showing it to you.

Yes, that is baby poop. He got me good.
I tried to explain to her that I just wipe it off with a towel or rag like they do and keep talking/walking/doing whatever I'm doing at the time like it's no big deal. I don't freak out. I just act like they do. But the next time I go into my house I do shower and change my skirt. Fortunately, I'm rich enough to own more than one skirt and have the ability to that.

One of my favorite things to do in the village when a lady gives birth is to gift her with a meal and a new skirt. She has to bury the one she gave birth in (they don't take their skirts off, ever, even to give birth or bathe) with the other bloody rags and towels to avoid contaminating anyone or anything which usually only leaves her with one skirt to wear. This means when her newborn poops and pees on her, she can't change or wash it until someone graciously decides to give her another skirt or until she can afford a new one. Since babies don't wait to start pooping, I don't like the mothers to have to wait to be able to wash that poop off.

I also tried to explain this to the nurse today, but I don't think her brain could handle anymore information regarding babies, poop, and no diapers because I had a hard time getting her to focus on anything else after that. Even as she walked out of the room she said, "It was nice to meet you and hear about your work," and then mumbled, "no diapers..." as she walked out.

I say all that to say, I get pooped on. It happens. But it happens a lot less to me than it does to the actual mothers of the babies that are caring for them round the clock. And by now things like this in the tribe have become weirdly normal to us, so time in America is always a good wake-up call to what is and isn't normal (nothing and everything). It reminds me that I should keep writing blogs and keep record of this weird life that God has given us because I don't ever want to forget what He has allowed us to experience. I don't ever want to forget that He uses us in this place with these people that are so different from us and everything that we know. I don't want to forget what it is like to be so inadequate for a task, but for God to miraculously take everything that we are not, everything that we can't and produce something eternal.

And as weird as it sounds, I don't ever want to forget what it feels like to be pooped on, and just keep on going. Because that is daily life for my Hewa sisters. And I don't ever want to forget what it is like to live life with them.

*I wasn't exaggerating