Also school starts in two days and I feel like as soon as I dive into the depths of elementary school teaching, I will forget I was ever a tribal missionary and that I ever had a blog to begin with, so I figured if I didn't write this now it would never happen.
Anyway, we went into the tribe and it was cool.
As we flew into the Central Mountain range and saw the first glimpse of our village and airstrip, it took me back to the day we flew out as family in October of 2017. I was in a lot of pain. My pancreas was killing me, but I think my heart hurt even worse. I remember wondering if I would ever see these mountains again. I wondered if it was my last flight into this remote jungle. And although a small part of me rejoiced at that (the part that desperately hates flying) most of me was pretty sad and scared. I remember praying that we would get to come back, "even if it's just one more time Lord- just don't let this be the last time." He answered "Yes" on July 2nd and there was much rejoicing. For the girls and I, it was our first time back in a year and a half and we were all so excited to be "home."
|First glimpse of our strip from the air.|
I know that we don't technically live there anymore and that we will never live there full time again, but that house is ours and after all this time living in other people's houses it will always feel like our home even if we don't get to live in it.
|Outside our house|
We spent the next nine days cleaning (me), teaching (my husband), and having a lot of jungle fun (all of us). It was incredible to see all our friends again and even kind of nice to see the people that annoy* us. Nostalgia is funny that way.
|While cleaning, I found that ants had built nests in the walls. I had to unscrew our plywood walls and baseboard to spray and vacuum out ants and their disgusting baby larvae. Not all babies are cute. Some are horrifying.|
Not living there full time actually had some perks and I had a great time discovering them rather than being depressed about having to live in town. The first and greatest was that for the first time ever. I. WAS. NOT. HOMESCHOOLING.
We have always done school in the tribe no matter the time of the year it was because breaks were reserved for when we had to fly out and didn't want to pay money to fly out all the homeschool books. We were always either trying to get ahead or trying to catch up. There were never any homeschool breaks in the tribe. We didn't do school on Christmas Day. That was our only break.
So for the first time ever both the girls and I had our days free in the tribe. It was incredible. We hiked around and played in the river and visited with friends. I even got to attend all the Bible teaching sessions which has never happened before. E V E R. I felt like a real missionary.
|Playing in the river|
|And holding babies. All things made possible by not home schooling. Please notice my husband's shadow photobombing as he takes this pic.|
One of the other good things about not living there is that most of our crap no longer lives there as well. Which means our house has a lot less stuff in it. Which means that it is not so embarrassing to let our Hewa friends come into our house. Which means we let our Hewa friends come into our house more. (I could spend a long time here explaining to you why we didn't have a lot of people in our house before, but that is a topic for a post in and of itself, so I will just leave you with the imagery of eating a five course steak dinner at the the same table as a person who is and has been starving for years with nothing in front of them).
So we had more people in our house. Doing so led to lots of discoveries like how tricky door knobs can be. One friend of mine had lots of trouble with the doorknob the first time she was in the house. I opened the door for her and told her how it worked and hopefully she realized that it wasn't a trap that the white lady set to cook her in my oven that she could definitely fit into** and eat her. (The story of Hansel and Gretel would make perfect sense to the Hewa people, by the way) The second time she came in, I assumed that my Doorknobs 101 lesson was enough and that she could successfully exit on her own. This was not the case. She begged me to come work the ridiculous contraption that left her trapped again. John Michael told me to stop and made her do it herself. She was successful. Open a door for a woman and she can leave once. Teach a woman to open a door and she can leave anytime she wants.
|A friend in the house. Not the one who can't use a door knob. This one is a trained midwife. She can deliver babies and open doors.|
Like I said earlier, I got to attend all the Bible teaching sessions for the first time ever. That was pretty amazing, even though sitting on a rough hewn log for two hours twice a day made my butt numb (I still can't feel part of my right cheek). I loved being a part of the teaching and actually seeing and hearing firsthand how the people responded. It was pretty great. But before I talk about the response, I want to talk about the tribal church building. A new building went up while we were in America. Made from the disassembled parts of our former co-worker's house. It looks nice and sturdy and will hopefully last them a lot longer than one made out of bush materials. It does still have a dirt floor, however, and that is totally appropriate. Everyday the church filled with animals of all kinds and with them came their various forms of waste. Babies also filled the church and in a place where diapers are non-existent the easiest and best thing for the mothers of those babies is that dirt floor. When baby has an accident in church, mom can just pick it up with some scraps of fabric from her bag, brush some dust over it and no one even blinks. As I watched this take place numerous times, I became very thankful for that dirt floor.
|Mom cleaning up after baby. Notice how no one notices.|
The purpose of our trip was so my husband could teach 2 Timothy to the Hewa elders and the church. He spent the months while we were in town writing and editing those lessons and then we flew in to teach. This is a new book for the church as it was recently translated and checked by our co-worker and translation consultants. Many of the people don't even have the newest edition of the Hewa Bible that contains this book. Even after almost eight years in this ministry it still boggles my mind that the scripture we often take for granted is new and exciting for these most remote believers. They are the ends of the earth.
Anyway, the teaching went really well, and everyone was very thankful for the work John Michael put in to teach them. One of our elders even came up afterwards and told him, "I'm so glad Jessi didn't die in America, so that you could come teach us this book. We needed to hear it because these are things we still struggle with. I heard this teaching well. Thank you for coming back to teach us."
This made me first laugh, then tear up a little. To Hewans, being really sick equals dying. They saw me really sick. For a long time. They would frequently come to the door early in the mornings during the weeks before we left and say, "I was just coming to check on Jessi to see if she died in the night or if she got better." They have very little context of long term illness. The statement was funny to me because I have never been anywhere close to dying. But according to their experiences, I already had one foot in the grave. This is the sad state of their lives, but it isn't what made me tear up.
My eyes got a blurry for a second because even though I wasn't close to death, I was close to not coming back. With plenty of pain and few answers, our time in America came close to being our permanent lives in America, and we frequently questioned the wisdom of coming back. We also frequently questioned if there was even any reason to come back... if what we were doing was really going to matter to anyone. So that funny little statement did wonders for our hearts. It encouraged us to keep going as long as we can. The Lord knew what we needed to hear just as He knew what the Hewa church needed to hear. This is the beauty and glory of the Body of Christ. The Bride. The Church. No matter the language, or race, or culture, or nationality, we are connected through the Blood and with the Spirit. We are for each other and for His Glory- just as He intended.
He (Jesus) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16
*I felt the need to put this here because I noticed that too many people have the image in their heads that these "people groups" missionaries are reaching are not actual People. They are all "beautiful" "friends." To be honest, I find this a little patronizing. They are a regular group of people. In a regular group of people you will find some who are smart, some who are dumb, some who are attractive, some who are ugly, nice, funny, weird, annoying, quirky, mean etc. To pretend they are all perfect and that we love them perfectly is a lie.
** I realize that knowing a person could easily fit into my oven is creepy. I only know that she could easily fit into my oven because it is a big American sized oven and she is a petite woman. It is pretty obvious. I was not actively trying to determine this information for nefarious purposes.