Friday, January 22, 2016

Life Verse

"So what have you been doing while you're out here?"

That is the million dollar question for the moment. The answer is pretty simple though... pretty much the same thing I did in the tribe...

Homeschooling with a capital "H" there are three of them now. Three little home schoolers in three different grades, so that takes up most of my life no matter where I am. (The two older girls could probably go to the "real school" here, but for the love, I already paid $$$$ for this homeschool curriculum we are using and chucking that out the window and paying school fees would be like flushing cash money, precious moola, hunnit dolla bills y'all, straight down the toilet). 

So, yeah, I'm homeschooling and cooking and cleaning and just being a regular wife minus the "tribal". My day actually doesn't look that different. It is just missing a dozen or so interruptions to answer knocks on my door coughs outside my kitchen window and late afternoon hang out/string bag weaving with the Hewa ladies. But I am missing those things terribly right now.

In Papua New Guinea town is not all that different from the tribe. There is constant power (only because our mission base has a generator) and internet (that we pay too much money for), but those are the biggest of the very few perks that town has over tribe. I have to admit that I have shouted a few "UGH! It's not fair" sentiments at my computer when my other missionary friends in other countries come out of the jungle and are all like "We ordered pizza tonight guys!" #Godisgood #blessed #missionarylife on instagram. (Don't worry they do the same thing to every missionary who has been here less than a year and finishes learning our national language. The struggles are real in all countries. Different but real.)

Anyway, that's what I'm doing.

"How are you doing?"

Is the next biggest question. (The thousand dollar question??? I'm unsure of the monetary hierarchy of interrogatives. Sue me. But I don't have a lot of money. I do, however, have a million dollar question and a question of "questionable" worth...see what I did there...you can have those if you like.) 

 The answer to the question of questionable worth is not so simple. It changes minute to minute. Maybe even second to second. Some seconds I feel, "I can do this. It's just two more months. I can do anything for two months." Then the next second I think, "I can't do this. It is TWO MORE MONTHS!! Two more months of sitting here feeling like I'm doing nothing. Feeling like each day has no real purpose. That everything I'm doing is meaningless. Some days I lock myself in a room and cry it out because my husband asked me a Hewa-language related question that I couldn't answer (cough cough...today). Some days I'm not sure if it's really all that is going on in the tribe, or just my *hormones or maybe a combination of both that has my emotions all over the place.

It's funny that word. Meaningless...Somewhere the foundations of my formative years I got this idea that everything I did had to have meaning. Importance. Real significance. Then one day I read these verses from Ecclesiastes chapter 1...


“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
 
Isn't that amazing?! I have a confession to make. Eccelsiates 1:2 is my Life Verse. People ask me this all the time, and I immediately panic. "What's your favorite verse?" or "What's your life verse?" Is a favorite thing to ask a missionary. I usually panic and say something random like Numbers 1:17 or something expected like John 3:16. But truthfully, this verse...these verses opened my eyes to see the truth of finding meaning and purpose in this life. They set the stones to the path I would choose to walk. Only if I choose to work for/towards the eternal would I find true meaning.
 
This earth is only temporary. Praise the Lord. This horrible, terrible, no good place, and its dirty, rotten perverted, prejudiced, pathetic, occupants won't be here forever.  Nothing we do here for here has any meaning. The only things that hold any value are things that will carry over into eternity. Things done for the souls of men. For the glory of God. These and these alone will have true meaning. And that truth ruined my life. But in the ruining of my life there was also a lot of freedom. I saw my future stretched out and knew that I could only pursue what was eternal. I would never be satisfied with trying to gain "the American Dream."  That dream looks different for a lot people. It doesn't mean that everyone who lives in America is only living for the dream. It is the passionate pursuit of comfort and contentment in your own interests, hobbies, and desires here on this earth. It means you live for the temporary and not for the eternal. There are multitudes of people living in America, not living for the American Dream, but living for the Kingdom of God. The everlasting Kingdom. And I knew I had no choice but to become one of the latter. 

I'm not saying that every single thing I do has eternal significance, or that I'm super important to the work that God is doing. In fact, I'm kinda low on the payroll of significant tasks in the Kingdom work. I may not ever translate a verse in the Bible or teach a lesson in Hewa, but I feed the one who does. I'm the kitchen help. The blue collar worker, so to speak. But, what I gained from those verses was the fact that the overarching theme of my days had to be about God and His glory no matter where I was or what I was going to do...like if I was going to spend my life in the kitchen my soul wouldn't be at ease being **Beyoncé's personal chef. If I'm going to spend my life in the kitchen, then it needs to be working for a burly Southern boy with an out-of-control ginger beard who is spending his days with axe-murders turned preachers in a remote jungle.

I say all that to simply say this. I am constantly reminded through His Word and His Holy Spirit that these days are not meaningless. The Lord has ordained them and He is using them - somehow, someway, for His glory and good purpose. Sometimes he ordains days of action, sometimes he ordains days...or months of waiting. But no matter what the days hold or where they are held they swell to the brim with meaning. 

*When you have a partial hysterectomy, it is hard to keep up with the cycle of hormones that may or may not have you crying over an untied shoelace. My best suggestion to know whether or not your feelings are real or not is by reading Proverbs 31. When you read Proverbs 31 do you feel like 
a) These are some suggestions/thoughts that I can strive for in my own life and cultural context in order to please the Lord as a woman.
b) This is the most overwhelmed I have ever felt in my life. I am not now, nor ever will be any of these things. There is no way that Jesus can love me. I should probably go buy and plant a vineyard right now, and learn to spin wool and linen.
c) This lady is a real B. Thanks for making the rest of us look like jerks Proverbs 31 lady! I bet you invented Pinterest too! 
d) Obviously, a man wrote this. Sure King Lemuel it was teachings from "your mother" psha. 
If you answered b, c, or d - it is probably your hormones. Now you know. You're welcome. 
 
**Beyoncé's chef might be a believer who spends his/her days praying for, loving, and serving celebrities in order to show them the love of God and therefore has just as much meaning as my cooking for the Ginger Beard. However, if I were in this position I would totally lose all sight of eternity and get lost in the glamour of  the lives of people whose entire job is to look pretty and make people dance. God knows me and loved me enough to not allow me to be Beyoncé's chef.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Stop Doubting and Believe


"Hey! You're still here? I'm so sorry. How are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm fine." (frustrated)

"Hey, sorry you didn't get to go back into the tribe. How do you feel?"

"Ok." (like a failure)

"When will you go back in?"

"March. After Sepik Conference." (Or possibly later. But when I try to add this phrase a swarm of angry bees flies from my stomach and nests in my throat, so I shut my mouth and just smile and nod)

We didn't go home yesterday. Nothing major happened (that we know of). That is the problem. We didn't "know" anything because the group of people who left to find out where everybody stands in all the fighting never came back to give their report, so my husband didn't feel comfortable with us coming in.

When the village leaders told John Michael that they thought it would be ok for us to come in, he asked them if they thought the enemies would come to our village. Their answer was,

 "Miu fcle. Miu pefcle."

They might come. They might not.

So a party set out to find out more information. Who is still angry? Are they even trying to start peace talks? Are they still threatening to come to our village? They left on a Saturday and we expected them back just a few days later, so we prepared to go back in.

I packed a bunch of our things. Bought food supplies. Tried to order some wood/carpentry stuff my husband asked for that I neither understood at the time or remember now. I wrote a blog post telling all of you how we were excited to go back and how safe it was. 

We were ready.

By Thursday my husband starting getting nervous.

"They aren't back yet and I don't want you girls coming in if they don't come back before Monday."

I wasn't nervous. It was only Thursday. They'll be back for church on Saturday or at the latest Sunday.

They weren't.

I could here the frustration in my husband's voice over the radio when he said, "I just don't know what to do."

But after lots of talks and prayers and bouncing things off other missionaries, we decided that it was probably best to wait to return to our jungle home. After all, we still have no idea why the last murder happened. Was it revenge? Revenge for what? Is it at all related to the last few murders or did the guy just enjoy getting away with killing two other people and decided to go for a third?

On top of that our people were still carrying their guns around everywhere they went, patrolling the village, and firing randomly to "scare off anyone hiding in the jungle." Tensions are obviously still pretty high.

So yes, we are still here in town (John Michael flew out to join us yesterday) and are not happy about it. It feels wrong. It feels like failure...abandonment...neglecting our responsibilities. 

We really feel like we should be beside the believers right now as it is a crucial time for discipleship. And I question God as to why things are happening this way.

"But God...their lives are so hard! Why do you let these horrible things happen to them? All they have is You. Don't you want them to grow? Don't you want them to have Your Word? Don't you want them to be able to be able to share Your message with others?"

And He answers, "Yes. I want all those things. I want them more than you do, and I know how to achieve them better than you do."

"Stop doubting and believe."  

So that is what I am trying to do. I'm trying to stop doubting and believe. I'm trying to release a grip on something I never really held in the first place. I'm trying to trust God with the bigger picture, the longevity of the Hewa church. The maturity of the Hewa church through times of intense trial and suffering. After all, what has "ease" gotten the American church? A faith that is a mile wide and an inch deep and that certainly is not what we want for the Hewa believers.

We want strength and long-lasting life. We want generation after generation after generation from now until the return of Christ to be able to share the love of God throughout all the mountains marked as Hewa territory. 

And that is exactly what my husband shared with the church when he told them we wouldn't be able to come back yet:

"We want to be here for a long time. We want to be able to stay until we finish God's talk in your language. If someone gets killed while we are in here, we won't be able to stay. We are going to be out now for just a little while longer, so that we can make sure that we can stay until the work is done." 

And then as hard as it was, he got on the plane and joined us again in town. Right now, our plan is for John Michael to wait until our co-workers get back in early February and then go back into the tribe with Jonathan. They will assess the situation together and then decide if it is safe for the wives and kids to return. Unfortunately, we will not be able to go back in until late March no matter what they say because we have to be here while the U.S. consular comes to have our two oldest daughters sighted for passport renewals and we have to attend our area's annual conference that won't end until March 22nd.

So that's two more months in town away from home. Two more months of waiting. Waiting, listening, trusting. Two more months to stop doubting and believe. 

Young teenage boys doing their part to patrol and protect the village
 




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Home

The girls and I still aren't in Hewa. John Michael left last Monday and we are hoping and praying and wishing and praying and thinking and praying and praying and praying that we get to go back in next Monday.

The girls saying goodbye to their Daddy on the day he left


Our plan was to go back in as family on January 4th, but as that day neared our village leaders told John Michael that they were worried about us coming in at that time. He then suggested that he come in alone and feel things out before the girls I come in. They liked that idea a lot so that is what we did. After being in there a week, he said he feels like it is ok for us to return and the village leaders met separately and decided that it was safe as well. 

Since my last post there have been two more murders. None of them happened in our village or to any of the people that live close to us, so we feel like it is a good sign that the violence is moving away from us rather than toward us. Things are still chaotic all over our side of Hewa territory, but our village has turned into a refuge for those looking for safety from the violence. An entire neighboring village has moved into our village because they felt they were too close to the enemy.

Because of all this, we really feel like this is a crucial time for discipleship. The believers need encouragement to stay out of the fighting and to hold onto the Lord for hope in such turbulent times. To leave them on their own in this could potentially be harmful to the church, and we feel like the risk to the Body of Christ is much greater than the risk to our physical bodies.

I promise that I would not risk the lives of my children if I thought there was a real danger to them. I love them more than you (I'm talking to you, grandparents!) so trust me when I say I would not lead them into a situation that I thought would truly bring them harm. Of course I can not predict or control everything, but I think I am placing my kids in the same amount of risk as you are when you just check your phone real quick while you drive. Just kidding. None of you do that right? Ok, so I'm placing my kids in the same amount of risk as you are when you drive them on the same roads as all those other people when they just check their phones real quick while they drive.

But seriously, please keep praying for us, for the safety of our village, and for peace across Hewa territory. I honestly have no idea what will bring resolution at this point. The police have told us that there are no funds for them to come in to help at this time. And in their defense, I have no idea if it would do any good anyway. When they came in to arrest the murderer in the second witch killing, he simply fled into the jungle as soon as he heard the plane coming. He has since killed two more people, and everyone is afraid of him.

So really and truly this is all in the Lord's hands. Hope is not coming from anywhere else. But we can't sit around and wait for a perfect situation to continue our ministry. And I'm encouraged when I read God's Word and am reminded that God did big things in some really desperate times.

God led His people with smoke and fire, and parted the Red Sea while a Pharaoh whose anger was fueled by grief, shame, and fear stormed after God's people with a mighty army. 

Elijah's victory in the contest with the prophet's of Baal was with a huge target on his back by an evil pagan queen.

Daniel served the Lord in a foreign land where jealous and murderous people in high places despised him. This led to him spending an entire night with lions and angels and having an evil pagan king declare the Lord was the one true God to his entire kingdom.

And Jesus birthed His church in Roman occupied Israel where coming as "king" was an automatic death sentence from Rome and coming Savior led to betrayal by His own people because He wasn't the kind of "savior" they had in mind.

God always has and (always will until this world endures), worked in and among harsh and horrific conditions...among war, poverty, plague, death, and evil acts of evil men. This world has not recently "gone crazy" as some seem to believe. This world went crazy the day Adam and Eve sinned and will continue in chaos until Christ returns for His Bride. But we can rejoice in this. This day that we know is coming and we can work, strive, sweat, and bleed to let as many as possible live in this Hope that we are so blessed to already have.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:19

Firm. And Secure.


*please forgive all typos and grammatical errors in this post as my wonderful and, dare I say, strikingly handsome editor is in a remote jungle and cannot proof. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Hardest Part

It is early Monday morning. I get up and go to the radio at 8 am to try to talk with someone in Hewa. No one comes up which is a good sign (in the jungle no news is good news). I walk back to the little apartment that has become our temporary home with beads of sweat already collecting on my forehead...at 8:15 in the morning...every drop of perspiration reminds me that I am not in my village anymore. I am not walking into my home. I am not with my people.

I walk in to see my husband already at the computer working hard to gain the ear of those in the government or police force who will listen to our plea for help. He goes back and forth in conversation with a fellow missionary who is trying to help and our co-worker who is in the States. He tries to get as much background on the people and their histories as he can to give the police the most accurate and detailed report possible. Of course, their lives and stories are just a tightly entangled as the thick jungle canopy they live under. He spends all day sorting out people, relatives, past and present events. We both vent to each other (and anyone else who will listen) about our frustrations with this tragic and twisted situation.

The clock strikes four and the other missionary who has been helping us writes John Michael to tell him that he received a call from a Hewa person in town. This person reports that Wanapi (the murderer) has killed Kalefu, a man from our village. My heart falls all the way down my body, lands on my foot, and therefore cannot get blood to my head or my fingers. My head swoons, my fingers are numb, and my lungs can't seem to breathe with my heart so far away. It is a feeling I know all too well. And because I have had a lot of practice with it, I at least knew what to do this time. I quickly told my heart to get out of my foot and back where it belongs. It made the slow climb back up to my chest and began pumping blood to my brain again allowing me to think rationally.

Stop. Drop. And Roll. 

No that's not right. I wait one more minute, then I actually have the correct rational thoughts:

Stop. Don't Panic. 

This may not be true. You know how things go in the jungle. You hear lots of crazy stories, then find out later they are inaccurate or exaggerated. Wait until you hear from the village on the radio tonight. 

Calm, rational thinking. Unfortunately, my rational thinking also reminds me that every "rumor" we've heard about someone being dead has turned out to be true. But still, this is not confirmed so I will wait to be sad or panic. Radio time is at 6:40 pm. I can wait until then. What time is it now? 4:30 pm.

Never before has two hours and ten minutes seemed so long.

I have to keep busy. I wash a few dishes. The stragglers left over from lunch. I sweep the floor. I check the clock.

4:50

I begin dinner prep. I chop onions and green peppers. I saute chicken and make sour cream. Think about Kalefu's two wives and eight children. STOP. Don't go there yet. I check the clock.

5:30

I dry and put away the lunch dishes. I wash the dinner prep dishes. I check the clock.

5:50

I call my children in from outside, get them bathed, and dressed and feel envious of their innocent and carefree conversation. I smiled and nod over stories of friends, and games, and birds, and weird bugs. I am thankful that God created lovely things for His children to enjoy in such a dark and broken world. I check the clock.

6:20

My husband gives up and just goes down to wait the last twenty minutes by the radio "just to make sure I don't miss it." Like his brain would be merciful enough to let him forget. I assemble dinner plates for myself and my children and we sit down to eat. I let one of them pray. I let my heart be thankful for the things they are thankful for and... just for a minute... not question. I check the clock.

6:50

I can't believe it!!! Ten minutes late. I run down to the radio as my husband finishes his conversation with Yanis (one of our church leaders). He says that Kalefu is alive and in the village. Yanis is totally confused about this rumor we heard, but assures us that Kalefu is there and the raiders have not come yet.

Relief and joy wash over me and I praise God that for the first time since we moved into Hewa territory death was just a rumor. I make my husband tell me every bit of the conversation. I am thankful beyond any words or explanation. I walk back to the apartment. I don't check the clock anymore, and I only realize it an hour after my kids' normal bedtime (oops). My husband and I put them to bed and I followed soon after.

Even though it ended on a high note, the day has exhausted me, so I climb into bed and contemplate my time in missionary training. I scroll through the memories of my time preparing for this job and remember thinking that my duties, my actual "job" would be the hardest part of this life. You know, the language learning, homeschooling, discipling, teaching, translating, those things. They seemed so hard. And they still are, but they are not the hardest part.

The hardest part is the loving, the caring, the relationships you have with people who struggle everyday to just stay alive. Death is their shadow. Pain is their ever present companion. And being right there beside them through it all is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.

There are certainly times I want to give up and go home. No...there are times I want to go back in time and never come in the first place. Because after having seen, heard, felt, tasted, even smelled their existence, I can't shake it from who I am now. Their world, their daily lives, their very souls, have penetrated my being so deep that there is no place that I can run that they will not be with me. And it will be that way from now until the day I die. No matter when or why God removes me from Hewa physically, we will be linked through the Holy Spirit eternally. When they hurt, I will feel it as if it were my own body just as I do now. And when they rejoice, I will rejoice with them whether I am right next to them, holding their hands or if I am 9,000 miles away.

And that is the hardest part. The hardest and most beautiful part.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Payback

As most of you know by now, we are out of the tribe (again) and back in town. This week has been a whirlwind of events that I am still trying to process.

On Friday, two men in leadership positions from our mission came in to give John Michael and I language checks. One of the men brought in his wife, one of his daughters, and a girl who is here in PNG helping them with home school (cough cough, hint hint REAGAN WEBB). They planned on staying for four days so we could do the checks, have a Thanksgiving meal (because we were going to be in the tribe by ourselves during real Thanksgiving) and just have an overall good time. And the guys helped JM get our new house batteries hooked up and about 1,000 other jobs around our house/village that will make all of our lives so much easier.

On Saturday John Michael and I took our tests. John Michael passed completely and is cleared to start helping with translation and teaching in the Hewa language. I ended up on level 7 of 9, so the plan was for them to come back in six months when hopefully (and miraculously) I might be able to finish.

John Michael "winning" his language evaluation!



Sunday, with much to be thankful for, Heidi and I started preparing the Thanksgiving meal while the guys and kids took off to the waterfall.* The guys came back after about 30 minutes because the trail had overgrown and they needed to find a Hewa guy to show them the new trail. Just as they were about to leave again, we heard shouting and wailing....the bad kind... (yelling and shouting across mountains is like their way of texting, so we have had to learn which tones and sounds to worry about and which ones are just passing information). 

I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran out of the house only to see my husband half way to place where the shouting originated. We soon found out that a man was shot in a neighboring village by the same man (along with some accomplices) who killed the last witch, Yamene. We were completely confused and had no idea what was happening or why until a lady named Rosa came crying and running into the village to tell us the story.

Four men came from the village of Fiyawena where the previous witch killings took place, to the village of Pasife (just a few hours hike away from our village) and were on the hunt for anyone in Yamene's family. A man named Apiyan found out and hid Rosa who is Yamene's cousin, and when the killers learned that he did this they shot him in the stomach. So Rosa ran to our village to tell us what happened and to warn her brother, Kalefu, that they were coming for him as well. (Many of you may remember us speaking about Kalefu this past year on furlough). 

We had the basic facts but were totally confused as to the the motive for these attacks. It made no sense for Yamene's killers to be going after her family when, as far as we knew, there had been no retaliation.

Meanwhile, our guests were witnessing all this and decided that we should not remain in the tribe. We agreed as things seemed to grow increasingly more tense and because we felt like our best chance of helping our friends get police support would be from town where we could call or even plead their case in person if need be (Our email is down in the tribe and has been for several weeks, so that is why you haven't heard from us). Because the plane that currently services us is small, all ten of us couldn't fit on one plane, so we planned two trips to get everyone out. The women and children left on Tuesday...because you know...women and children first and all that...plus the plane was bringing all the rice that we helped the people purchase for drought relief and JM needed to be there to facilitate the distribution of that.**

In the 24 hours that John Michael was there after we left he was able to get the full story. All this chaos actually started earlier in the weekend when Yamene's family started yelling at Wanapi (the man who shot and killed Yamene) from across a nearby river for killing their sister/daughter/cousin. Wanapi supposedly shot at them three times, and they fired back, killing a teenage boy who was with him. So there were actually TWO murders. Wanapi then gathered his posse and went after anyone in Yamene's family he could find in a blind rage. He, of course, feels like no one should be attacking him because he was only seeking vengeance for the death of his relative, Mifila, when he shot Yamene.

So we are basically breaking out into an all out tribal war because one witch was murdered and appropriate action was not taken. One murder has now turned into three which is what you'd expect to happen when there is no law, order, and justice in place to handle these situations.

We are still kind of in shock over all that has happened, but are so thankful that there was a team of wonderful people in the tribe with us when it all transpired. It was a blessing to get some outside perspective and good Godly advice on how to handle all these things that we have never personally encountered before. I know it was a wonderful blessing to my husband to have their support during these intense circumstances.

During one meeting with the Hewa believers, they asked John Michael,  

"We need your advice. You passed your test, you are one of us now. If they attack us, do we shoot back? What does God's Word say? If we kill them will God be angry with us. Our thinking is little so you tell us what to do."

He did the best he could to steer them towards peace and resolution, even paraphrasing Jim Elliot explaining that the attackers aren't prepared for heaven but they, as believers, are. Then they asked, 
"But what about our wives and kids? If they try to shoot them, should we attack?"

At that point, he threw up his hands and told the guys that they all needed to pray for God's guidance and wisdom answering with, 
"Yes, I passed my test. I can speak your language now, but I am still just a man. With a man's thinking. We need God's thinking for this. It is too big for you and too big for me to have the right answer. Only God has the right answer for all of us."

So they prayed, and we are all continually praying for God's wisdom and guidance, and most of all His peace. We need miraculous peace in this situation that can and will only come from God. 
The family of Apiyan, who have now been drug into this whole mess.
*Obviously, they never made it to the waterfall. We are terrible hosts. Instead of breathtaking sights, we give you murder and chaos. You're welcome. 
**In drought news...we have had rain everyday in the month of November and everyone's gardens are starting to come back to life. It takes sweet potato (the staple food of the Hewa) 4 to 6 months to grow, so they are still needing rice and other foods to help support themselves until the gardens really start producing again. But we are praising the Lord that he provided rain and rice for them in their time of need.