Thursday, October 16, 2014

Open Grave

If you have heard us speak in the last several months, then you have seen this picture of our daughter in the waterfall not too far behind our house in Hewa. We use this to illustrate the animistic beliefs of the Hewa people. The people believe that evil spirits live in waterfalls and are afraid of them. They leave an area with a waterfall undisturbed as they try to evade those spirits when planting gardens and clearing hiking trails.

It is such a huge contradiction to our culture. We are in awe of waterfalls and will pay big money to travel to see them. Even hike through thick rain forest jungles just to get a picture taken while we are standing in one.

Many people are in shock when we tell them that our people are afraid of waterfalls. They can't believe that something that we cherish and love is considered evil to them. And we pity them, that they can't appreciate and enjoy this beautiful creation of God. We shake our heads and criticize the believers that know the truth, but still just don't like to be around this or any waterfall because it makes them uncomfortable.





This picture, however, brings up different feelings for us. In fact this picture probably makes us feel exactly how the Hewa feel about that waterfall. What is it?

It's an open grave.



The Hewa bury their dead in a hole and instead of filling that hole with dirt they put thin planks of scrap wood from the jungle (usually some type of tree bark) over the hole then put dirt over it and build a roof over the grave.

It doesn't take long before the wood planks underneath rot and the whole thing caves in. We would be completely disturbed by this and immediately fix it.

They don't.

It doesn't bother them. They don't get images of zombies crawling out of the grave or ghosts coming to haunt them. They know that the spirit left that body a long time ago and now it is just lying there, harmless, unable to hurt or bother anyone.


I bet they would shake their heads at us for still getting weirded out by an open grave. I bet they would criticize us who know the truth, but still avoid going near this place if at all possible.

As missionaries, we spend a lot of time evaluating our tribal believers. We wondered where they are in their walk and spiritual maturity because that tells us how well we are doing our job and of course, when we will be able to leave. Sometimes we get discouraged when some of our strongest believers won't join us in playing in the waterfall, but think nothing of the fact that we won't sit beside them against the open grave.

But we're all just weak, fallen flesh that is easily influenced by the world and culture around us. Sure we know that nothing is coming out of that grave, but we can't help that feeling it gives us. Just like they know that there is no evil spirit in that waterfall, but they just can't shake that feeling it gives them.

We are all in this world, but not of it together. We both have to decide daily to study God's word to know the truth and choose to believe it no matter what our culture is saying to us or how it is making us feel.

Maybe the open grave is not the best example though. I mean we all know that it is creepy, but I don't think any American over the age of 12 is truly afraid of it. It probably doesn't take much conscious thought and prayer to overcome.

But what about when you hear that someone is cured of cancer? We all give God all the praise and thank Him for that healing process, but in the backs of our minds we wonder if God had anything to do with it. We wonder if the outcome would have been the same without the surgery and the chemo and the radiation. We know that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't and we give God the credit when it does and "trust His will" when it doesn't but we all know the medical science behind it and know that many who don't put God in either scenario have the same results.

Or we hear of some "miraculous" healing in a baby who was previously believed to have some sort of medical issue and want to give God the credit, but in the backs of our minds we wonder if the initial tests were just wrong?

Much more so than zombies, even with the popularity of the Walking Dead, Secular Humanism has hugely influenced our Western thought and culture. Everyday we have to choose to read and study God's Word. Everyday we have to choose to believe His truth and know that in He is in all things even when our culture tells us that He has nothing to do with anything because He doesn't exist.

But He is there. He is there in the tests. He is there in the diagnosis. He is there in all the treatment. He is there when it works. He is there when it doesn't. He is there when no one even acknowledges He is there. 

Everyday we have to renew our minds. To transform our thinking. To choose not to conform to the pattern of thinking of our world and culture. Everyday the Hewa believers have to do the same.  We're in this together. We struggle together and it is our job to mutually encourage each other.

So I was very encouraged by the testimony of one of our Hewa men, Kifeson when he told us how he felt after the two suicides in our village and the choice he made afterward. Jonathan recorded his story...

“I wanted to flee,” Kifeson said to me when I returned from the States. “When Nosem hung himself and then Atipz did the same thing I wanted to run as fast as I could to get away from the evil spirits. I seriously considered going to Yano. But then God’s Spirit said to me, ‘You can go to Yano to teach My words; that would be good. But don’t run to Yano in fear.’ When I heard that I decided I need to stay here in Yifki and not run away in fear like other people were doing.”


You see waterfalls aren't the only places where the Hewa believe that evil spirits live. They also live on flat places...places where you would say... build an airstrip. And if you clear trees and build in those places then the spirits will punish you for it. So of course all of the Hewans in surrounding villages gave our village a big, "I told you so" when we had so many deaths of young people so close together as we were working on the airstrip. And there were people who left the village out of fear.


But as you read above. Kifeson stayed. Not only did he stay, but he decided to build a house right next to the airstrip instead of on one of the higher places in the village. He chose to believe God's truth.

Kifeson's house on the airstrip

Sitting under the house with his daughter.

Lord Jesus, thank you for Kifeson, my brother in Christ. Thank you for the encouragement he is in my life. Thank you that he made the courageous choice to believe your truth when the people and events around him told him not to. Thank you that everyday his worldview is shifting from that of an animistic worldview to a Biblical worldview.  Please God, help me do the same. Help me to view the world through the lens of your truth rather than the one my culture is trying to force me to see through. Thank you God, that your truth is universal. Thank you that You transcend geography, culture, economics, and all the things of this world that could separate and divide your children, and instead unite us in our relationships with Your Son and through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Aliens



He's right you know. There are aliens. I am one of them. And so are you. So let's just....nope not gonna do it.

I got a several comments from my fellow missionary friends about the "Third Culture Adults" reference in the last post. It was nice and validating knowing that I wasn't the only one who couldn't just jump back into my culture of origin like nothing in my brain had changed.

I have thought about this... a lot. But never more than when my oldest daughter came home and told me that another child told her she didn't belong here in America, but only belonged in the jungle. After much internal reflection, I realized that physically harming children is wrong and sat down to have a long conversation with my daughter about where she really "belongs".

I explained to her that she actually doesn't truly belong here in America or in the jungle. She truly belongs in heaven with God. That is His design and desire and He sent Jesus to make sure that could be possible for her future.

I told her that no one really belongs here on this earth, our hearts long for something Bigger. Something More. Our hearts long for God, although not everyone recognizes it as that. I mentioned that people try to fit in here, some try really hard by looking a certain way, or having certain material things, but in this ever-changing world you too must constantly change how you look and what you have in order to "belong". That makes me tired.

But Praise God!! He never changes!! And He does the changing in us that makes us belong to Him.

And so when I know that I will never truly fit into my host culture, and I feel like I no longer fit into my culture of origin, I am relieved and filled with joy knowing that I am not really supposed to fit in anyway. I "fit" with Jesus and belong to God. I am a citizen of  Heaven and my true culture is the Kingdom of God.

Until God decides that it is time for me to go home, I am here as an alien, a stranger, a pilgrim, a missionary on this earth.

"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." -John 17:16

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." -Philippians 3:20

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." -Hebrews 11:13-16

 "I beg you, as those whom I love, to live in this world as strangers and “temporary residents”, to keep clear of the desires of your lower natures, for they are always at war with your souls." -1 Peter 2:11 (Phillips)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Aliens,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Aliens,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf
 Or as the NASB puts it...

" Beloved, I urge you as ALIENS and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Aliens,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf


All of that is so amazing and so comforting when you feel as though you don't really belong anywhere...

So let's just Praise the Lord!!

(Sorry, even though I resisted writing it above, that song wormed its way into my head like a cranial parasite and I can't get it out. I apologize for the fact that you will be singing "Father Abraham" in your head for the next three days. Does it help to know that I will be singing it with you? No? Again, sorry about that.)
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Aliens,-Christians-In-The-World#sthash.9HEKVCoO.dpuf

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spa Weekend

Sorry my blog posting has been sporadic at best since we have been home! I have of course been busy adjusting to first world life again, but also have just felt like I don't really have that much to write about here.

I also worry that my commentary on American life right now might come across more critical than I intend, so I just don't write about it. I don't feel critical, but I do feel a little lost and overwhelmed at times and I am not sure that I could explain those feelings well on this blog without it sounding like I am bashing everything around me. People constantly address the issue of Third Culture Kids  (children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years and who don't feel like they are truly a part of their culture of origin or fully part of their host culture. They are a mixture of both and therefore represent a "third" culture) but nobody really talks about Third Culture Adults. And I think what I am feeling and experiencing should be labeled as that. Because even though I spent almost 30 years in North American culture, there are some parts I never experience that I am experiencing now- such as being a mom of school children. This is  definitely a huge adjusting and learning process for our whole family and for the school too I am afraid!

But the real transition has been that I have tried my best to immerse myself in a completely different culture for the last three years, and jumping back into my own has been more complicated because of the new sights, sounds, and thoughts that I have been processing for three years. I can't un-see the things that I have seen that now make me view the entire world- not just these two separate and unique cultures- through different lenses. I have a whole new perspective, and as most of you know, perspective can make all the difference.

So anyway, that is my excuse for not writing. I think it is mostly the truth. (I should probably also mention Netflix as a huge contributor to my not writing if I am going to be completely honest)

But back to my "spa weekend" which was not actually a spa weekend at all, but a hysterectomy.

For this stay-at-home-mom/missionary it kinda felt like it, though. I know the Demerol had a lot to do with that feeling, but I spent several days kid free lounging on a bed or couch with people bringing things to me. I also lost eight pounds immediately and no longer look like I am four months pregnant, so yeah, I challenge any spa to beat those results!

I have been suffering from two very painful conditions for about two years now with nothing that I could do about it. And life in the jungle does not really allow me to take "sick days" every month for me to "sleep in the period hut" as my Hewa lady friends would say.

So I am now rejoicing the fact that those painful days are over and as an added bonus I will never have to deal with these annoying and embarrassing events in order to get tampons...

1. Buying an inhuman amount of tampons at Wal-mart in preparation to ship them over for the next year.

2. Running out after year one (or finding mold on half of them and having to throw them away)  and asking people to ship tampons for me. Especially going through the "what type/brand do you prefer" converstation.

3. Having to order them over the radio for a supply flight because email is down.

And you all should be happy too that you will never again after this post have to hear (read) me rant about tampons! (I know all the men who read this blog will be especially happy)

Now let's all sing the Hallelujah Chorus together!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Article

A friend asked me to write an article for a digital discipleship magazine. I went to the site and realized two things...

1) It was pretty hard-core must read kinda stuff that makes you think.

2) I was the only female contributor.

So, I quickly realized that its readers probably didn't want to hear my theories on first graders carrying shivs or how I only recently stopped hoarding tampons out of habit.

I had been working on a little (ok long) piece about racism in my home culture (the deep south) and the Christian church, so I tossed it out there and they edited a bit to make me sound like a much better writer than I actually am and published it.

Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal...not really...I just wanted to say that. 

 I really was just thinking about all these things as we came home and I realized that my kids no longer have a lot of interaction with people of a different race. I was concerned that the multitude of benefits that they have gained from traveling the world and spending time with people from many different cultures and races would be lost in these nine short months. I then realized this wasn't the case just in our extracurricular activities but that EVERYTHING they watch on TV mostly has white people in it (except of course for Doc McStuffins). I tried to incorporated media from other races and realized...there wasn't a lot to choose from! WHITE PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!

And the most disturbing thing of all was that in all the different churches we have been in there has been minimal representation from any race other than caucasian.

So I wrote this...

http://www.alta-forma.com/racism-north-american-church/

Just some thoughts. From a white girl. That is all.


Monday, September 1, 2014

First American Birthday


My baby turned four today. It was her fist time to celebrate the day she entered this world in America.

Birthdays one, two, and three were all celebrated in Papua New Guinea.

first birthday

second birthday

      
third birthday
They were all fun for her, but sort of simple. You have to get really creative in PNG and it wears me out.  So I actually enjoyed Chuck E. Cheese this year even though I think I had a tiny seizure and I am pretty sure it is some sort of secret Casino training/brainwashing center for children.

I enjoyed just going, having my kids be completely entertained, fed, filled with cake (not made by me) then leaving while someone else cleaned up the mess.

Here is Mia's first American birthday!