Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Rat/Gnat Welcome

So coming home has been interesting. Most of you enjoyed the pleasure of my whining and complaining on various social media outlets while we were "displaced" because of the recent murders, and I know you think I must be a such a good missionary* lady to long to be back in her jungle home. 

And I am… NOT. I have decided that unlike Paul, I have NOT learned to be content in every circumstance. In fact, I have a familiar tendency to be discontent for at least the first two weeks in any new circumstance and after that, when I settle into a routine, I do ok and until I am uprooted and have to change again. My mom is reading this and thinking, "You were always like this. You never liked change as a child." It's true. I still don't. 

So by the end of my four months out of my jungle home, I kinda got in a routine and liked it. I didn't really know this until I came back to the home I whined for and didn't have that routine anymore. At first it felt really nice to land on our grass airstrip and greet all our friends and feel that comfortable feeling of "home" and then I opened the door. 

I opened the door to the colony of spiders that had taken up residence in my house all simultaneously turning their heads and millions of eyes my way. I immediately went to war unwrapping everything in my house from the webs the spiders had spun in order to make it feel more homey to them. If they wanted it to feel  more spidery when you walk in the door and less humany then they certainly accomplished that goal. I definitely thought, "Wow, someone with eight legs is certainly responsible for this decor." 

Once all the spiders were evicted I went to work washing every single dish in my kitchen. Have you ever washed every single dish in your kitchen? No? Why would you? You probably live in a nicely sealed house that doesn't immediately get overrun with every kind of insect and vermin imaginable as soon as you walk out the door (and often while you are still in the door). While washing every single dish in my kitchen I discovered that rats decided to chew holes in almost every single piece of tupperware I owned. That made for less dish washing at least, but then I had to burn all that tupperware, and crawl half way inside the cabinet to clean up the confetti of masticated plastic and rat droppings left over from the tupperware eating party. There was a lot of gagging and repeating, "You wanted to be here. You wanted to come back" over and over. 

Then after I unpacked every article of clothing we owned, made the beds, and swept the roach poop out of every corner, I popped the casserole that I made before we flew back (because cooking from scratch after a day of cleaning up spider, roach, and rat poop is less than ideal) into the oven and was thankful for the first time for the tupperware destruction. My oven only smelled vaguely of rat pee. The last time we were gone for a long period (our furlough) the rats took up residence in my oven, and every time I turned it on the aroma of rat pee filled the house and made everyone gag. The tupperware cabinet was a happy alternative to that at least. 

At the end of the day, we all climbed into bed to watch a movie before going to sleep. It was at this point we noticed that dozens of biting gnats or "No Seeums" as we call them out here were flying around the room and biting us. We've rarely had them in the house, so we just brushed it off as a fluke and went to bed. 

Unfortunately, it was not a fluke. The little jerks have been invading my relaxing evenings every night since we got back. All I wanted to do was get in bed, watch old episodes of Project Runway sent to me by another missionary friend, and go to sleep. Instead I spend the evenings counting tiny red dots left by biting gnats and then turning off the lights while the last few stragglers bite at my face. The highest count so far has been 36. 36 bites in the span of 45 minutes. I feel like if they really worked together they could accomplish a bite a minute, but I am not sure if I should expect too much from something with the life span of less than 24 hours. Anyway, just after a week of being home I was tucked under my covers in the fetal position longing for my guesthouse in town with glass louver windows that I could shut and keep all nature out of my bed time routine. I no longer wanted to be back in my jungle home. 

I was Israel looking back at Egypt and thinking, "Sure we were slaves, but at least we had food to eat." And I am like this anytime I change places. Everywhere new is the desert. The last place I was comfortable is always Egypt. Sigh. Humans. The same issues since the beginning of time. The patience of God is incomprehensible. 

But the next morning I woke up, the red spots were gone, and I watched my kids take out everything they forgot they owned and dance around the house like it was Cinderella's castle. Nothing feels better to kids than home. And nothing feels better to Moms than when their kids feel at home. And just like that... the desert becomes the Promised Land. 

*Recently an article came out about my family and I that was picked up by a couple of internet media outlets, and it has made some people really mad and hate us for what we are doing here. Missionaries are apparently the worst. But, I seem to recall being warned about being hated by you know…JESUS, so it's no big deal. We knew the article was coming out and were able to read and approve it ahead of time, and really enjoyed working with the writer and editors of the piece. I really didn't think we would be interesting enough to be picked up by other news outlets though, but I guess people love to hate things, so it did. The beauty of being out here in this remote place with no internet is that I can't read all those ugly comments. Sorry internet haters. I won't be able to feel your wrath for another 4 months and by then I'm sure you will have already moved on to comment aggressively about something else you know absolutely nothing about! Ha ha! Foiled by the remote jungle and its lack of technology! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lonely Planet

Where are we? We are in Hewa…and have been since March 24th. Honestly, I have been scared to post anything because it seems like every time I do, I have to immediately write and say JUST KIDDING our plans were thwarted by murder again! Actually, two days before our flight in this time we found out that there was more fighting, and another murder. I immediately, thought, "Here we go again. We get really close to our return date and then are postponed by chaos."

But what do you expect when we are in the middle of a tribal war? And at this point the situation has escalated to a tribal war.The weapons more sophisticated, the strategies more perverse. However, there are two positives about the way these people fight that allow us to be here. As another missionary friend pointed out, these guys do not "do war" like say, Africa does war. They pick off someone in the opposing family then that family does the same in a couple months, and the cycle continues until people get tired of it and someone eventually makes a payment of pigs and money to settle the problems. Then 10 years later, someone will get hungry for pig, demand more pigs for these deaths, and the cycle starts all over again. It's not like other places where they come in and wipe out entire villages.

The second positive (if you can call it that) is that the conflict has now focused down to two men, who are repeatedly attacking each other. And those being killed are people who are fighting with them. Because the people in our village have resisted all the pleas, taunts, and threats to join the fighting, the war has focused in on those who gave into the call for revenge.

The truly tragic and horrific thing about it all is that they no longer have much family support in their fighting so they have to "hire" people with guns to come support them, and they appear to be paying them by prostituting their sisters, daughters, wives…any females that they can capture and control.

And we are here, just a day or two hike away. Meeting on the weekends to hear God's Word, then playing soccer on the airstrip all day in the tropical sun. The kids (and some adults) are attending school everyday taught by my co-worker and walk around proudly displaying mathematics papers. It's hard to believe that there is a war going on just an eight minute helicopter ride away. This is a different planet. A planet with life, laughter, learning, and miraculously the love of God.

Every now and then we get a glimpse of that other planet. "Refugees" from that place have come here, and find it really hard to leave the those ways that are so foreign to us. One young man heard that his father was missing, so before taking off to go look for him on the trail, he fired his gun into the air without warning, immediately drawing everyone and their guns into a big panic. It was settled fairly quickly and made clear to everyone that they are not allowed to fire guns here unless they have to.

Then another got into a fist fight and threatened to kill the guy he was fighting with. Again, he had to be instructed in the ways of this new planet. Peace, joy, settling disagreements without violence these customs are alien in this galaxy of mountains. And it takes time to learn our ways. Most will eventually get frustrated and just leave. Some however, have and will, see/seen the difference. They will see a blue planet full of clean air where it's inhabitants can take full, deep breaths instead of being choked by air poisoned with fear and despair. A planet flowing with living water that once tasted their thirst is quenched eternally, instead of a red planet covered with rivers of blood flowing into their gardens and polluting their food supply.

This planet that supports and sustains Life, is a lonely planet. But it doesn't have to be. Those around us have all the elements needed to live in freedom and in truth. And without decades of exploring and terraforming to make them livable. All the elements were created 2,000 years ago when the most Holy Blood was shed for each person in this little galaxy.

For now, all we can do is hope and pray that our neighbors will see it for the treasure that it is and simply allow the King of the Universe to change their world as He has ours.

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.