Our time returning to Hewa was a little nuts. We attended our region's annual conference and it was a fun but very busy four days. We then had to attend meetings about starting our language learning process, buy the supplies we needed from town, and on top of all that I had to throw a birthday party for my girls.
This gave us very little time to pack and prepare to come back into the tribe. I think I have described this process enough in this blog, but just in case you didn't catch how much planning and work is involved I will tell you again. You're welcome.
First you have to find out how much weight you will be allowed in the flight. Then figure out what you need and how much of it you will use before your next flight, and list those things in order of priority in case you have to much weight for what you are allowed. Next you have to buy the stuff either from town or in the missionary supply store. Then you have to pack it all, tape it up, weigh it, and get it ready on a crate to be loaded on the plane. It is quite a lot to do and it has to be precise, especially in a helicopter only location, because if you get in there without what you need...well, you just don't have it. I am praying that I never forget toilet paper.
The day before we were supposed to leave we were half way into this process when we got the call that the battery was dead on the helicopter and it would take them two weeks to get a new one. This meant that the men would hike in and the moms and kids would have to stay in Wewak for another two weeks. We had already been out of the tribe for 5 weeks, and I was devastated at the thought of having to stay in town for another two weeks. I really wanted to get back to my home in Hewa.
Obviously we stopped the packing process and I even went down to where the boxes that had already been packed and weighed were stored and brought them up (there was chocolate in those boxes!). At about 7:30 pm later that night we got the call that somehow they "jumped off" the helicopter battery and we would be leaving in the morning.
I had a tiny heart attack and then and for a minute I seriously considered having a major emotional break down. With the surprise trip to Australia and all the moving and flying over the last few weeks (3 different cities and 2 different countries in 5 weeks) I was already at my maximum stress limit. This was just too much. I even told John Michael, "this is the crap that makes me want to quit and go home."
We pulled it together really quickly, though, and by about 11:00 pm that night we were done and ready to fly out that next morning. I then breathed a huge sigh of relief and got really excited that I was going back to my house and my friends in the tribe the next morning!
I then reflected on my previous words and laughed at myself because of how ridiculous they were, but also because of how true they were. There have been so many crazy, difficult, and potentially disastrous things that have happened to us since we started this journey of missionary service, but this was the thing that made me want to quit? Dumb. But totally me. I have never liked change (my mom reminds me of this often in case I ever forget), but I have gotten much better about it, since that is all my life seems to be about. But I am still not great with last minute change (in case that wasn't obvious from the story above).
Even though I really hate those situations, I love that I can throw a little temper tantrum in my heart, and I can hear the Lord say, "Are you done?" And I respond, "Yes, Lord", and He says, "Ok, trust me. I am with you." And when it is all over I can be relieved and excited and laugh at what a dumb-dumb I really am. I love that He wants to teach me, and grow me into a person that can handle what she thinks she can't when she trusts in her God.
All this got me thinking. When I was in the middle of my temper tantrum I began listing of all the crap we "need" to get to survive in the jungle. Planes. Helicopters. Food. Toilet paper. Schooling materials. Medicines. Etc. I began thinking about how everyone agrees that people can reach their own culture better than someone outside it, and I know that there are strong Christians in PNG who don't need all the junk that I need, and won't have to go through all this complication and why aren't they trying to reach their own people? Maybe I should just go home if someone else could do this better. But through this whole chaotic process I learned that sometimes it is not about them. It is about me.
Christian culture went through a big "It is not about me" phase a few years ago, and they were right of course. Their point was that our salvation was not meant to give us a perfect, wealthy, comfortable life, but is to be a life of love and service to God and others. But sometimes we can take things to extremes and forget that some things are about us. God loves us and wants to see us grow into mature believers. And sure a people group is best reached by its own people, but then why is God calling so many to go cross culturally to bring the message of the Gospel? Because it is partially about me...or you. He wants to see us give up our lives and trust Him to make them into something beautiful. He wants us to grow, mature and become more like Him, and that can only happen when our faith is stretched. He is working in me at exactly the same time He is working in the Hewa people. It is about them. And it is about me.
Would I have this many opportunities to trust the Lord and grow in Him if I hadn't followed Him into this life? I seriously doubt it. So I am thankful that even though some PNG person could probably reach this tribe faster, more efficiently, and certainly more cost- effectively, God is allowing a bunch of ridiculous white people to do it. Because He loves us just as much as loves the Hewa people. And as this group of American missionaries and this group of Papua New Guinea tribesmen mutually help each other and grow together-two groups from two very different worlds, we are learning what life in Christ is all about. It is about loving and serving people even when it is really hard. Even when they are very different. And it is allowing God to change you to be more like His Son through this life that isn't always easy. Life that is all about Him and He is all about us.