Monday, November 7, 2016

An Expat Life

As tomorrow looms and everyone is wide-eyed with panic, I keep hearing (reading, actually) that all Christians should be reminded that our citizenship is actually in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we are aliens and strangers on this earth (1 Peter 2:11) and we should all find comfort in that.

I don't see a lot of people truly finding comfort in that truth. This pretty much happens every election season, but this one seems particularly dramatic and frightening, and no one really knows what to do about it.

I feel like one of the true treasures God has given me in the expat life is getting to experience what it really means to be an alien, a foreigner, an outsider experiencing the life of others from the inside. It is a truly unique and valuable experience on so many levels, but the greatest is being able to see the what the Bible is talking about in these passages. Because we are all really expats no matter where on earth we live.

In the airport on our first move out of the country. The beginning of our expat life.

Paul takes it even further and calls us "ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20) spreading Christ's message of reconciliation. So we are not just expats for no reason. We aren't just hanging out in these foreign places because they are cool and we like the food. We are here for a purpose, to bring a message. For all intents and purposes we are missionaries. Foreign missionaries. Even if you are American living in America.

In my missionary expat life I have lived in two different countries. In my daily life in both places I tried to live as best I could within those countries, being respectful of their customs and traditions without compromising my values or belief systems. I lived under governments that I did not always agree with, but as a guest in the country, respected their authority. If I ever choose not to respect that authority then I would be kicked out of the country and would lose my opportunity to be heard by the people who wanted to listen. In both places our goal has been to seek out people...individuals and small groups to share the message of reconciliation with...the Gospel. We didn't go to the government to reach the people. We didn't try to change the laws of the land in order to change hearts.

So why is that what we try to do in America? Why do we try to legislate people into Heaven? Why do we think that God will judge us by our candidates and not by our hearts?

I think we've been listening to the wrong narrative for too long. The one that says that because America was "founded on God" we were blessed. We forget that our founding Fathers were sinful people who made a lot of mistakes. We forget that not everyone has had a "blessed" American experience. We forget that there have been many MANY wealthy, powerful nations that thrived under pagan rule and leadership. We forget that America is not our home. You and I are foreigners in this country. Hopefully, you and I are foreign missionaries in this or any country we live. And the best missionary strategy of all is through relationships, not through the government legislation.

This was the model of Jesus, himself. He spent time with just basic people. Not the government, not even the religious leaders. Even though that is exactly what they expected...exactly what they wanted from him. They wanted him to BE the government. They wanted Him to restore the nation of Israel so they could live in freedom and not under Roman occupation and oppression. They wanted him to legislate and rule here on earth. They wanted God's laws and precepts to be the ruling authority.

What's wrong with that, right? Isn't that what God would want? Isn't that what He wants now for America? It's hard to imagine that is His chief desire for America when it wasn't His chief desire for Israel...a nation He established. But why? Why wouldn't God want His Son to come to earth and set up His Kingdom here?

Because this is not His home...and it is not ours either if we belong to Him. He let Caesar have what is Caesar's. The earthly things, the temporal. Let those who belong to the earth have it. Let them worry about who will and won't rule and what kind of nations they will establish. This earth is contaminated by sin, so why would Jesus ever set up His Kingdom here?

I'm not saying don't vote. I'm not saying don't vote to best way you can as a Christian. I'm saying don't get so hung up on it. Don't think you that the way to spread the message of reconciliation is in the ballot box. Vote. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's. But then get on with your true calling, your true duty as a Christian. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Creating a "Christian" government is not our job. If that is what Jesus wanted He would have done that himself. He would have done what everyone wanted him to do in the first place.

One of the greatest benefits of the expat life has been seeing how Christians in other nations function under their respective governments. I've lived in a place where abortion is not only legal, but sometimes legally forced upon women. Women who are Christians. They don't protest, petition the government because they can't. But they do support each other. They pray and fast and hide pregnant friends. Christian doctors induce labor early so that babies can be born to the mothers that want them.

I've also lived in a place where the government doesn't really take care of its people. They leave the poor, defenseless, and oppressed to fend for themselves. But the Christians feed those who are hungry, and offer safe haven to those who need it. The believers are ambassadors in their earthly countries. They are offer something that their governments cannot or will not. They offer the hope and refuge of their true Home.

There were times when I wanted to scream for all their "rights" being violated. I wanted to change things for them. Make their lives easier, more comfortable, more free to share the hope they had in Christ. But then I realized something. Those governments are not stopping the believers. They were not stopping the Gospel. And no matter who wins the election, ours will not either.

But I think we know that, don't we? Haven't we heard how Christianity thrives under persecution? We just don't want persecution and hardship. We want the comfort we've always had. Our motivation is not to further the Gospel...not to spread the message of reconciliation. Our motivation is fear. Fear that God will take away "our country" just as He did with Israel. We read the Old Testament stories and quiver at the thought of the same thing happening to our new Jerusalem. God's new chosen nation. And in our fear we blame the sin of others, not the sin in our own hearts. The real problem is the sin of the baby killers and the homosexuals and if we don't stop their sin, then God will judge us and we'll suffer. We'll lose our freedom and prosperity, and that most alluring and deceptive of all idols- our comfort- and it will be all their fault.

So we try to take the easy way out and rant and rave at the politicians and try to mark a little box to save America rather than doing the hard work of investing in people's lives and showing them through our time, energy, and love that God has reconciled them to Himself through His Son Jesus.

We are just like the disciples in Acts chapter 1 who asked, "Lord are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now????" Still not understanding that the Real Kingdom is eternal and not earthly. Jesus died and was resurrected defeating death itself and reconciling us to God through His sacrifice. Yet, they still wanted Him to be the earthly King to deliver them in the here and now. To make their lives a little safer, easier, and more comfortable.

And 2,000 years later we're still doing the same thing. Exiting the ballot box, looking up to heaven, and asking the Lord to restore something to us that was never really ours to begin with. Asking him to shore up the walls of this sand castle forgetting that an Everlasting Kingdom awaits us.

Forgetting that we are just missionary expats. And no matter what happens in our "host country" when our deputation is over we will one day return to our perfect Home.

Doing it again. More kids, more bags, new country.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Update on Us

**I wrote this as an update letter in my most proper, and official voice. I quietly thought all my sarcasm and weirdness instead of typing out every single ridiculous thing that pops into my head. For you, though, I have added those thoughts in blue.**

It has now been three months since we unexpectedly left PNG to bring John Michael’s mother home and to get some of our medical needs taken care of. (I have finally stopped getting the lump in my throat when I see the parents of friends and co-workers in PNG come and go without almost dying. Also, is it just me or was 2016 The Year of the Parental Visits in PNG? Seriously, there were a lot of parents. Guess how many had traumatic events? Yeah. Just one.) It has been quite a whirlwind of medical appointments, tests, and procedures, but we definitely feel like we are headed in the right direction and will all be well enough to go back to PNG in February 2017. (Probably. Maybe. Knock on Wood and any other animistic thing I can say that won't jinx us or our plans)

(Aaron Jex, please skip the next paragraph)
We were met with some surprises and kinks in our plans after doctor’s visits. After a routine check-up for me, my doctor founds lumps in both breasts that sent me immediately to a mammogram and bilateral ultrasounds. (Why am I even telling you this? I don't really know. It's probably TMI, but at the time it kinda freaked me out, so I just put it in here for dramatic effect.) Thankfully, everything turned out benign, so other than just a really long day, no harm done and I was able to move on with the medical issues that I actually came home for!

Most of you know that I have had strange symptoms for about a year now, including fatigue, low-grade fevers, joint pain, and joint deformities in my hands. (I have a large protrusion on my right thumb. A fellow missionary said it looked like a bunion on my thumb, so obviously we started calling it a "thumbion". I have a thumbion, and some other fat knuckles.) I saw a rheumatologist in September who said I had an autoimmune disease, but at this point the tests are not helping us identify which one. He did start me on some medicine that should help the pain and progression of the disease, but I have unfortunately had some pretty difficult side effects to the medicine. (The medicine drops my blood sugar even though I am eating all the time, so I am now hangry* all the time and fat. It is also giving me very vivid nightmares, which mostly involve planes and cliffs and terrorists. My thumbion doesn't really look that bad to me now.) Right now, there are not really any other options for medications for me, so we are praying through whether or not to just not treat the disease at this time or try to find a way to take the medicine and deal with the side-effects as they come. Please pray with us over this decision, as it has been a little stressful to think about. Right now, most of my symptoms are mild to moderate, and while they keep me from doing a lot of “extra” things, my daily life and function are not really affected too much. I can generally get all I need to do done in a day, just with a little extra pain. The problem is that an autoimmune disease can progress if not treated properly and I don’t know if my future health will be affected by the decision not to treat at this time. (Basically, I would like to keep using my hands and other joints for as long as I possibly can.)

John Michael has been having trouble with sinus infections and headaches for years now, and last furlough was told that he needed sinus surgery to correct this problem. Our busy schedules kept that from happening (he spoke in over 30 different churches last time), but he was really having a hard time with more frequent infections and headaches when we returned to PNG. His sinus surgery became a priority for us this trip, but when he went in to schedule it, the doctor found a mass under his left eye that made him concerned, so he referred him to another doctor for a second opinion. The second doctor looked over his scans and said that the mass was just a cyst, and sent him back to have the original doctor remove the cyst and complete the sinus surgery.  During the surgery the doctor discovered a large bone spur on the underside of his nose, so he removed that as well as what turned out to be a very large cyst in his sinus cavity (the doctor said the size of a large grape) (The doctor actually said a large MUCUS filled cyst the size of a grape. EW). The doctors also advised him to have a suspicious looking mole on his nose removed, so he met with a dermatologist who said it looked fine, but he removed it anyway just to be safe. (He also had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they put him on and he woke up the day we were supposed to leave for some speaking engagements with a bad rash in a bad place* but benedryl took care of most of, thankfully)

In the midst of all this, my mother discovered that she had to have two major surgeries on her spine (one on her neck and one on her lower back). (Due to the autoimmune disease that I have apparently inherited from her. This is why we are worried about not treating it)  She is single, and my only sister is also a single working mother, so my mom really needed some extra help for these surgeries and their recovery. We are thankful that the Lord allowed us to be here to help meet this need for my mom. The surgeries have to be 6 weeks apart, so the last (and most difficult surgery) will be at the end of December. This will delay our return to PNG by a couple of weeks, but we feel that this is what we really need to do to minister to my mom- without whom I probably would not even be a missionary, much less a Christian (Seriously!)

This will also give us more time to figure out what to do/how to treat my issues as well. (Yes, I have "issues". That is no surprise to anyone. But really, I hope the extra time helps us find some medicine that does not make me feel worse than my actual disease does. Is that too much to ask???)

Thanks so much to all of you who have loved and supported us during this time. They have certainly been needed and felt. We continue to covet your prayers over the rest of our time in the U.S. that things will go smoothly (which would be an actual miracle for us) and we will be able to return to PNG in early February.  As always, we couldn’t do any of this without you and are so thankful that you are part of the Hewa team! 

*hangry= hungry + angry
*his butt. the rash was on his butt.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

On This Rock

I know what this picture looks like. Just a guy standing on a big rock. NBD.

But the guy on this rock is actually a HUGE deal. Colossal. Monumental. BIG. FAT. DEAL. 

This is Fawa. He is one of the believers in our village. He's a young married man with a beautiful baby girl who just started toddling around.

His father (now deceased) was an influential witch doctor. When Fawa was a young boy his father told him to never go near this rock, but if he absolutely had to, then he should walk around it slowly with his bow and arrow drawn because the evil spirits inside it will come out and try to eat him.

My husband was on a hike with Fawa and some other believers when Fawa stopped to show them the rock, and told them the strict instructions his father passed down to him . He grinned as he explained the story and then explained to them all how he now knows that was his father's teachings were wrong. That rock is just a rock. Created by God and called good. Ready to cry out their praise to Him if commanded, and there are no malevolent spirits coming out of it to attack him.

But then he did something that amazed everyone there (and everyone who heard the story later). He said, "Hey, I'm going to go across the river and I'm going to stand on top of the rock. You take my picture so that everyone can see that I'm not afraid. I want everyone to know that I follow Jesus' trail and not the old way of thinking."

He then maneuvered through the rapid river, littered with sharp stones, climbed up on this big rock, and flashed that huge grin as his picture was taken.

John Michael and Fawa in front of the rock

I love this story. This testimony of God's truth piercing through generations of entrenched lies from the enemy. But I especially love what it means for Fawa's daughter- this little girl...

Fawa's wife and baby daughter

 This little girl will have a Father who doesn't teach her to be afraid of rocks or waterfalls or birds or any other evil spirits living in the mundane objects in her world. She won't learn to make sacrifices of valuable pigs to spirits who won't help, and she won't learn the magic words that need to be spoken in order to make all aspects of her life favorable. And above all she won't learn that when she loses a loved one, the only way to answer the pain and grief in her heart is to call for the deaths of some other woman or child rumored  to be possessed by an evil spirit.

She will grow up with the glow from a flashlight illuminating God's word as her father reads to his entire household. She will be taught to read and write so she can one day read that Word for herself. She will know that when someone gets sick or hurt she can call out to the God who hears and saves. And she will know that when she loses someone close to her they will either be with their Creator or they won't, but that death is the result of sin and the fall and innocent women and children are not responsible.

She may or may not follow Jesus herself. But she will have a choice. She will hear the Good News... something that her grandfather didn't get to hear... and hopefully, prayerfully, each generation that comes after her from this time forward will get to hear as well.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Where in the World are the Georges?

Several mornings over the past two weeks I wake up in a confused panic wondering, "WHERE AM I?" Until my eyes communicate with my brain and I remember. Oh, yeah. That's right. I'm in________.

At first that blank was filled with Brisbane, Australia. We were in the home of gracious sister in Christ who provided us with shelter in a time of desperate need. Now it is my in-laws' house in Mississippi. That's right. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.

A month ago, my husband and I were filled with anxious excitement. Our moms were coming to visit Hewa. It was the first time for both of them (or anyone in our families, friends, or from our "world" in America for that matter) to see and experience our life in Hewa. We were so excited to see them and for our kids to get to spend time with their grandmothers of course, but we were also very excited to have them witness our world. To see, smell, taste, hear, and touch life in our remote village. To have other people validate our experience and would reduce our feelings of isolation by two.

We decided to keep it a surprise from our kids because we had long experienced the disappointment of plans gone wrong and honestly it just seemed too good to be true. The thought of having both of our moms in Hewa with us seemed surreal and neither of us could really believe that it would actually happen.

They arrived in country during some political unrest with talks of airlines strikes and protests. We were on pins and needles as their first flight was cancelled which made their window of getting into the tribe very small. After a lot of nail biting close calls, they made it into the tribe just a few hours after they were originally supposed to, and it was such an amazing blessing. I was never more glad about the decision to make it a surprise to our children than when I was hearing over the short-wave radio that their flight might not make it in, and they may be stuck in the city for 3 of the 10 short days with us. I could handle my own disappointment and heartache, but not my children's at that point.

But they made it, so we spent the next week in the tribe having lots of fun family time and showing them what life is like in a remote jungle village. They met all of our friends, attended a Hewa church service and got to eat their food out of a ground oven or "mumu" just like true Hewans. John Michael even got to take his mom on a hike to the waterfall behind our house. (My mom has some back problems that made hiking dangerous for her, so we decided it was better for her to stay around the village).

The moms in Hewa

Their departing flight out of Papua New Guinea was on a Monday and because there were some scheduling conflicts with our aviation department, we all left the tribe and spent three days together on the missionary base in Goroka. It was during this three day time in town that we discovered that John Michael's mom had some infected cuts on her leg. We gave her some band-aids and a strong antibiotic cream to treat them and told her we needed to keep an eye on them as bacteria in PNG is stronger and more aggressive as it is fed by the constant heat and humidity of the tropical climate.

This particular week on the mission base, there was a visiting doctor offering her services to the missionaries there as both of our doctors were away in America at the time. She came and looked at my mother in law's legs one evening and said that she would start her on antibiotics the next day since they didn't look too bad, but could get bad if not treated properly.

Me with "Dr. Shelley." We are so thankful that the Lord provided this visiting doctor to be here when our regular doctors were gone. He knew our needs long before we did.

The next day was Sunday.  Her legs still didn't really look that bad. They appeared to have small spots of cellulitis but not the huge widespread areas that we had experienced in the past. She was running a fever, though, and that sent off alarm bells in our heads, so JM took her directly to the medical clinic on base to get treated while the kids and I along with my mom went to church. The doctor decided to go ahead and treat her through an IV to get the medicine in her faster since she and my mom were supposed to be getting on a plane back to America the next day.

After several hours her condition deteriorated and we realized that she would not be well enough to fly. John Michael cancelled all her flights and planned on rescheduling them in a couple of days when she was feeling better.

A few hours after that her condition deteriorated more and we were told by the doctor that she had sepsis and was going into septic shock. The medical staff began the process of having her medically evacuated from PNG to Australia since medical treatment in the country was not adequate to take care of such a serious illness. At this point she was pretty stable,  so we weren't really worried, but we knew that she would get the best care in Australia and were happy that she could get there.

I left the medical clinic to go pack bags for her and John Michael and to tell my mom what was happening. After this the timeline gets a little fuzzy for me, because after several hours of running around trying to get little things done that needed to be done with all of this, my mother-in-law was still there and getting worse by the hour. The medical clinic had been in communication with the airline that handles all of our organization's emergency medical evacuations and things were in motion for our pilots to fly her to Port Morseby, the capital of PNG, and meet the medevac plane to fly her the rest of the way to Australia. But at some point, they could no longer get the medevac company on the phone and no one knew why or what to do. This went on for hours. Hours of her conditioning deteriorating with no idea if we would be able to get her out of the country and to the help she needed. Hours that extended deep into the night, resulting in much of the missionary staff on base working, praying, pacing, and wondering with us.

Finally, through the work of our administrative staff we got a plan in motion to take her to the capital city and admit her to the ICU there, and wait until the medevac plane could come and take her to Australia. It was 2 am. The pilots and aviation staff had been sleeping in shifts at the NTMA hangar waiting on the word that she could be evacuated. The flight out was risky, but we are so thankful for the aviation staff and their families who are willing to serve in this way and take these risks that end in saving lives. You can read this amazing testimony from the wife of the pilot who flew my mother in law out that night here.

At 4:10 am, Monday morning, they arrived in Port Moresby and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital there. Although she was in a bigger hospital, the care was still inadequate for her needs and she continued to deteriorate. At 9:00 am the medical emergency plane and staff arrived there and took over her care. They intubated and sedated her but had to wait to for an ICU bed to open up in a hospital in Australia. At 3:00 pm they heard from Mater Public Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. They had a bed open for her and a doctor reviewed her case, gave the emergency medical team orders to switch her antibiotic (one that we could not get in PNG, but the emergency medical staff had) and at 4:00 pm they took off for Brisbane. They landed around 7:00 pm and she was admitted to the hospital. John Michael was able to be with her the entire time and on both flights. The staff at the hospital arranged a meal and shower for him and let him stay the night in the ICU waiting room even though it was not usually their procedure to allow family members to stay the night.

At this point we had been up for 36 hours- John Michael with his mom- and me still in PNG with the girls. Even though I had lots of offers of help with the girls that day so I could nap, I couldn't sleep until I knew my husband and mother in law were in Australia where they needed to be.

John Michael's mom being medically evacuated to Australia

After many ups and downs, she began to improve. After a couple of days they transferred her out of the ICU and into a regular ward. A week later, she was released from the hospital and the girls and I joined John Michael in Australia as we waited for his mom to recover and become strong enough to fly home. We realized early on that she would not be able to fly by herself, so after a lot of praying, thinking, and weighing our options we realized that the best option for our family would be to all fly home with her. John Michael and I both had some medicals needs that needed to be treated in America anyway, and after what we just experienced, we just felt like our family needed time to process and breathe.

After two weeks in Australia, John Michael's mom was recovered enough to endure a long haul flight so we boarded a flight to America and arrived in Mississippi at 4 am on August 8th.

We are currently at his parent's house, but are looking for a place to rent for what we estimate to be about 6 months here in the States. We do plan on getting around to speak to our wonderful supporting churches and friends, but right now we are trying to just get some rest, schedule doctor appointments, and give our kids time to process the shock of this transition. (We had months to prepare them for our last furlough- this time they were just kind of thrown into it).

We are praising the Lord for sparing John Michael's mom's life and for so graciously providing for us throughout this whole experience through the Body of Christ. Honestly, in the darkest moments I felt nothing but desperate terror. I felt no faith, no hope, I was crying out to God not knowing if He was listening. But there was always someone there. Holding my hand, praying out loud, reading scripture, providing the hope and the faith that my soul needed to anchor it to Christ. This is why God wants us to live in relationship. We need each other. We need to be part of One Body because there are moments in this life, in this world of sin and suffering that we won't be able to make it on our own. When the eyes don't work blinded by fear and panic, so the voice speaks truth, and the hands stroke peace, and the arms encircle with comfort.

We experienced God's love through the Body of believers in PNG with our friends, and co-workers and even in Brisbane, Australia where we didn't know anyone. God sent strangers- yet brothers and sisters to help us during our time there. They gave us a place to stay, groceries, warm clothes (it is cold in Brisbane in August and we had come from the tropics), and even blessed our family with some fun outings.

The good news now, is that we are in America. Land of the internet, so we can hopefully communicate more frequently with all of you while we are here. Once again, thank you so much for what has to be thousands of hours of prayers you have lifted up on behalf of our family. As you can see (read) they are never ever in vain.

The church in Brisbane blessed our family with tickets to the Steve Irwin Zoo

Kangaroos are not afraid of wheelchairs :)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Marriage Proposal

A little over 12 years ago I was completing my senior year of college, living in a small one-bedroom apartment off campus. It was an older house that had been divided into a duplex with a little screened in porch attached to the back. My boyfriend at the time decided that little porch needed to be cleaned up and painted to give me a nice place to sit and read or study. I already had a nice place to sit and read and study…an apartment…to myself. It was the first and only time I ever lived alone and after three and a half years of living in tiny dorm rooms with a roommate, to this introvert having an entire apartment (small or not) to myself was luxurious. But this cute guy wanted to "fix up" my porch, so I said, "Sure. It will be so nice to have that porch for a quiet place to study," and let him spend an entire Saturday working on it. 

When the project was complete he called me out to see this nice new space he created for me (which I didn't really care about). I put my best, most appreciative looking smile on and went out to see the results of all his hard work. As he opened the door and let me pass in front of him to inspect the area, I saw "WILL YOU MARRY ME" pained in big red letters across the porch wall. When I turned around fully expecting him to be laughing at the big joke he just played on me, there he was on one knee holding a ring. 

The rest of the story gets a little blurry from here because I was in such shock. I'm pretty sure my brain, if not my entire body (he says, no, my body stayed there in front of him in terrifying silence) floated into space for a few minutes. I'm convinced I saw Mars. It's red right?? But after he said, "I need an answer" I returned to this planet and to my new porch and said "Yes." 

It was terribly romantic and a great proposal story that I love telling to this day. 

Last week, we heard another proposal story that was…well…a different kind of romantic. 

One of the young guys that John Michael frequently works with in developing lessons recently returned from another village where he, another young single guy, and another couple were starting an outreach. They completed the literacy program and were about to start teaching the chronological Bible lessons to the Yano people for the very first time when the all the murders happened and that got put on hold. 

Then last week a man from that village came to tell us that there was going to be a court against our young friend for some inappropriate behavior with a young widow from that area. John Michael, Jonathan, and the church leaders met with him to hear his side of the story and this was his response…

"I didn't do what they say I did, but I did do something very wrong. I threw the peel of my betel nut at her and hit her with it. I did this without talking to her parents first, though. It was very wrong and I am very sorry for what I did."

The church leaders immediately responded with reprimands and advice about how he should respond to the accusations while the two missionaries sat looking confused and wondering if they heard his words correctly. After several minutes of conversation to clarify things, the two men discovered that what our young friend did was actually propose marriage to this girl…by throwing the peel of a nut at her and hitting her with it. How romantic. 

Can you imagine ladies? The moment you feel small but sharp ping on your shoulder, you look around with reluctant hope…could it be? Could you possibly be the recipient of this romantic gesture?  And with your heart pounding you see him there and you can't believe that you could ever be so lucky! It's the greatest, most romantic day of your life…. the man of your dreams has just hit you with a piece of garbage!!! 

There you go, Disney, your next fairy tale romance to make millions off of. You're welcome. 

***Also, any future visitors to Hewa. Please be careful as to how and where you dispose of your refuse. You may go home with more than you bargained for. ***

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Five Years

This month marked five years since we first stepped off the plane into the sweltering heat of Papua New Guinea. Ten minutes after descending the stairs of the plane onto the cracked blacktop of the airstrip parking bay, I heard the haunting sound of wails coming from a large group of people waiting just outside the "terminal" ( just a fence that divides the pavement where the plane parks and where you exit the airport). The body of their loved one was being carried off of the plane along with our luggage. Those piercing sounds of sorrow were some of the very first sounds we heard in our new country. Welcome to PNG.

After a few short months we went to live with a group of remote tribal people for the first time as we learned the ins and outs of tribal missions from a veteran missionary couple. Just a few hours after we arrived into that village, the sound of the death wail, and beating of a drum to let all those in the village know that a death occurred, welcomed us to that new place as well. A 12- year old boy died shortly after our arrival, so our first experience in tribal ministry was that of the mourning and burial process. Nothing makes you feel more awkward and out-of-place than being dropped into the middle of a community's sorrow and angst with no idea of what to do or say. You don't even know anyone's name except for the dead boy's being cried out over and over again by his devastated mother. Welcome to the tribe.

Those two gut-wrenching welcomes definitely set the tone for how the rest of our first term would go- marked by so much death and tragedy. But there was also so much life and learning in that first term. Every event, both good and bad, shaped who we are as individual people and as a family. And though this term has been marked by murder and tribal war, we have been spared the tragedy of watching those close to us die. We have been on the edges of these events, these deaths. And surrounding those times of great loss have been times of great joy. Times of accomplishing huge tasks and celebrating significant milestones in our family and community.

God, in His faithfulness, has never left us alone and His presence is what brought us back after our first furlough and what sustains us each day as we continue to live and grow alongside the Hewa people.

I have certainly learned a lot along the way, and if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you have read each of those lessons as I experienced them at the time. And I cannot even express how much it has meant to have you do that. Reading all your comments and hearing your prayers for us has helped us feel less alone, less isolated, and has encouraged us to keep going when we felt like we weren't really doing any good or accomplishing anything at all.

For five years you have hung in there with us. Loving and praying for us, and more significantly for a group of people hidden a remote corner of these mountains that you've never even met. On their behalf and on ours, I want to say a huge THANK YOU and I hope and pray you will hang out here with us for however long the Lord has us here. It would sure get lonely without you.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Old Jessi

I expected to be called fat here. Every white person is called fat here. Even missionary ladies that wear a size zero are called fat here. I get that.

However, I did not expect to be called OLD. The first time it happened, I thought it was a fluke. A little kid called me "Grandma" (the Hewa word for Grandma, ironically, is "Papa").  That particular time the mom corrected the little bugger and told her to call me "Ma" (In Hewa you call all your mother's sisters "Mom" and your Father's brothers "Dad." Most of the ladies here call me "Sister" so it is culturally appropriate for their kids to call me "Mom." So basically, I'm everybody's Mom. That is my job.) 

The next time it happened, one of the younger moms actually TOLD her daughter to call me "Papa" or Grandma. The mom herself is probably only about 10 years younger than me. 

Then I started noticing that all kids and even some teenagers were calling me "Yali Jessi" which literally means "Old Jessi." 

This was kinda funny until my body heard them and decided to just lean into that title. Since coming to Hewa, my hair is significantly more gray and my neck is disturbingly more saggy. And worst of all, my hands have all of a sudden decided to develop the bulging deformities of arthritis. 

There is the slight possibility that this is just genetics since my Dad went gray early, and my mom has arthritis, and I won't name names as to where the saggy neck came from - you're welcome Anonymous Genetic Contributor!  But I would really just like to blame innocent little kids for these attacks on my vanity, because it gives me someone to point my crooked finger at!

I try really hard to hide my cringes when I hear a kid loudly announce that "Old Jessi is here!" when I approach a friend's house, and simply laugh it off because I am supposed to be all things to all men (and little kids) just like Paul said, right?

Even if it means being called the two things that women from my culture hate the most. OLD and FAT. Hate so much in fact, that they spend millions of dollars to make sure they are never called either of those names. Paul just doesn't get it. 

But then again, maybe he did. To the Jews he was a Jew, and to the Gentiles a Gentile. I'm sure his thorough upbringing as a Pharisee caused deep hatred for those Gentiles. The Romans especially, who occupied his people's land and defiled it with their idols and controlled those people with sadistic force. But he did it to make God's name known among those Gentiles so they themselves could be called children of God. 

So, I guess I can deal with being called fat and old…

I guess.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mutually Encouraged

After what seems like a million years of training, preparation, and learning, . My husband did his job this week. He taught the Hewa Bible teachers chapters one and two of the book of Titus and then he helped them teach it in church on Saturday and Sunday morning. (Yes, I did write Saturday and Sunday morning. I feel like I need to draw attention to the fact that I teach homeschool every weekday morning and then have church/language learning on the weekends. I want recognition for this- It's why I am drawing attention to it. It is also the reason why don't feel bad for the extraordinary amount of time I spent watching Netflix while on furlough). 

After teaching the lessons to the teachers, John Michael was talking to one of the guys in the group confessing to him how nervous he was to teach. Our co-workers have been with the Hewa for 16 years now, so even though his language capabilities are phenomenal, it is difficult to feel comfortable teaching when he is not at the same level as the other guy. (Our co-workers were moving in with the Hewa as we were graduating high school if that helps give you some perspective).

After hearing John Michael's fears this guy, Fawa, says, "Don't be afraid. You just taught us that God's Talk says not to be afraid to teach and lead if we are young. It is the same with you. You can't be afraid because you are younger than Jonathan and haven't been here as long. I heard your teaching and I heard it well, so stop this rubbish talk of being afraid". 

Not much to say to that except, "Ok." It is pretty amazing when we are discipled by the Hewa people. 

In November when all the violence broke out and the threats were directed at this village and we had to leave, I kept telling my friends how sad and how scared I was to leave them. I was mostly scared that something would happen that would keep us from coming back. Several ladies told me, "Don't worry. This is God's work. It is His decision if you come or go or live here or not. We can't know his thinking but we know His Spirit will go with you, and if He wants, will bring you back."

As hard as it was to leave, it was incredible to hear those words come from my friends. Living with people, growing with them, being disciplers and disciplees, is one of the greatest rewards of this job. It is not us and them. It is us with them. It is not the highly Biblically educated American saviors coming to help the poor savages. We are the Body of Christ united by the Holy Spirit. 

Paul says in Romans 1 that he longs to see the Roman believers so that they can be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. Paul, highly educated in the law, knowing Scripture inside and out, saying he longed to be encouraged by younger believers with pagan backgrounds? What could they say to him that he didn't already know? I have no idea, but I do know that whatever it was, it was encouraging to him. (Maybe it was "Here, have some bacon now that you can").

I know that it was encouraging to my husband (and to me) to hear the words he JUST finished teaching to this young guy, a relatively new believer with an animistic background taught right back to him. Paul and the Romans. John Michael and Fawa. Mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 

God does such weird wonderful things with such weird wonderful people. 

PS- Did I already write about this? I feel like I have already written about this. And since I can't get on the internet* to check if I did I am asking you. Oh well, if I did, then you know how seriously amazing it is because I am talking about it again. 

*Just a reminder that I do not have internet. I have to send this posts via email, and the email comes through a short wave radio and it only only works about 50% of the time. So, if you have tried to email us and we never wrote you back there is a good chance that we never got your email. There is a SLIGHT chance that we are just jerks and forgot to write you back, but that is only SLIGHT as we are kind of obsessed with email out here since we have no other way to communicate with the outside world.  

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 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 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 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


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.