Sunday, October 10, 2021

(Purity) Culture Wars

 My back was aching after only a few minutes of sitting on a narrow log just a couple of inches off the dirt. It had already been a long day and I was less than enthusiastic about sitting there for hours in the rainy, mosquito filled night. I was still learning language, so my overtired brain was in even more pain than my back as I listened to one of ladies lead a Bible study for the rest of the women (young and old) in our village. 

Just hanging out with ladies after church. Notice everyone in skirts NOT shorts. 

 I perked up, however, when she started discussing the topic of modesty. She was telling the young ladies how inappropriate it was for the men to see their shorts. Hewa ladies all wore skirts and most wore long basketball style shorts underneath those skirts, but every now then a skirt would accidentally snag on something and make a tear, and then someone could see the shorts underneath. This was apparently very VERY inappropriate and needed to be reprimanded strongly. Because modesty (or lack there of) looks so completely different in my culture, my assumption was that this was the purpose of the shorts. You know so if there is a tear in the skirt you don't see skin. And well, you know what they say when you assume... (wink, wink). I listened to this lecture intently trying to take note of new words or phrases that I needed to ask about later, but I kept getting distracted by the idea that showing a sliver of long loose-fitting basketball shorts was inappropriate. It was especially difficult when at least three ladies in the meeting were sitting completely topless. But their shorts weren't showing, so they were good! 

 It made me realize then and there that modest dress was heavily influenced by cultural norms and values. That becomes very tricky when you want to teach the principle Biblicaly, rather than on your personal values or cultural influences. I can't very well tell these ladies that they are being ridiculous and that seeing the gigantic shorts underneath a skirt isn't a sin. And I certainly couldn't tell them that they needed to put shirts on for Heaven's sake! The next step is to turn to the Bible and find out what exactly the scripture says about modesty and apply the principles to the jungle lady's context. 

The problem, however, is that the verses that we often reference in the Bible when teaching on modesty (1 Tim. 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:2) are actually entreating the women of the church not to flaunt their material wealth which is a lesson largely ignored in the Western church, and one I had certainly never heard preached, but was actually perfect for the context I was in at the time. Thankfully many veteran missionaries made sure to let us know that we needed to wear about 3 outfits total around our friends, only get new things when the others were REALLY shabby or at least give away the old to someone in the village if you break out something new. 

 Fast forward to 2020 where I'm spending a lot of time indoors and isolated from real people, but am following a much larger discussion on modesty and purity in the church on social media. I was bombarded by people (mostly women) attacking the "purity culture" of the 1990s and hearing anger in what was taught- especially in regards to modest dress. The biggest issue I saw was that the idea that girls were asked to dress appropriately so as not to make their Christian brothers "stumble" is offensive and sexist and that boys should be taught to take responsibility for their own choices and sin rather than "blaming" girls for what they were wearing. Okay. Sure. If this is EXACTLY what was taught at your church then that's messed up and I am truly sorry. And I know abuse and manipulation happens in many Christian contexts, so I am not discounting that at all. But it seems like this has lead people to believe that women should and can dress anyway they want and how the men respond to that is entirely up to them. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. And I just want to be clear that I'm not here to be the clothes police. As mentioned above, that conversation is definitely going to be subjective to culture. My issue is with the attitude that we are teaching to girls with this huge swing. The "I am not my brother's keeper attitude" is probably NOT the one we should be modeling know...that came from the world's first murderer.

 I also feel like I need to point out that was a youth group kid. I was at church every time the doors were opened and went to every large youth event offered in the Southeast (which was a lot) and this was not the message I heard. Sure, I did hear that my clothing choices could make a brother stumble and I should be mindful of that, but I also heard the boys addressed and taught how to take responsibility for their lust with the "bouncing eyes" techniques, etc. I never once felt like I was the target of oppression or that the responsibility of lusty boys rested solely on my shoulders (covered shoulders, of course). 

 I do believe that girls should be taught first and foremost that their relationship with the Lord is what should influence their clothing choices and they should consider what brings glory to Him in all they do including building their wardrobe. But denying ourselves and considering others are CENTRAL aspects of walking with Jesus and among the chief principles that he taught His followers. And I can tell you right now, that if you disagree with asking a girl to "consider her brothers" then you are disagreeing with the Bible. The RED LETTERS in the Bible, in fact, because with Jesus' own mouth and voice, He told His followers over and over again to PUT OTHERS ABOVE YOURSELF. This has nothing to do with patriarchy or oppression or feminism. It has nothing to do with the fact that a girl has to consider a boy's feelings when she dresses because she is somehow inferior. It has everything to do with siblings, co-heirs of the kingdom who look out for one another, putting the other first, looking out for the interest of the other. 

 In fact, girls, if we want to be the spiritual equal of men then let's look to what Jesus taught the twelve men closest to him: 

  "But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 


  "When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:12-17 

  And I could make this post super long if I wanted to reference all the times Paul brought up this subject of preferring others, but let's focus simply on Romans 14 which is where the idea of the "stumbling block" comes from. Paul is mostly talking about the freedoms we have in Christ and how we should use those freedoms with discretion, always taking into account our fellow believers. He is specifically referencing forbidden foods like foods sacrificed to idols, but the principle is the same. Don't allow your freedoms to bring harm to someone else. That is not what they were intended for. I love how Paul puts the emphasis on the importance of PEOPLE and not actions or things, so it's easy for us to apply this to many different situations today. In verses 15 and 16 he says, 

"If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.  Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

   Sister, do not let how you dress destroy someone for whom Christ died. Do not let your body which is holy, precious, honorable, and built for serice to God and not the pleasure of man be spoken of as evil. The Kingdom of God is not about all these rules, this list of do's and don'ts... it is about loving each other. Dying to ourselves and and living in love for God and for others.

 Let's take the post above for example. Yes, Jesus is telling men to take responsibility for their own lusts. But ladies, let's take into account that in Jesus' day women were wearing long flowing robes and covered heads. They weren't wearing crop tops and booty shorts. Let's think for just a moment though, about this command from Jesus and just imagine that He is being literal for a second. Imagine you are walking down the street with your assets on display and every man you pass starts stabbing himself in the eyeballs. I bet the desire to dress immodestly will be squashed pretty quickly. 

 Jesus is showing us through an extreme visual image (common in Rabbinic style teaching) how serious sin is, specifically the sin of lust. But the call is not just for the men. Ladies these are your brothers, sons, boyfriends, future husbands, current husbands. If what we are doing is causing pain equivalent to gouging out eyeballs and being permanently disabled, then our hearts desire should be to do whatever we can to help them avoid that pain, much less be the cause of it. 

 Our world, our culture, pushes nothing but self. Self-love. Self-care. Selfie. The Gospel pushes another agenda. The agenda of Self-denial. Of DYING to self. Of living for another. Even if that other person isn't "worthy." Remember sisters, we were not and are not worthy of the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. So even if the men are not worthy, even if they are not taking responsibility for themselves, your call is the same. Honor Christ with your body and love your neighbor as yourself. Be the opposite of Cain, the murderer. Be the life-giver. Be your brother's keeper.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The New Normal




I sat in our crudely built Hewa church building one Sunday morning going nuts because I couldn't figure out what was leaking or where it was leaking from. It wasn't currently raining, though it was the RAIN FOREST so it had probably rained at least 5 five minutes ago. It had to be coming from the roof, right? I mean I could see holes from the old tin that had been "repurposed" as the church roof. But I could only see sunlight streaming through those holes, no leaking or dripping.Then...


The drip had now become a splash on my leg. I made the rookie mistake of looking down to see what exactly had splashed on my leg when the next


landed on my face. I wiped my cheek with my hand and turned towards the direction of the splash and quickly discovered the source of the leak. It was definitely a leak. Just not a WATER leak.

You see we sit very close to each other and very close to the dirt floor in Hewa church and my very close neighbor just happened to be a new mother.

A new mother whose baby was asleep.

A new mother whose baby was asleep, but whose body said it was actually time for baby to eat.

A new mother in a remote jungle setting who has never seen or heard of nursing pads.

So the leak that had been dripping and splashing on me for the last 30 minutes was her breast milk dripping through her shirt, making a small puddle on her skirt, then slowly dripping through the skirt onto the ground beneath her and next to me.

"Oh, so that's what that dripping is, " was my response, and having discovered the source of the leak went on listening to the sermon without another thought.

I think I officially became a missionary that day. I didn't get freaked out or grossed out. I didn't go home and wash my face or leg. It wasn't a big deal to me. I was used to all manner of bodily fluids ending up on me at church, and of all the bodily fluid possibilities in that small building, breast milk was definitely one of the better options.

This was my new normal.

It just sort of happened. Gradually. Each day the strange became a little more familiar, the new became a little more customary, and the gross became a little less...well...gross.

Sure there are some things that you absolutely have to work at to fit in to a totally new culture and people group, but some things just come by living day by day alongside people as their normal practices and activities just rub off on you or splash off onto you as in this case.

But if you'd have asked me before we moved to Papua New Guinea, if I would have just been cool with some lady's breast milk splattering on my leg and face then I'm sure I would have told you, "No! Ew! Gross!" I never would have imagined that this would become part of the my new normal in tribal life, yet there I was Christened into a new life of community and  extreme poverty and bodily fluids.

None of these pictures are of the day or mother in the story. They are just here to show you how close we sit and to help you picture how this incident may have occurred.

I am yet again stepping into a new and strange phase of life. A phase that if you'd have asked me 15 years ago if I'd ever be entering I would have told you, "No! Ew! Gross!"I never would have imagined my life NOT on the mission field or at least not serving in some way Stateside. It was never part of the plan. I was this one person who would only, could only do this one thing.

The end of this month will be the end of our time with Ethnos360 (New Tribes Mission). And I feel like I'm hanging on the edge of cliff holding onto a rope where all but one strand has frayed and broken. I know I need to let go. I know that "cliff" is really just a short hop down, but it doesn't FEEL that way.

It feels strange and wrong. It feels like grief.

I feel guilty even calling it "grief" when I have watched friends and loved ones go through horrific tragedies and true GRIEF, but I just don't know what else to call it.

It's still a loss. Loss of a life style and dream and all the time, effort, energy, and money that we (and most of you) have poured into for the last 15 years.

It's still starting over...

At almost 40  

And it is way scarier than going ever was.

It's still me crying almost everyday even when I really don't know what I'm crying about. It's like my body allocated a certain amount of tears for PNG and it WILL spend them no matter what. No matter how inappropriate the time and place. (Sorry to the Barista in the Starbucks drive-thru. The line was long and when I ordered my coffee I was fine, but by the time I pulled up, the tears were flowing and there was nothing I could do to stop them). Apparently this not feeling normal when repatriating IS actually normal. So normal that they even have a phrase for it- Reverse Culture Shock. Only this is harder because people don't expect you to have culture shock. YOU GREW UP IN THIS CULTURE FOR GOODNESS SAKE! But there are a lot things that I still don't know how to do as an American. I've never been a mom to teenagers in America. I've only had very little practice with my kids in school in America and it was very weird and intimidating and we just sort of got through it rather than really engaged in school culture and community.

It also doesn't help that the whole world is upside down right now, and everyone is searching for their new normal.

I will say, though, that the scripture, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted" (Psalm 34:18) has been so true during this phase. Yes, I am brokenhearted, and while he is not taking the hurt away, He has been so faithful to stay close, to allow me to feel His presence, and to bless me with special things that I certainly don't deserve (like this dog pictured below that I swear the Lord designed and created exactly for me).  He has given me a loving and understanding husband and He is loving my kids and helping them with their losses as well.

Please resist trying to count my chins in this picture

When I began to realize that this was happening I started reading all kinds of books about suffering, the loss of dreams, and life not turning out the way we hoped or planned. They were all very helpful. The most helpful was Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb if you're looking for something in the sad, lonely, depressed genre. (But seriously very good book with sound Godly advice).

Anyway even with all that I know the Lord just kept reminding me of what Elisabeth Elliot wrote after she lost her husband on the mission field. "Just do the next thing." The Lord keeps putting those "next things" in my path and I just have to do them. He put a small Christian school where I could teach and the girls could attend in our my path, so I submitted my resume. I got a job and the girls are excited to not have to home school (I'm not taking it personally or anything) and we feel like it is a great Christian environment that will help us all transition a little easier.

The Lord also put a house in our path that belonged to John Michael's grandparents. His family very generously made it affordable to us, so we now have a roof over our heads. It is an older house that needs some updating, but maybe the fact that it doesn't have central air and heat or a dishwasher is the Lord's way of keeping me from going soft in America. *chuckle chuckle*

Our house

John Michael is still looking for a permanent job, but right now he is working for a friend in construction and is enjoying working with his hands. We are praying that he will find something soon that will provide our family with insurance, since you know the main reason we are home is to try to get my health under control, and it is kinda hard to see doctors without insurance. *nervous chuckle*

So as I take the next steps on this path that the Lord lays out, hopefully things will start to feel more normal and maybe even in a year or two I'll be in a restaurant or public place and some stranger's breast milk will splash on me and maybe I will be so comfortable in my new American life that I will freak out, gag, immediately rush home to shower, and burn all the clothes I was wearing.

One can only hope.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Update Letter

**I realize I haven't posted in a really long time and there is a lot to catch up on. To be fair I did warn you that once I started teaching I would probably never blog again. I'm still not really "blogging" because I am just going to post our most recent update letter here. I'm not in a place to emotionally or mentally where I can write out all my uncensored thoughts and feelings about all that is happening like I normally do here, because honestly those thoughts and feelings seems to change by the hour. So anyway, I'll just put this here for informational purposes only..

Many of you have followed the intense journey we have been on over the last month through email and Facebook, so you know that the last 30 plus days have been a whirlwind of events and emotions that in some ways seem indescribable. Somehow, I am going to try to describe them here, and share some news about some big changes happening for our family and the Hewa ministry.

As most of you know, I (Jessi) have been dealing with some significant health issues over the last few years that have had us traveling back and forth from PNG, Australia, to the U.S. to try to find answers and relief. We spent a year in the U.S. in 2018 to try to find solutions to the various things going on with my health. It was a difficult year for us as most of those “solutions” could not happen as long as we lived overseas. We had a difficult decision to make then: do we stay and treat my conditions or do we go back to PNG until I can no longer function?

After a lot of seeking the Lord’s direction in prayer and weighing all of our options, we felt like we needed to go back to PNG to try to finish the task we started with the Hewa ministry. We wanted to see a mature church planted among the Hewa people, and we were very close to that conclusion as elders and deacons had just been appointed in the church. We knew, however, that those elders and deacons needed more teaching, guidance, and discipleship before they were left on their own. We also knew that nothing I had was life threatening, and could wait another year or two for treatment.

We spent the year on our mission’s largest center so we could be close the medical clinic and doctors for when I had flare-ups. John Michael continued lesson writing and discipleship with the people, and I was able to teach fourth and fifth grade at the mission school. We spent the entire year in prayer about our future in PNG, weighing what was going on with my health with where the Hewa church had needs. We came to the conclusion in March that our time in PNG would end in June at the close of the school year, and when John Michael finished writing lessons for the Hewa church on the book of James. The elders were doing a great job, and our co-workers also decided to move out of the tribe permanently to let the church stand on its own two feet. This is the natural progression of a tribal church plant, to work ourselves out a job, and we knew that we had come to this point in the ministry.  We spent early March discussing our plans and decisions with our leadership teams in PNG and the U.S. and planned on sending an email to all of our supporters and churches in April to let you know that we would moving back to the U.S. in June.

However, just like most of you, our lives were turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. All missionaries on the field with underlying health issues were asked to leave the field by our leadership team and doctors because borders were closing, and treating us would become more difficult and dangerous. Although, we were devastated to have to leave our home and country of service for the last nine years so soon and so quickly, we agreed with and respected their decision. We packed up and sold everything as quickly as possible, said the goodbyes that we could and desperately scrambled to get back to the U.S. before all the surrounding countries that we would have to pass through closed their borders. We purchased and then had to cancel a total of 4 different sets of tickets because borders and countries were closing very rapidly without notice. It was devastating to us that we would not be able to go back into the tribe to say goodbye to our Hewa brothers and sisters, but we are praying that the Lord will allow us to go back one day to see them and properly say goodbye. Our trip home was full of unknowns and rapid changes, and we even had a very close call in the country of Singapore where we were told that we would be turned over to immigration if we didn’t get on a flight before the country closed its borders in the next few hours. We were so thankful to the Lord for sending an airport employee who worked incredibly hard to make sure we got on a flight to the U.S. just minutes before the deadline to be out of the country.

We arrived home exhausted but thankful to be back in America even though our luggage was still in Singapore with no way of knowing when they would get it to us with all the cancelled flights and border closings.

However, after only two days of arrival, John Michael began showing symptoms of COVID-19 shortly followed by myself, his dad, and finally his mom. Through all the chaos of trying to get home, we had no time to find another place to quarantine, so we came to John Michael’s parents home where we got sick, and then infected them as well. Most of us had what are considered “mild” cases of the virus, but we still felt pretty bad for two weeks. His dad, however, did have to be hospitalized with pneumonia. Thankfully, he never had to be put on a ventilator, but stayed in a regular room on oxygen while he received treatment for a week.

Currently we have recovered from the virus and are continuing to shelter in place as much as we can just like the rest of the country and most of the world.

Right now, our plan is to continue to stay on with Ethnos360 (NTM) until the month of July, so that John Michael can finish the James lessons and email them to our area leadership who can put them into the hands of the Hewa church elders. We ask and pray that you would continue to support us as we make this transition so that these lessons can be finished for the Hewa church. Our family will still depend on your support to get this done. Please know that we are still passionate about missions, particularly reaching unreached people groups and Bible translation for those without God’s Word in their language. We are leaving with heavy hearts, but good standing with the mission and feel like the Lord will always have us involved in His work even if it is voluntary. Ethnos360 even offered us options to serve in ministries here in the U.S. but for now feel like Mississippi is where the Lord wants us. We have loved our time with Ethnos360 will continue to promote and encourage their ministries around the world.

While we are continually looking back at all the Lord has brought us through, and thanking Him for his protection and provision, I have to admit that we are questioning and wondering why He would bring us to this place of huge transition out of the life and ministry that we have be involved in for over a decade at what seems like the worst possible time. To have us completely start over, career-wise, while the world is shut down and most people are not hiring is frightening at times. I have frequently asked the Lord, “WHY?” over and over. But we have seen Him do incredible things in our lives in what the world would consider impossible situations, so we are clinging to the truth of His word and His track record of 100% faithfulness.

I apologize for the length of this update, but we wanted you all to have as much information as possible going forward with us. Again, we ask and pray that you would continue to support us through Ethnos360 through the month of July, so that John Michael can finish his work of Bible lesson writing for the Hewa church. After that time we will seek employment elsewhere, although right now we have no idea where that will be or what we will do. We desperately need your prayers for God to provide jobs for us in Mississippi where we plan to live for the foreseeable future.

There are no words to express how thankful we are as a family to all of you who have prayed and given financially to us so faithfully over the last nine years (13 for those of you who have been with us since our time in East Asia). We most certainly would not have been able to do any of this without your love, prayer, and support. We are praying for you all constantly during these turbulent times, trusting that our Creator who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) will be faithful to us all through this current crisis.

With all our love,

The George Family
JM, Jessi, Lucy, Mattie, and Mia

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Door Knobs, Dirt Floors, and (Not) Dying in America

Our family went into the tribe in early July. I told myself to post right away so I wouldn't forget anything.  It's now early August and I have forgotten a lot of things, but I think it's better this way so you don't have to read a bunch of rambling nonsense and I can just talk about what stood out the most or what was most important about our trip (<------ ----="" i="">these are things procrastinators say to make themselves feel better.)

Also school starts in two days and I feel like as soon as I dive into the depths of elementary school teaching, I will forget I was ever a tribal missionary and that I ever had a blog to begin with, so I figured if I didn't write this now it would never happen.

Anyway, we went into the tribe and it was cool.

The end.

Just kidding.

As we flew into the Central Mountain range and saw the first glimpse of our village and airstrip, it took me back to the day we flew out as family in October of 2017. I was in a lot of pain. My pancreas was killing me, but I think my heart hurt even worse. I remember wondering if I would ever see these mountains again. I wondered if it was my last flight into this remote jungle. And although a small part of me rejoiced at that (the part that desperately hates flying) most of me was pretty sad and scared. I remember praying that we would get to come back, "even if it's just one more time Lord- just don't let this be the last time." He answered "Yes" on July 2nd and there was much rejoicing. For the girls and I, it was our first time back in a year and a half and we were all so excited to be "home."

First glimpse of our strip from the air.

I know that we don't technically live there anymore and that we will never live there full time again, but that house is ours and after all this time living in other people's houses it will always feel like our home even if we don't get to live in it.

Outside our house

We spent the next nine days cleaning (me), teaching (my husband), and having a lot of jungle fun (all of us). It was incredible to see all our friends again and even kind of nice to see the people that annoy* us. Nostalgia is funny that way.

While cleaning, I found that ants had built nests in the walls. I had to unscrew our plywood walls and baseboard to spray and vacuum out ants and their disgusting baby larvae. Not all babies are cute. Some are horrifying. 

Not living there full time actually had some perks and I had a great time discovering them rather than being depressed about having to live in town. The first and greatest was that for the first time ever. I. WAS. NOT. HOMESCHOOLING.

We have always done school in the tribe no matter the time of the year it was because breaks were reserved for when we had to fly out and didn't want to pay money to fly out all the homeschool books. We were always either trying to get ahead or trying to catch up. There were never any homeschool breaks in the tribe. We didn't do school on Christmas Day. That was our only break.

So for the first time ever both the girls and I had our days free in the tribe. It was incredible. We hiked around and played in the river and visited with friends. I even got to attend all the Bible teaching sessions which has never happened before. E V E R. I felt like a real missionary.

Playing in the river

Visiting friends

And holding babies. All things made possible by not home schooling. Please notice my husband's shadow photobombing as he takes this pic.

One of the other good things about not living there is that most of our crap no longer lives there as well. Which means our house has a lot less stuff in it. Which means that it is not so embarrassing to let our Hewa friends come into our house. Which means we let our Hewa friends come into our house more. (I could spend a long time here explaining to you why we didn't have a lot of people in our house before, but that is a topic for a post in and of itself, so I will just leave you with the imagery of eating a five course steak dinner at the the same table as a person who is and has been starving for years with nothing in front of them).

So we had more people in our house. Doing so led to lots of discoveries like how tricky door knobs can be. One friend of mine had lots of trouble with the doorknob the first time she was in the house. I opened the door for her and told her how it worked and hopefully she realized that it wasn't a trap that the white lady set to cook her in my oven that she could definitely fit into** and eat her. (The story of Hansel and Gretel would make perfect sense to the Hewa people, by the way)  The second time she came in, I assumed that my Doorknobs 101 lesson was enough and that she could successfully exit on her own. This was not the case. She begged me to come work the ridiculous contraption that left her trapped again. John Michael told me to stop and made her do it herself. She was successful. Open a door for a woman and she can leave once. Teach a woman to open a door and she can leave anytime she wants.

A friend in the house. Not the one who can't use a door knob. This one is a trained midwife. She can deliver babies and open doors.

Like I said earlier, I got to attend all the Bible teaching sessions for the first time ever. That was pretty amazing, even though sitting on a rough hewn log for two hours twice a day made my butt numb (I still can't feel part of my right cheek). I loved being a part of the teaching and actually seeing and hearing firsthand how the people responded. It was pretty great. But before I talk about the response, I want to talk about the tribal church building. A new building went up while we were in America. Made from the disassembled parts of our former co-worker's house. It looks nice and sturdy and will hopefully last them a lot longer than one made out of bush materials. It does still have a dirt floor, however, and that is totally appropriate. Everyday the church filled with animals of all kinds and with them came their various forms of waste. Babies also filled the church and in a place where diapers are non-existent the easiest and best thing for the mothers of those babies is that dirt floor. When baby has an accident in church, mom can just pick it up with some scraps of fabric from her bag, brush some dust over it and no one even blinks. As I watched this take place numerous times, I became very thankful for that dirt floor.

Mom cleaning up after baby. Notice how no one notices.

The purpose of our trip was so my husband could teach 2 Timothy to the Hewa elders and the church. He spent the months while we were in town writing and editing those lessons and then we flew in to teach. This is a new book for the church as it was recently translated and checked by our co-worker and translation consultants. Many of the people don't even have the newest edition of the Hewa Bible that contains this book. Even after almost eight years in this ministry it still boggles my mind that the scripture we often take for granted is new and exciting for these most remote believers. They are the ends of the earth.

Anyway, the teaching went really well, and everyone was very thankful for the work John Michael put in to teach them. One of our elders even came up afterwards and told him, "I'm so glad Jessi didn't die in America, so that you could come teach us this book. We needed to hear it because these are things we still struggle with. I heard this teaching well. Thank you for coming back to teach us."

This made me first laugh, then tear up a little. To Hewans, being really sick equals dying. They saw me really sick. For a long time. They would frequently come to the door early in the mornings during the weeks before we left and say, "I was just coming to check on Jessi to see if she died in the night or if she got better." They have very little context of long term illness. The statement was funny to me because I have never been anywhere close to dying. But according to their experiences, I already had one foot in the grave. This is the sad state of their lives, but it isn't what made me tear up.

My eyes got a blurry for a second because even though I wasn't close to death, I was close to not coming back. With plenty of pain and few answers, our time in America came close to being our permanent lives in America, and we frequently questioned the wisdom of coming back. We also frequently questioned if there was even any reason to come back... if what we were doing was really going to matter to anyone. So that funny little statement did wonders for our hearts. It encouraged us to keep going as long as we can. The Lord knew what we needed to hear just as He knew what the Hewa church needed to hear. This is the beauty and glory of the Body of Christ. The Bride. The Church. No matter the language, or race, or culture, or nationality, we are connected through the Blood and with the Spirit. We are for each other and for His Glory- just as He intended.

He (Jesus) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16

*I felt the need to put this here because I noticed that too many people have the image in their heads that these "people groups" missionaries are reaching are not actual People. They are all "beautiful" "friends." To be honest, I find this a little patronizing. They are a regular group of people. In a regular group of people you will find some who are smart, some who are dumb, some who are attractive, some who are ugly, nice, funny, weird, annoying, quirky, mean etc. To pretend they are all perfect and that we love them perfectly is a lie. 

** I realize that knowing a person could easily fit into my oven is creepy. I only know that she could easily fit into my oven because it is a big American sized oven and she is a petite woman. It is pretty obvious. I was not actively trying to determine this information for nefarious purposes. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The -error- Wife

Picture of our former neighbor on JMG's visit back into the tribe

We've been back in Papua New Guinea for three months now.

We have been living on our main mission center so I can be close to our medical clinic where I have to have blood work once a month, and so I can be close to the doctors if my pancreas decides to explode.

So far so good on that last one.

Overall, my health has been stable and that has been really encouraging. I've figured out how to manage the pancreatitis with my diet which is pretty nice, although not very fun.

I am on some pretty rough medicine for my autoimmune disease, and that is also not very fun. It is working really well, it just has some annoying side effects that knock me on my hind-end for a couple of days each week. I take the medicine on Friday nights so that I can still home school my kids (no we are not out for summer yet), and take care of my family during the week. But it does make me one of the few people in the world who dreads the coming of the weekend.

There are lots of new and different medicines that I could try if we were in America, surely there is one out there that will work for me without any crazy side effects, but while we are in PNG I only have this one option that I just have to tough out.

But like I said, it's only really bad a couple days a week and the rest of the time I get to enjoy pain-free joints, so it's worth it (I guess. Maybe. I don't know. It's Sunday and it doesn't feel very worth it today. I should have written this post on a Wednesday.)

Anyway, to be completely honest, we've gone through an adjustment period being back in PNG, but NOT back in our home in the tribe. I've felt so weird living on the mission center, and asked myself (and Jesus) "What are we even doing here?" about one million times.

John Michael has had to adjust to writing lessons without much help or feedback from Hewa friends which is so critical to the lesson writing process. He's done a lot of comprehension checking over the phone with one of his helpers who is living in another village so he can attend school. We are so thankful that this village has cell service, so he can do this work with at least some feedback.

JMG comprehension checking lessons in 2 Timothy over the phone at dinner time.
Anyway, it's been an adjustment. I mean I am no longer a "tribal wife" It felt weird to post here because of it. I've gone through all sorts of ideas as to what I should do with this blog as I have processed this big shift in our lives. Should I even write here anymore? Should I change the name? Should I just leave it up as a journal of our first eight years in PNG? Should I delete it? Am I just being dramatic?

I've pretty much landed on the last one. It just took me a while to get here. But here I am. Posting away and ignoring the title because
A. Who cares?
B. I've been told that no one reads blogs anymore anyway.

So if no one reads blogs anymore then surely no one will notice that this blog called "The Tribal Wife" is written by a lady who doesn't technically live in a tribe anymore. (Although mission base living shares some shocking similarities to tribal living, but I won't list them here because unlike my tribal neighbors, my missionary neighbors have the internet and can read what I write on this blog. JUST KIDDING *sort of* Lapilo friends and neighbors!!)

JMG did get to take a trip into Hewa by himself in April just to check on things and reconnect with the church there. It was a really good time for him, and we all plan to go in as a family in July. He will teach the lessons he's been writing to the church leaders there so that they can then teach the whole body of believers. Now that we have elders and deacons our goal is to put more and more of the responsibilities of the church into their hands. It is a pretty exciting time for the Hewa church as they become more mature and independent even if it means we don't get to spend as much time with them as we'd like.

Sigh. One of the problems of trying to plant a "thriving church" is that if you succeed in your goal then they won't actually need you anymore. It's a bittersweet thing to be successful in missions.

My house in the tribe is still standing. Doesn't it look like it misses me?

Just hanging out with some kids.

However, there are plenty of other things that need to be done on the mission field. Which brings me to my next bit of news.  One of my biggest concerns in coming back here was what I was actually going to do with myself while my husband worked on lessons and my kids went to school. I felt like I might go a little stir crazy without a job on the center, but was concerned that I wasn't actually qualified to DO anything. My jobs before "missionary" were high school Spanish teacher and before that part-time youth minister. That's it. And believe it or not, they already have a high school Spanish teacher at the mission school here. So, yeah, my options looked pretty limited. But the principal of the school seemed to think that my high school teaching experience would transfer to elementary school where they were in desperate (obviously) need of teachers. That and the fact that I have been teaching my own kids for most of their elementary careers. So all that to say, next year I will be teaching several different subjects in 4th and 5th grades. I'm both nervous and excited about it. Thankfully there are lots of teachers here to help me with the 14,000 questions I am sure to have. I almost called the principal last week to tell her I changed my mind after going on Pinterest to just "look up some fun ideas real quick." N E V E R A G A I N. I forgot that Pinterest is where you go when you really want to feel inferior and increase your self loathing by 1,000 percent. It is NOT where you go when you are starting something new and already feel a little intimidated. I remembered that I have lots of real life help from really nice teachers all around me, and there is no need to let the internet's "help" turn me into a human turtle hiding in my shell made of blankets and eating my own hair.

So there it is. No longer a tribal wife. A teacher again. But "Teacher Wife" sounds weird, so I think I'm just going to leave the title alone if that's ok?