Friday, December 15, 2017

Don’t kick the puppy

Coming in at nearly 3 and nearly 1.5 years, my children do most of their learning by observation. They see actions that are permitted. They see actions that are met with swift discipline. They see good habits and bad habits.
But at this tender young age, they don’t see subtleties.
Once, I tried to pretend to sit on Marissa to make her laugh. She was NOT in the mood. James walked up to me, grabbed my wrist, gave it a pop, and said, "No sit baby!"
Yes, that is how we discipline. The toddler's observational skills clued him into mastering that skill, but he was unaware of the subtle restriction on who can discipline whom.
An even more subtle subtlety is the differences in the acceptability of actions here in the village vs in that culture he'll call his home culture, that culture that he walked out of at 8 months old and has spent more time away from than immersed in.
How can he possibly compare? How can a 2.5 year old be reasoned with?
The social norms and values, that moms in the States can trust will be held up by those within their community, falls solidly on the shoulders of my husband and I to ingrain. I have little in the way of reinforcements. The lessons we teach in the home are blatantly defied when we walk out of our front door.
But hear this! It's not because our culture is better, but different. I find myself flitting back and forth between teaching why what happens in the village is not acceptable behavior for my American children and teaching why what we do in the American bubble of our house is not acceptable in the village. 

See, here, dogs are not pets. Food is not plentiful enough to be handing out to those who don't earn their keep. Dogs are for hunting. Here, houses are pretty exclusively for sleeping. People LIVE outside. They bathe outside and use the facilities outside. They wash dishes and clothes outside. And they cook outside. Meaning food meant for families is  very accessible to dogs. They have learned over the years that being nice to dogs welcomes them to stealing food. And food is not plentiful enough to have good pieces in the jaws of dogs. So to protect from hunger, to protect their children from starvation, they treat dogs in such a way that they steer very clear of the cooking fire. Consistently, they make a sound, a mix between a hiss and crying out, whenever they are not nice to the dogs, and eventually and often the sound alone can run off a dog. But if he's feeling particularly belligerent, the dog will be swiftly reminded of why he ought to be turning tail.
A cry will rise up from a mama to instigate action and everyone from the youngest child up will jump on board to defend the food. Those closest will smack the rump or kick the dog. If a stick is handy, it'll be used to give a whip. Dirt clods or bits of rock will be hurled from the far side of the fire, until the dog remembers his place and leaves.

In America, we have the privilege of an indoor kitchen with counters and tabletops that exceed the reach of a hungry dog. Our houses don't have exposed beams and supporting logs that make it easy for small nimble dogs to find themselves within access of dinner. We have the privilege of dog food that is accessible and affordable so that our dogs don't end up so hungry that they're constantly scavenging for a meal. With affordable fresh meat available at the local grocery store, a hunting dog isn't a necessary inconvenience but dogs find homes with those who want a dog for merely the joy of having a dog. For all these reasons and more, we have the privilege of pets and, as a result, there's cultural value of treating dogs well.
Here in the village, like in America, there's a cultural value of feeding one's family. But while America is privileged enough to be able to support both cultural values without compromise, that isn't feasible here.

So daily, whether it's a dog or a pig or a cat or whatever animal is causing a problem in the moment, my children watch animals treated poorly as a socially acceptable act. Led by example, my children flip between trying to mimic the local children and trying to treat the village dogs like they do our own. Both are unacceptable.

I cannot permit my children to kick dogs or beat pigs. And yet animals subjugated to this treatment are not known to be as kind to petting and loving as our dog who is unfamiliar with a cruel hand, so trying to love a village dog will only result in a chunk taken out of my kid.

I always find it amazing how God uses the family unit to reveal Himself more. But here my husband and I stand, trying to imitate the perfect Love of our Father for our children. And just as God is the source of morality, what He declares good is good and what He declares bad is bad because He alone is perfect and there is no one greater than Him to speak otherwise, we stand as those who declare what is right and wrong for our children, even when the world we're living in defies our teaching. 
I expect, I demand that my children act counter-culturally in many respects in the same way that God expects and demands that we live counter-culturally to the fallen world that we find ourselves in.

It's a hard lesson for the students

Thursday, December 14, 2017

So what is it you actually do?

Translation Specialist (2015-present)
Planning and organizing work sessions, coordinating and facilitating meetings, planning and catering meals, inventory, ordering and shipping of equipment, materials, and supplies. Planning, preparing, storing, and shipping personal meals. Reviewing translated text for accuracy and clarity.  


I have a list.
I mean, of course I have a list.
If you know me at all, you are not in the least bit surprised that there's a list.
This list is cyclical. There's no beginning and no end. I don't know where it started.
While I'm in the village, I make a list of things I'll want next time. It's a basic shopping list except I only get to go to the store once every couple of months. Coke, dog food, salt, caulk, that kind of thing.
While I'm in the village, I also make a meal plan for when I'm in town.

When I get to town, I do massive grocery shopping. I buy everything non-perishable for the meal plan and perishable items for a week of said plan. Then I turn to the shopping list for the village and the village meal plan. If anything needs to be dehydrated, I haul the dehydrator out of storage, go to the market, prep all the food, start dehydrating, start prepping the next batch to go in in 8-12 hours. Then I go pantry shopping for the village. I'm the chick who's checking out of the grocery store with two carts in a third world country.
All of that gets packed, weighed, and labeled for the bush, in such a way that I can easily cut the low priority groceries in the event that I need to cut my weight. Then I get everything on my shopping list. Unfortunately, there's no Walmart. So I go to about 6-10 different stores, many of them twice, to get everything I need. Pack, weigh, label. Then I look at my total weight and the weight allowance of the helicopter and decide if I need to figure out what else to bring out or what I need to leave behind.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out everything that we're going to be doing the next time we're in the village because it's expected that if we have any work sessions that are all day long events or any building projects, that we'll provide rice and canned tuna for the people who come. So how many sessions are there going to be, how many people are going to show up? 1kg of rice and 1 can of tuna for every four people. (Luckily, I can often get someone to carry in a couple bales of rice for me. When it comes to making sure they get fed, all hands are eager to help.)

AND, I have to get materials ready for all those sessions. Jacob prints workbooks, storybooks, word collection lists. I print copies of Scripture. Go to the store to buy exercise books (like composition notebooks but only booklets), pencils, the translators' red pens. Packed, labeled, weighed.

Then I have to get ready to leave. I pack up our house. Make a list of every personal item that needs to remain until the last minute and where that should end up at the last minute. I make a go bag, what do we need in transit and the moment we arrive, diapers, snacks, the dog's lead.
I had a to-do list with everything from making sure I have a contact person and how often we'll contact (so they don't send for emergency evacuation helicopter) to doing a final meter reading and turning it into finance.

Then we get on a helicopter and the real work can begin!
We get in and I have a list of things that get done first. ALWAYS, filter water and check/prepare the beds. Then sort the cargo and unpack. Then I have my running list of things to do. Build the bathroom counter. Install that new light. Hang up a windchime. The sort of stuff that needs to get done eventually and preferably this trip so I can stop thinking about how I really ought to get that done.

Meanwhile, I start a shopping list and a list for what to bring back into town (laptops, kindles, broken radio, borrowed rivet gun, broken invertor…) And thus my cyclical list cycles again.

Meanwhile! We're doing all the aforementioned work sessions. The translators meet on Wednesdays though they also do a two week straight work session in the middle of our stay. Presently, we're working on Acts. It isn't until after they meet and finish revisions on their draft, that I get to start advisor checking. I check the Greek, I check the rules of Mum (i.e. they don't have "because" only "and so". The reason always has to come before the result.) I check the Key Terms, and parallel passages, and the length of the section headings, and the footnotes, and the spelling for every chapter. After my accumulated questions are answered by the translation team, I go to village checking. I generate a list of rigorous questions and run through them twice, once with a group of women, once with a group of men, just to make sure that everything is clear, nothing is misconstrued, there are no inadvertent assumptions. Then the list of questions/suggestions from that goes through the translators. Finally, the back translation, a nearly word-for-word translation from Mum to the trade language so that those who don't speak Mum can know what it says, is checked against the Mum translation to make sure that it's accurate. Then the chapter is ready for consultant checking!
Not that consultant checking is the end of the road! But it's the end of the road for now. Consultants want to check the whole book, not a chapter at a time. (After the consultant checking, the book will be taken back to the village and read aloud so that anything that sounds funny can be fixed. And then a final check, which is like the advisor check but just to make sure that nothing got messed up as they were trying to fix it.)

Meanwhile, I also function as a wife and mother. So in the mornings, I try to get the kids started on an activity. Something to stimulate their little brains. I spend 11-12 prepping lunch/doing housework and 5-6 prepping dinner/washing dishes. 7 starts our bed-time routine which generally runs half an hour. Nothing productive can possibly happen after that. While occasionally the productivity bug bites me, I just rub some benedryl on it because I know those kids are going to wake up at 6 am. But between the intense UV rays we're getting all day long and the oppressive darkness that whispers lullabies in our ears, seeing 10pm is rare in the village.

And that's what I do.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wait, Why?

They stood staring up at the heavens and suddenly two men in radiant clothing were there with them. "Why are you staring at the sky?"

"Wait, wait! What's that word? Mumɨndɨhi?"
"It means 'why'."
"I thought mumɨrɨm meant 'why'?"
"It does."
"… you have two words for why."
They stopped and considered that and then explained.
"One means because why and one means for why."
"…"
So they explained again. And again.
We were all frustrated with the limits of the trade language for communicating these nuances until…
"Wait! So… A man gets bit by a snake and goes to the hospital. Mumɨndɨhi did you come? A snake bit me. Mumɨrɨm did you come? I need medicine. Is that right?"
It was! We finally pegged the subtleties between a why for cause and a why for purpose!
I was so elated I had to call Jacob in immediately and share this revelation with him. He was pretty excited too. (But a day later, I'm still geeking out!)
Then we had to turn back to the text.

 So what would be the correct answer to the angels question, why are you staring at the sky?
  1. BeCAUSE Jesus just was taken up
  2. FOR THE PURPOSE of seeing him again
Well the angels then said, "He's gone!"
So probably b. they wanted to catch another glimpse and the angels were like, um… hello… don't you have work to be doing?

It’s funny. Jesus just delegated His work of preaching about the Kingdom of God and left and immediately had to send down angels to tell the guys to stop standing around hop to! It's like He sent a message and said, maybe instead of waiting for me to come back, looking like a bunch of loons staring up at an empty sky, you could actually do what I told you. Go to Jerusalem, wait for the gift of the Spirit, go preach the Good News in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the world. Mmk? Cool. Go.
I wonder if we do that. Wait for Jesus to come back and sort this mess instead of doing the work He assigned us to do. I know I get anxious anytime someone says, "Lord Jesus come back." I know it's often just an expression, but I'm not ready and neither are the Mum.
I have work to do. All the Mum have not had the chance to hear about the Good News in their heart language, in the language that speaks to their hearts. We've met Mum speakers who didn't know the trade language so I *know* there are people who have never read the Gospel in any form. I don't want to meet my maker and tell Him that the task He set to me was uncompleted. He sent me to the ends of the earth and I'm not ready for this earth to be destroyed.

What about you? Are you just biding time until the Lord returns? Or have you started the work He's assigned to you?
How do you figure out what that work is?
First, you pray and you let the Spirit guide you. (Hint: if it makes you super uncomfortable, it's probably the Spirit.)

Does your neighbor know about Jesus? Do you know? Do you know your neighbor? Maybe you need to invite them for dinner? You do know your neighbor and they're super obnoxious? You definitely need to invite them over for dinner.

What's your church doing? Can you serve in your church? How's your church serving the community? It's not?! Maybe you need to start something.

What about the next community over? This has been a year for disasters! Donating goods to non-profits is often less than helpful but you could donate goods to a yardsale where all the profits go to a non-profit working in disaster relief. Could you coordinate one with your church or your community? Many non-profits have registries so that people can purchase online physical gifts that there's actually a need for. Maybe some online shopping is how Jesus would like you to serve Samaria. (By the way, the Jews were VERY prejudice against the Samarians, so the more prejudice you feel against a community, the more likely that is the one you should be serving.)

What about the ends of the world? Short term mission trips are great for seeing firsthand what's happening, but these trips often do more good for the trip taker than those visited. If you haven't been on a missions trip, do it! But if you have been on a missions trip, you might think about giving a financial gift instead. I can print 1000 copies of the book of Matthew for the price of one plane ticket to PNG. I can provide enough food for the translators to work two weeks straight for the price of one night's stay in town. What can an organization you choose to give to do with a check?

Let's stop standing around waiting for Jesus to come back and get to work!
We work for the Lord.
Mumɨndɨhi?
Because He redeemed us.
Mumɨrɨm?

So He can redeem others.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Typesetting Matthew

Well, it wasn't really on my radar of possibilities to be printing a book of the Bible during my first term on the field.
Just so you know, this doesn't usually happen...
Really, Matthew has been in the works for 6 years now, and I just so happened to step in at the 11th hour to give it a solid push over the finish line.

But now we're in town and before I've ever done a draft or adviser check or any other checks normal people do first, we're typesetting. 
This has resulted in confusion at times where people think that because I'm typesetting, I should be intimately familiar with every thing translated and every decision that's been made on this project. 
My catch phrase is, "Hi, I'm new here." 

But it's been a fairly smooth ride and a fun process that is ALMOST OVER!

At first it was fairly work intensive as we finished up spell checks and making sure they and key terms were consistent throughout the book. There were final read-thrus of everything we sent to typesetting and then we were just waiting. 

It was actually very convenient and the sort of office days I can get behind! We would set up our head translator on the computer to edit and revise Acts until we had something Matthew related and I would run around collecting cargo and working on dehydrating food and all the other sorts of tasks I have to get ready to go back to the bush for 2 months. 
I just needed my cell phone in hand. When I got an email, everything was dropped so that I could give our typesetter a response as soon as possible. Many I moment, I stood typing on my cell phone in a parking lot with my toddler hanging out of the car as he tried to shimmy himself in the car since Mommy clearly wasn't helping. 
Sometimes, we'd drive across town back to the office to get something printed and run up to the head translator to approve. 



But Friday we signed the paperwork we have affectionately dubbed: no.more.changes. 
Matthew will not be receiving anymore changes. We're not messing with it anymore. Typesetting is free to do the meticulous formatting without us changing a letter and throwing all the work after that into chaos. 

I have been told that this is a very big deal, but as far as I can tell I'm sending more emails back and forth now than before!
In fact, Saturday I was up at 3am (Friday 10am PST) answering emails and going back forth with our typesetter trying to dot all our i's and cross all our t's. 

She's thinking that we might be able to send this off to the printer's on this up coming Friday (PST)!

So we're nearly done with the Matthew text, but there's still a lot to do. The study guides need to be translated. The audio version needs to be finished (not everyone can read! and Jesus didn't just come for the literate!). The audio and text will be synced to "play" together via Scripture App Builder. And the Matthew dedication needs to be planned. 
Our date is marked as July 25th 2018!

Meanwhile, the translators will be getting Acts underway! 
Now that they have an adviser who's only work is this work, they should no longer be taking 6 years to finish a book, but the New Testament should be hustling right along!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What's it like...?

"What’s it like to live in the village?"
It's a multifacted issue and there are many correct answers.
But here's a one of many.

There are many kinds of missionaries and they range the scale of … hardcore.
I, myself, would probably be in the middle range.
There are some missionaries who eat bush food every day and have no problem using an outhouse day in and day out. Missionaries who have come to terms with nature and take all of its forms in stride.
I am not this hardcore.
There are some missionaries who want all the amenities of home in the village. Missionaries who pack shipping containers from America with all the luxuries that will fit. No form of nature is permitted in their house.
I'm not that refined.
I don't use an outhouse, but I don't have a flush toilet. I don't care for bush food but am not stressed by dehydrated food. I don't appreciate bugs and pests and dirt in my house, but I'm not on a crusade, and most only invoke a sigh rather than distress, and geckos are always welcome in my home.

I'm at a nice middle place.
But you can only push someone so far.

I know how to make a roof in such a way that it keeps the rats out. But knowing and being present and equipped to direct others are two separate things. The chicken wire was in short supply and they only just got it spread out beneath the insulation. They didn't have enough to wrap it up to the tin. So all around my house, there's a gap between the insulation and the tin, gaping and inviting to any mouse or rat looking for a warm place to nest up with a kitchen down below.
And so, we have rats. They scurry around in the roof and we hear their scampering against the insulation. Occasionally, a neighbor's cat climbs up there and we hear him cull the residents.
Even this wouldn't be so bad if they didn't figure out how to leave their home and enter mine. But when the lights go out, the rodents come out.
And while this is less than desirable, I took it in stride.
We set out the one trap we have and each night we catch one rat and, at this rate, the ceiling will cave in under the weight of their rapidly reproducing coven. Horde? Murder?

For about two weeks, this was life, until my breaking point.

I woke to a rat scampering down my calf.

Mosquito nets are good for keeping out a lot more than mosquitos, but I found that at the foot of my bed, there was an unfortunate gap, between my mattress and the floor.
Our bedframe hasn't been built yet. Nails are short and the election is causing a lot of delays in getting people to and from town for more. So our mattress is sitting on the floor. This wouldn't be so bad except that I'm a very light sleeper and unfortunately, while mice can be quite quiet, rats can be very very loud.
With my head on the ground, they run back and forth inches from my face. They also like to run between the head of the bed and the wall. All that protects me, all that keeps my body from getting scampered on, is the mosquito net. And today, it failed me.
And now at 11pm, I'm at a breaking point. I can abide by this no longer! They have crossed a line! It will not be tolerated!
And yet…
What options do I have?
We can get more chicken wire to stop them from getting in, but that won't be here any sooner than the nails. And even then, how will we get them all out? I certainly don't want them stuck and dying up there! We can't poison them because we can't risk poisoning our neighbor's cat.
And besides, what can I do now? The rats are just as active in the living room and the couch isn't hung with a mosquito net. My two children won't be keen on me going nocturnal. It's only 11 and the end of this night is a long way off.
I can abide no longer. And yet, I have no alternative. And somehow, I don't spontaneously die.
I wake my husband shamelessly. (He has an unnatural ability to fall asleep in seconds, rats or otherwise.)
I convince him to empty the trap into an empty water bucket, assuring him we can wash it and we filter all our drinking and cooking water anyway, and set it again. We'll get more than one rat tonight.
And that's all I can do.
So I lay my head back down, separated from the raceway of rodents by a gauzy sheet, and pray.
I ask the good Lord to send another rat into the trap.
He answers.
I wake Jacob.
He resets the trap.
And falls back asleep.
I pray for another rat. I remind the Lord that the Lord gives sleep to those He loves (Ps 127:2). I remind Him that He loves me. I make explicit the connection and implication.
And somehow, despite the circumstance, I fall asleep.

And that's what village living is like.

It's living in circumstances that are outside of our home culture's normal until the stress gets to a point where you can't tolerate it any longer. And then, through the infinite power of God to strengthen you, you keep tolerating it. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Faith in the Jungle

"Why do you have to say 'man's grave'? Why not just 'grave'?" I ask.
"There's other kinds of 'graves'," they explain. "Food grave…"
"Food grave? Oh like you put food in the ground so it will grow. Yes, I see. That's different. The food still has life and will grow. The man is dead."
They laugh.
"No, the food is dead, but new life will come up."
The head translator smiled at me with a twinkle in his eye.
"Man, too. We put a body in the ground, but he will come up again with new life."

I've heard it said that things are different here. That even a man who's been a Christian a long time is still what we would consider a baby Christian. That PNG is lacking in mature Christians. I don't know who told me that. But I haven't seen that.
Yes, there's some wacky theology here. I recently heard a sermon that spoke of the assembly Satan attended before God in the book of Job. It said that man wasn't at the assembly because of the sin of Adam so angels had to attend in the place of man. In conclusion, angels are watching everything you do so you better be good or an angel will snitch on you.
Maybe they meant baby Christian as in faith of a child.
My village mama is a woman of prayer and moves and breathes with an expectation that God will hear her.
And He does.
She prays for rains to come because the ground is too firm to plant her garden.
They come.
Then she tells God, thank you but that's enough rain, I need to burn a new garden now.
The rains stop.
She prays for us to come and live in Aringina vs the myriad of other villages we could live in.
And we do.
Though I told her straight up that having her as my village mama is an answer to my prayer, so maybe we shouldn't count that one.
The fruit of the Spirit is evident in every one of her actions.
I don't know if her book smarts leave her thinking that angels are reporting back all of her behavior, but I know she has the sort of faith that can move mountains.

When I think of baby Christians, I think of so many people I know back home. People who the book of James refers to, those who look in the mirror and forget what they see, those who go to church Sunday morning and live the rest of the week adhering to a policy of American morals, as if Jesus called us to being good people instead of picking up our cross. People who just don't get that there's something more.

There is power in our God.
There is power in His followers.
There is power in us.
Jesus promised that we would do greater things that He did.
My mama doesn't forget that. She takes for granted that the Lord hears her prayers.
She doesn't question the command, ask, and you shall receive.
And in all she does, she glorifies God.
And after all is said and done, she'll get her reward.


"Man, too. We put a body in the ground, but he will come up again with new life."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The God of Crazed Chipmunks

Our house exceeded its budget and its timeline. But it also exceeded expectation like whoa! Sitting in our house on our couch, we would look up in the evening and admire this masterfully crafted bush house and be so overwhelmed that we had to verbalize for the umpteenth time how much we loved our new home.

See, the plan was, we would throw some sticks together and build a place to live for a couple of years and during our home assignment, we would raise money for a permanent residence. This residence would be "Americanized", meaning we would purchase and ship in milled timber, masonite (you can't use drywall here because it's too humid), and flooring. When you consider that we get in and out of the village via helicopter that can only carry about 700lbs, and each helicopter is $1600, just the transport of materials amounts to a pretty penny.
But looking at this magnificent bush house… We don't want an Americanized house. And so while this house ran us about $22,000, waaaay more than expected, we've spent waaaaaaaaaay less than we would have.
Now raising money to pay off a debt is a lot less attractive than raising money to build missionaries a home, but we could breathe a little easier knowing that, in the end, we actually saved money.

You may remember than I did not initially respond gracefully to our financial predicament. But I rested easy now. Because if I could trust God to raise A TON of money for an Americanized home, I could certainly trust Him to raise a portion of that for my exquisite bush home!
But my Lord my God is proud as only He has a right to be, and raising less money doesn't display His power and faithfulness in quite the same way.
So He did something that truly displayed His power.

We received this message when we got back from town.
"[We] did some serious praying about giving because we knew God was asking for more than what makes our little human selves comfortable. We think you guys are doing really amazing work and we are so proud to know you! God made it clear to us that we should pay off your house for you so we are. … We really are just being obedient to God (and we were honestly pretty slow to do that). If it was up to me, I would hoard all of our money like a crazed chipmunk. God made it clear that we needed to give and give sacrificially, so we are. All credit goes to the One who makes the plans."
It was accompanied by a gift of $22,000.

How mighty is the God who can lead a crazed chipmunk to give away his treasures?
How mighty is the God who moves to equip one of His children with what another one needs AND! AND! who cultivates an environment, The Church, a body of believers who shuns the norms of this world and does things crazy and countercultural like giving $22,000 away?
How mighty is the God who grows my faith?
How mighty is the God who provides for my needs?
How mighty is the God who grows generosity past the comfort of our little human selves?
How mighty is the God who turns this world on its head?
How mighty is the God who inspires humans to turn on their sinful nature, to spit on egotism and embrace the efforts of the Kingdom even if there's a price to pay, even if that price hurts?
How mighty is the God who came to earth to pay the ultimate price to take His Kingdom back, to take us back?

Praise God. Glorify His name. Let nothing He's done go uncredited to Him.

 "All credit goes to the One who makes the plans."