Monday, March 6, 2017

Life for a life, Ruin for an offense

I remember a comedy sketch where a comedian went on about the phrase "dying suddenly".
"Of course he died suddenly! Is there any other way? You're alive, you're alive, you're alive, bam, you're dead."
"No. no. I mean, he didn’t die of natural causes."
"What? Of course, he did. If you get hit by a bus, NATURALLY you die!"
Oh man, I was in stitches!
But there's a similar distinction in Papua New Guinea about natural deaths vs unnatural ones.

See, in Papua New Guinea, a natural death is one where a person lives to be so old that it's honestly a surprise that they're not dead yet. And then they die. This is good. Long life. Not really contributing to the community anymore. It's a good passing.
Any other death, ANY other death. Is unnatural.
And (in my understanding) unnatural deaths are caused by one of two things. A conflict. That has disrupted the feng shui of the village. Or sorcery. Someone has hired a magical assassin to put a hit on the victim.
(Obviously, these are not their terms. I'm using terms you probably know to help you get an idea.)
In the event of the first cause, you sort out any existing conflicts. If you don't know of any, you give a generic apology to the village and give a platform for anyone who has a problem with you to speak up. Once the problem is solved, you'll be healed. If that doesn't work, it's sorcery.
So you can try to get some sorcery from someone else to counteract the sorcery done on you. (Or you can, you know, pray.)
But if you die, then your family is pretty much obligated to retaliate. So they use sorcery to figure out who used sorcery so they can hire a magical assassin to take that guy out.
Wanna guess what that guys family does next?
And the retaliation cycle continues.

This is horrific to us, isn't it?
Killing someone because they killed someone (plot twist: it isn't always the individual responsible, sometimes it's family, like his son.) And what if there was no sorcery? In their worldview, it's always sorcery. But we know that just sickness happens sometimes. So what if there was no attacker? Then someone gets killed as a scapegoat.

But we do this too, don't we?
We, as a culture, may not condone murder, but we seem to have no qualms ruining someone's life.
Someone says something offensive on the internet. And the response is to do everything possible to make them rue the day they first turned on a device with wi-fi.
After ripping them to shreds on the comments, sending direct messages, and cyber stalking them to find more fodder, screenshots are taken to share on the internet so that others can join in this lynching. Whether or not this person was being malicious or just said something utterly ill-conceived (a mistake we've all made at one point or another) is irrelevant. Sometimes it doesn't go far, and it's just an awful day to week of being mercilessly attacked. Sometimes it goes viral.
I recall one woman who posted a poorly conceived tweet to her small following of 100 people just before boarding an international flight. By the time she landed, she was an internet sensation, she had lost her job, friends, and become a social pariah. Because she is really really bad at satire.
I watched a documentary that followed up on her a bit later. In a world that googles everything, she can't find a job or a date. The internet didn't ruin her life, the people using the internet did. It seemed perfectly reasonable retaliation for posting something that was found to be offensive.

And what was the objective of sharing it in the first place? What was that person hoping to gain?
I'm not against admonishing, educating, and edifying! But sharing on the internet seems to only have the purpose of rallying a mob for lynching.

While it would be splendid if the only things shared on the internet were good, and lovely, and pure, our world isn't so accommodating. And there is GOOD in sharing things that aren't.
IF it is edifying.
If an audience can learn from a post, if an audience can pray, if an audience can be moved to action, then that's edifying.
(given that we're not learning "don't post stupid things on the internet", praying that people use their brains, and moving to destroy this person's life)
Let us evaluate why we share things.
Let us forgive as we are forgiven.
And judge as we want to be judged.
Let us be counter-cultural, living in the world but not of it.
Let us not be so quick to judge another culture just because we do the same thing in a different way.

Our work in Papua New Guinea is to see transformed lives.
And in this case, that means a rejection of their cultural to retaliate and an immersion into Christ's culture to forgive relentlessly.
May we lead our brothers and sisters by example and reject cultural norms in favor of God's love.

Please pray the Nikolas stays strong in the faith, that he stands firm in the face of the temptation to turn to sorcery to heal his pain and that he makes clear his opposition to retaliation and his family stands strong against peer pressure to do otherwise. May God use his servant as an example to the community of His transformative power, that Nikolas' mercy and forgiveness (to his assumed murderer) is seen as a reflection of the Lord's and brings people to Him.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Helicopter Day CANCELED

What a crazy crazy week, you guys!

It was Tuesday.
The day before Helicopter Day.
Tense, you know. A lot of stuff still to get done, but ok.
We start loading up one landcruiser at 8am.
Done. All my cargo sheets are current.
Coke and donut break.
And back to work.
The second landcruiser won't start.
It had been moved 20 minutes earlier with no problem.
"Well, we live in PNG. Did you expect for this to go smoothly?" my buyer shipper person says.
"Well. I prayed that it would. So yes. I did," said Logistics. 
And then it was in the air. Tense. Palatable between us. The implication.
But honestly, I felt that implication long before.
See, when we booked these dates, Logistics told me that if there was bad weather on these days, there wouldn't be a trip until April. The helicopters were grounded for the rest of the month.
And being that when I moved the dates from Feb to March, the director told me that was fine but to not push it again, it seemed like such an easy way for God to manipulate our timetable without having me disobey the director.
So I knew. Somewhere in my heart of hearts. There was a solid chance this trip wasn't going down.

And things were tense before the landcruiser's battery suddenly gave up the ghost.
My village parents were still in town.
The head translator showed up in town the day before!
No one else knew we were coming!
The Director got struck with a stomach bug!

And then after sitting an hour with the jumper cables on (to no avail), my village papa walks up to say that the only translator left in our area is telling us: 1) we can't stay in the house we stayed in before, meaning we have no place to stay TOMORROW NIGHT and 2) we need to postpone the trip.

So after spending a number of hours agonizing over the decision, my toddler decided for us.
He was acting crazy. And we were not responding with gentleness and grace.
We were already at the stress level that concluded our last bush trip!
We could not go out this raw and have any hopes of succeeding at all.

So we called it.

At the beginning of the day, I had a goal of getting everything done in time to take a nap when the kids go down. The hour+ spent coaxing the landcruiser to life crushed that dream. But suddenly, nothing on my to-do list was relevant anymore!
Family naptime.
I was woken mid-nap, by Logistics letting me know the helicopters were canceled.
I felt a need to go to the office. So I left.
Amidst excellent social/de-brief/unwind time, the head translator walked in the office.
He was sorry about the complications but had prayed we would postpone our trip. It wasn't right that he not be there.
My village parents said same.

Our next possible date to go out is: March 24th (but that hasn't been booked yet)
The contractor believes he can finish the house before then. Great progress has already been made since he took over the project a few weeks ago.
So we'll be going out and moving directly into that house (yay) and there will be a celebratory feast which the director will be able to attend (yay).

And we have time to get really really ready (with a much smaller last minute to-do list) and be well rested at the same time.

May God be Glorified through Cancer

My village papa has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. 
Still with the assumption that I would be leaving on March 1st for the bush for 7 weeks, I asked the doctor for enough pain medication for 2 months. The doctor obliged but does not believe that he will need the medication for that long. 

We're now postponing our trip for a month. My village parents are happy about that as they are still not back in the village. 

However, if he passes before we arrive, not only will we not be there to mourn with them, but the building of our house will come to a screeching halt and, with it, progress in our ministry. There's no telling how long the mourning period will extend or it's long term affects. I want to be with my village mama during her loss and there's no telling how much worry our unfinished house will put on her. 
It seems like such a selfish thing to worry about, our house being finished. But it's our house that will enable us to live in the village among these people who God loves. Our ministry model is one of incarnational ministry. We want to laugh with them, we want to cry with them, we want to model Jesus for them. 
While I'm anguished over the impending loss of a translator and a good man, I trust the Lord's timing and I know His goals. They, like Him, have been the same yesterday, today, and forever. It's all about His glory. This is an opportunity to glorify God. 
If the Lord sees that He would be better glorified through a miraculous healing, then we want to let the Mum see God being glorified despite the cultural norm of battling sickness with evil spirits. We pray that my village papa will be strong enough to reject cultural norms, to reject peer pressure, to endure the pain, and to seek only the Great Physician. 
If the Lord sees that He would be better glorified through his passing, then we want to let the Mum see God being glorified despite the cultural norm of retaliation. We pray that my village papa stays strong and praises God until his last breath and that his family stands firm and strong after he's gone. Strong enough to defy those who would want to use his body or other means of sorcery to find someone to blame for his death and retaliate in kind. Strong enough to speak against sorcery and advocate forgiveness (it's a pretty deeply ingrained belief that a sickness is caused by conflict or a magical attack. If we can't convince them otherwise, then we can convince them we should respond with forgiveness and not retaliation.)

Please pray that the Lord would be glorified. 
When we commit our lives to the Lord, we commit our whole lives. 
The Lord has chosen this servant to glorify Him. Whether it's through suffering only to be healed or through suffering until he's by the side of his Savior, we pray for him to have the strength to finish the race. 
And we pray that the Mum will see a counter-cultural response to death and be moved to the embrace of God. 

Please pray with us.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chores in the Bush

A fair number of chores carry over from life in the states to village life. There's still laundry and dishes and cooking and sweeping, but… there are also other chores.

  1. Fill the Water Filter
    It took a while for this to reach the urgency level it now holds. But it only takes one night of forgetting to refill it and giving the last of the water to your son while you and your spouse stare at the slowly dripping water waiting for enough to bring down the thirst from "parched" to to vow to make the water filter top priority! It does a great job! And that takes time. So we refill it
    at least every night and often once or twice more during the day.
  2. Hauling water
    To fill the water filter and wash dishes and babies and whatnot, water needs to be brought up. Luckily the house we're staying in has a water tank so the water is only being hauled from downstairs and not a 10 minute hike downhill!
  3. Solar Panels
    If you want to charge any device or enjoy light after dark, you have to set out the solar panels in the morning, and, in the afternoon, turn them to face the setting sun. You also have to move the battery around periodically to keep it out of the sun and rain!
  4. Mosquito Coils
    In the morning and the evening, mosquito coils are set to burn and keep the mozzies away. We put it on a plate so the ash doesn't get everywhere and empty the ash before holding a lighter under the start
    forever. It takes a minute to catch. But it keeps the malaria away!
  5. Flush
    At least every morning, the toilet gets emptied into the outhouse, which, for the record, is so gross, Jacob just chose to go outside instead. We use the toilet a couple of times at night and we toss in the overnight disposable diapers in too. We also flush whenever … ahem … a movement strikes us. (Under the tin roof… things get warm. And warm things get smelly…)
  6. Set dinner out to hydrate
    While a more familiar chore may be setting dinner out to thaw, here it's not frozen but dried. So we drop our meal in a pot and cover it with water and leave it. The longer the better!
  7. Emptying the gray water
    After doing dishes and washing hands and whatnot, all the water that's collected in the basin gets gross! And heavy! So it has to be brought downstairs and thrown out before it gets too heavy to carry!

So there's life in the bush. The things that you turn a knob or flip a switch for in the States, we have to add to our agenda. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Helicopter Days

"We already had our name on the schedule for Dec 5th. Let's just fly out the hardware then."
She laughs. "I need to know what you're taking."
"64 sheets of roofing iron. Gutters, PVC pipe, lots of nails."
"We'll need to know how much that weighs to know how many shuttles you need."
"I need two shuttles…"
(fade out)
"Do we have a helicopter booked yet?"
"No. You never told me your weights. I need to know your weights before I can talk to the helicopter people."
(fade out)
"Here are all my weights."
"Great. I'll contact them and you need to contact the shuttle point. Here's a phone number."
(fade out)
None of the phone numbers work. We send Jacob down to talk to the Archdiocese to get a number for the property. Neither of those numbers work either.
(fade out)
A meeting about helicopter day:
"None of the cars we have will be able to haul that much cargo to the shuttle point."
"Someone would have to drive it up the day before."
"Where would they spend the night?"
"We'd have to hire a car."
"Might be cheaper to just shuttle from the airport."
"That will never be the "cheaper" option."
"Cost isn't just about money."
(fade out)
"He can't get you in the schedule until after Christmas."
"There's already question about finishing the house by February and I can't even get them nails until after Christmas?!"
"He wants to know how desperate you are."
(fade out)
"He fit you in. December 9th."
(fade out)
"Elizabeth is point person. You have a question, you ask her. She's the point person. There can't be any confusion about that."
(fade out)
"I hope I wasn't too stern about you being the point person."
"It's just that… I don't know anything."
"You will. You'll learn. And then you'll know."
(fade out)
Dec 8, we load up the roofing iron and leave it at the hangar overnight.
(fade out)
"Hey, it's the pilot. Your helicopter time moved from 10:45 to 8:30."
"Ok, I'll get it sorted."
"Whoops. Did the math again. 7:30am."
(fade out)
"The land cruiser won't be back by then."
"We'll have to take the hilux."
"Will everything fit?"
"Too easy to steal out of overnight."
"We'll have to pack it in the morning."
"6:30 am."
"6:30 am."
(fade out)
We woke at 5:30am that morning and got home at 10:30am.
Everything went as smoothly as it could have.
And then I crashed. And took a very long nap.

My village papa called to say everything arrived well.
Another translator called to say everything arrived well and cell signal was back in the area.
The posts have been cut for our house, they just need to be brought in from the jungle.
Work will start full force on Monday, Dec 12.

And then I took another long nap.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Needs vs Wants

Well, we're hoping to officially move out to the Mum area in February, but with us is coming out the director to officially and declaratively state that we're there as a part of PBT.
But the dear Director, as most humans, has weight. And considering how tight we were last time, there's no way we can live off of just one helicopter, so we'll have to bring more. But how many more?
And that's where needs and wants gets a little funny….

We need to bring the dog and her food, 20kg, and something to put it in so rats won’t get in it. Ok sure, that's a pretty clear need.

We need something to cook over… But we don't really need a stove, right? Because we have a fire! But honestly, it's not sustainable for us to make a fire every time we need/want something hot. So if we want to stay out in the village for any length of time, we'd need a stove. Ok, ok, but do we take our propane camper stove, featuring two burners and an oven six inches deep that sat two feet, on top of a counter (making pots on the stove very hard to peer into)? Or do we get a petite stove/oven set, big enough to stand on its own? Do we need it? Or do we want it?
So what we're talking about is bumping up little luxuries to the level of need on the premise that if my comfort level is such that I don't need to retreat to town as often, I save money and increase ministry.
Ooo, what a dangerous slope!

What about a couch? We're planning on bringing some basic camping chairs on highest priority, and reclining camping chairs on lower priority, and camping chairs for the kids on lowest priority (because let's be honest, they'd be delighted but they wouldn't feel any stress by the lack of adequate seating in their life.) But what about cuddling up? Before James could get on the couch himself, in town, I bought a couple crib mattresses to make a "floor couch" in his room, because him being able to climb up and cuddle with Mama, without Mama sustaining any bruising during his ascent, was that important. What about now? Is actual seating a need or a want?

Ok ok, what about high chairs? After last time where the kids would just eat on the perpetually filthy floor and any bite of banana warranted a bath to get off the banana dirt paste they were now saturated, we thought it would be better for their health if they weren't quite so … on the floor. Is it a need, to protect my children from worms and other nasty stuff that lives in dirt? Or a want?

But what about the really iffy stuff? Décor? One lament I had in Mum last time was that that place didn't feel like home. So, what do I need décor-wise that can make things feel nice and homey on the smallest weight and spatial occupancy? What about mirrors? I found these gorgeous mirrors here. 3ft high (where most mirrors are made with shaving in mind) with a ovular frame and champagne finished. I nearly cried when I saw them. We had a "rear-facing infant car mirror" we hung up in the bush. It was amazing because I would be walking out the door and see it and it was like, dang girl, the village looks good on you. A little pep talk reminding me that 1. I'm pretty and 2. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.
But need or want?

At the crux of the matter is that needs are minimal. We just survived 5 weeks on 390kilos of cargo, including us! But... I wouldn't say we thrived... 

There's a precarious balance between getting what you need to stay, getting what you need to be comfortable enough to stay in long enough stints to do your job effectively, and being ridiculous and spending money inappropriately.

So that's what we're up to now. Packing everything we currently have that's destined to go to the bush and seeing what can wait and looking at the "needs" and "high priority wants" and evaluating what we need to do to succeed. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Coffee with Elizabeth - Mincemeat

I collapse into one of the comfy chairs, clutching my Triple Grande Peppermint White Mocha like a life line.
I take a long sip, through my head back with my eyes closed and stop. For just a moment. I loll my head over to look at you and I give you a sleepy grin.
"I've had a long day. A long week! A long life…"
You snort at my 26 years.
I shrug.
"Feels that way." I take another sip.
"How long do you think you can run on caffeine and pain killers?" I ask my cup.
"I take a lot more caffeine than pain killers… But the headaches, man…"
"10 to 8 hours a night I'm in bed."
You raise an eyebrow.
"Listen, it's not as easy for me to sleep! Jacob hits a pillow and he's like a dead man! Me? I start thinking about what I have to do." I take a sip of coffee.
Then swallow abruptly and burst out laughing.
"Hahaha! Oh man, today! So, we got our dehydrator from the airport, right? (The roads were so rough back there, I ended up off-roading, a hit a huge rock so hard, I thought both of my driver's side tires blew out! Then hit ANOTHER rock. Then bottomed out. My adrenaline was soaring! Caffeine, pain killers, and adrenaline! That'll get the job done!) Anyway, the dehydrator. I knew it was coming so bought like 5 kilos of mince. Uh… … hamburger? … 97% … ground beef! That's what you call it! Geez! I'm forgetting how to speak American! Anyway, I had cooked 3 last night. Oh, 3 kilos is just over 6 lbs… You're supposed to multiply your kilos by 2.2 to get pounds, but I just double it and call it close enough. Ok, so kilos are BIG. So you double it to get pounds, ok? Keep with me now. So I had Jacob cook the other 2k while I started loading the dehydrator. And we didn't have enough! THIS THING IS HUGE! Industrial. If this thing is going to be how I prepare food for more than half my year for at least two years? Totally worth the expense! And it's so efficient! So I did some number crunching, like I do, and was like, man we can get this done in 2.5 days! So I go back to the butcher (oh, somewhere in that story, I went back and picked up 5 more kilos for tomorrows dehydrating before I realized the awesomeness of my dehydrator.) So I went back to the butcher and was like, yeah, Imma need 20 kilos of meat. That's like 40lbs, right. Don't worry, I get the "crazy white lady" look a lot.
Anyway, that was all back story, so I come home"
I start chuckling.
"buckling under the weight of this 20 kilo box of raw meat as I carried it up the stairs. And I walk inside"
Giggling now.
"And Jacob comes over to take the box. And he's all, 'what is this?' And I give him that guilty smile, you know?"
I flash you an example.
"And he goes, 'Elizabeth. Is this meat?' I nod, my smile growing. 'How much meat did you buy?'"
It's hard to talk through my laughter.
"'20 kilos!'
"'20… Where are we going to put all of it!' And he is just done, like he has this grin and this chuckle and this grimace, and it's like he loves me but I'm insane and this is his life now. With 20 kilos of raw meat sitting on his counter!"
We take a minute to roar in laughter.
"And then!" I gasp for air.
"Then he says, 'You know. It's December first. December first. And I just thought, that since we weren't going to the village again until February, at the earliest, that maybe just maybe we wouldn't have to cook all 20 kilos right now.' And I'm just dying laughing, right there through his whole speech, doubled over, clutching a stich in my side, laughing. And then, after I compose myself, I say, 'I hear you, babe. I do. But when you fall asleep at night with your creepy instantaneous sleeping powers, I lie awake at night thinking about everything on my to-do list.'
"'YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE THINGS ON YOUR TO DO LIST!' he exclaims, laughing at my compulsive busyness.
"So my husband. My valiant husband, sighs, puts on some gaming headphones, turns a movie on the kindle and has been browning beef ALL DAY."
We laugh some more.
"Agh! I haven't even told you about the helicopter! No. no. That's another conversation. I promised my husband I would take over the meat and cook the last 5 kilos. (5 kilos will be left for tomorrow's to-do list)."
I down the last of my coffee, but the dregs.
I leave the dregs.
I hate the dregs.
"But thank you for this. I've been running around like crazy today and it was really nice to sit down and (get my fix and) story- oh… chat! with you. Same time tomorrow?
"I'll tell you about the helicopter! Oh what a story!"