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.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Thursday, March 2, 2017
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!
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
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…)
- Set dinner out to
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!
- 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.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
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.