May 9, 2016

Bitterness and Rest

by mendibpng

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I find it really hard to admit that I’ve been hurt by another human being. I might joke about it or rant, or even numb my feelings (since this is my default for dealing with negative emotions.) Part of it is trying to avoid the shame of what has happened or has been done to me, or the shame that I let someone get close enough to hurt me. (My battle with unholy shame is a story for another day.) I also feel the weight of my ministry calling, and I have a strong belief that the gospel compels me to love my God and my neighbor. The easiest thing for me to do is deny or minimize antagonistic feelings towards another person. The problem is that the hurt turns into bitterness, which then turns into anger. Although I may have numbed the emotions temporarily, they are like an ulcer that grows and poisons my spirit. I know I’ve gotten to this point when any mention or thought of the person results in me obsessively thinking about the impact the other person has had on me or others.

In the past, I’ve prayed about the bitterness and anger that rooted themselves in my heart.. The hardest thing about it is living with the tension of the conflict that I can’t fix. Some conflicts, in my opinion, will not resolve without the Holy Spirit’s intervention…it’s not up to me. I’ve spoken the truth in love, but ended up becoming a target because of that. Even though I’ve prayed, I still have to live with the emotion, day in, day out, month by month. It’s something I continually need to bring before the Lord. I also tend to complain to God, “why did you ask me to tell the truth?” The reply is, “I gave you a heart for justice. I want you to trust Me for the consequences because I’m walking with you.”

At the same time, I’ve been doing a word study on the word rest. All over the Old Testament, I find verses about God giving the Israelites rest from their enemies.

Like here

But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. 1 Kings 5:4 (MSG)

and here

Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.           1 Kings 8:56 (MSG)

I feel like I am entering a place of rest, too, because what needed to be said was said. And yet, sometimes forgiveness eludes me as much as I have prayed for it. Bitterness impacts me deeply and hinders me from caring for others (my primary job at the moment) and having joy in my daily life. I really like what this article from Psychology Today says,

Consider that if you obsessively ruminate on the righteousness of your anger, your wrath will only become further inflamed. For it exists in the first place to mask your underlying emotional distress by prompting you to focus not on the personal injury you’ve suffered—and certainly not on what you need to do to heal that hurt—but on the one who so wronged you. Besides, you don’t really have any control over the other person.

I read Psalms 55 as part of my ‘Read through the Bible in One Year’ plan, and this jumped out at me,

This isn’t the neighborhood bully
    mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
    invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
    You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
    arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation. Psalm 55:12-14 (MSG)

I don’t see much in the way of David forgiving his enemies in this Psalm, but here he acknowledges the depth of friendship that he had with his enemy. It’s easier to overlook the insults and hurtful actions of someone who isn’t a family member, colleague or close friend. I don’t have as much to lose with a stranger.

And here, David mentions the other people hurt by his enemy:

And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I’ve been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he’d turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart. Psalm 55:20-21 (MSG)

Here in the trenches of missionary life, secondary trauma is common. Our relationships go deep, and so we hurt when our friends hurt. We grieve and feel each other’s pain. I will readily admit to obsessing over my friend’s issues even more than my own (and believe me, I know it’s not healthy!!) It means that I have to forgive in a secondary way, even for things that were not done to me directly.

I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but God’s Word is the spiritual food I needed today, to accept the state of rest I’m in, and to grieve the injustices that I (and my friends) have encountered. After all, Jesus says,

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

March 15, 2016

His Strength is Perfect

by mendibpng

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I took this on Saturday on the road to Lae, normally a 3 hour drive away. Impossible to cross? No, thanks to our friend’s all wheel drive car. Difficult? Scary? Yes.

His Strength Is Perfect
I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me?
No great success to show, no glory on my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

We can only know the power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins, where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect

–Steven Curtis Chapman

Since I revealed my struggle with anxiety and depression a few weeks ago, I have heard verbally and electronically from many other expats that they struggle with similar issues. This morning, I read through an update from a colleague that I had met as a teenager. His life has been full of physical hardship, sickness, loss and grief. He also suffered alongside the people he served as they faced persecution and even the threat of losing their lives for following Jesus. Throughout the email, he emphasized the power of prayer and praised God for the believers who exist now because of the translated Word of God’s transforming power.

How does this relate to me, as I plan for our next village stay? Those who have gone before us in extremely difficult circumstances and yet remained faithful are the encouragement I needed to persevere today. My colleague’s experience challenges me to look to our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Everlasting Father. This isn’t something I am able to do on my own. I might as well pack it up and go back to the U.S., where my kids could see their grandparents regularly, I wouldn’t have to hang out my laundry, cook everything from scratch and to deal with the cross cultural and relational stress our family regularly experiences along with this life . No, I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength, as the song I quoted above says. [I want to emphasize, too, that God has used the songs and verses I learned as a child innumerable times during my career as a missionary.]

My prayer today is,

Lord, in my weakness show your strength. Use me for your glory and help me to be your instrument in everything I do today.


March 11, 2016

“I’ve got this.”

by mendibpng

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(above) The flowers in our village and here in Ukarumpa lure a multitude of butterflies so I rarely go a day without seeing several. Each time I see one, it is a reminder to me of God’s love for me and of his transforming grace. They often appear at times when I need encouragement the most, or when the daily grind of the mundane has me teetering on the ledge of self pity…

Periodically, I encounter the “what if’s.”

  • There’s a decision we need to make about our near future. What if we make the wrong decision?
  • Ben and I are leaving for the weekend. What if one of our children needs a medevac while we are gone? What if the little ones end up being a lot to handle for their aunties who have kindly offered to look after them?
  • Our son is researching colleges and universities. What if we don’t know how to best help him with this process?
  • There are often concerns in the missionary community where we live. What if the truth gets minimized or buried?
  • We encounter needs and important tasks for our our project and family life: what if we can’t handle it and end up burned out again?

These are just a few of questions swirling around (incidentally, it actually helps to get them out of my head an write them down because some of them I wasn’t even aware of until just now!)

This morning, I fed my soul with God’s Word. Comfort and direction come without fail. Here’s what I read today:

Easy come, easy go, but steady diligence pays off. Proverbs 13: 11 (The Message)

My coffee is cold, vegetables waiting to be soaked, bread dough is unmade….but I can’t give up.

I read Acts 22-23 as well as all of Proverbs 13 and once again felt encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit. I may not hear an audible voice as the Apostle Paul did at times, but I do receive clear direction from the Word and from the Voice speaking to my heart. I’ve come to rely on it, so much that it’s easy to discern it from my own thoughts.

But here’s the difficulty. I know I need Quiet to hear. I know I need Solitude. Yet, as a missionary, mom of five, and wife to Ben, I feel like I can barely remember to brush my hair sometimes, much less sit down with my Bible. The crazy seems to be hiding in the next room and being quiet is often a luxury I don’t give myself. I’ve come to realize, however, that spiritual food is as necessary to me as physical food. My awareness of God in everything and worship is also as necessary as me being conscious of my ‘to do’ list.

That night the Master appeared to Paul: ‘It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best.’ Acts 23:11 (The Message)

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….to me, the Master says, “I’ve got this.”

 

February 15, 2016

In Sickness and in Health

by mendibpng

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Valentine’s Day in the village is a little anti climactic in a way…nowhere to go for a date night, buy chocolate or other gifts. However, when I got up, Ben had already made coffee and since it was Sunday, he and I ate homemade granola together (made by a lovely friend before we left Ukarumpa). On other days, I start the day off rehydrating vegetables, plan out the homeschooling activities, and Ben goes to devotions with the translation team.

But my favorite part of Valentine’s Day came in the evening. One of our translators came asking for prayer for his sick wife. Often when the men come for prayer, they ask for Ben…but he specifically asked for both of us.

We sat across the table as he told us about his wife’s illness, both of us full of emotion and empathy for this man whose wife is a 4 hour walk away, through jungle roads. He told us that he had talked to her and he said many times, “mi laikim em tru!” (I love her very much!) Not being medical professionals, we had no idea what the symptoms meant, but it sounded serious to us.

Ben picked up on a key anxiety our friend had, even though he hadn’t said it explicitly. Did she get sick because of something he or she had done, or because of some problems they had? Or, did someone work magic to cause it? Here in PNG, the cultural perspective is that there is always a reason behind illness or death. People suspect that something or someone has caused this to happen. Ben said, “I know that here, you all have the cultural perspective that sickness happens as a result of problems or someone deliberately caused it. But this isn’t always the case.” He shared story of the blind man….

 The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”  He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.  John 9:2-8 The Message

Ben explained that illness doesn’t necessarily mean that they had done anything wrong, and our friend’s face changed from grief and worry to one of relief and joy. I told him that if he wanted to go and take his wife to the hospital in town, we would support him, because, although the work of translation is important, his wife and family are even more so. Ben confirmed what I said, and added that he would stand up for our friend if anyone said anything about him leaving. Also, he added that we would leave the decision in his hands. We both prayed and I sat there, taking it in, feeling like this was the best way to spend Valentine’s Day with Ben.

 

February 10, 2016

Nothing is wasted…

by mendibpng

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Nothing is wasted,” says Brene’ Brown, in her book, ‘Rising Strong.’ Those words marinated in my heart and mind for he past week. Why would they be so important? And, after so many months, why would I take up blogging again?

Regrets:

The girl/teenager/young woman Me was a person who, though unusually resilient, (according to a counselor who knows me well) was an extremely numb people pleaser. Sometimes I cringe thinking about what I was like back then.

The expat life:

I’ve covered topics like transition, culture stress, living in community, parenting and marriage here on this blog. What if I had known earlier what I know now about myself and boundaries? Would I have been able to bypass some of the grief and pain?

Goodbyes:

This one is a hard one. We have extraordinarily deep friendships with our missionary friends and colleagues. I have heard it said that this is not only due to a common purpose and sacrifice, (leaving behind the comforts of our home countries) but it’s also because we live and work in the trenches together. We don’t have our family around in times of crisis or trauma, but we do have our expat friends and colleagues. Also, since we live in community, we do life together easily. The longer we stay overseas, the more of these precious friends are led elsewhere. It is an intense grief that I have talked about here. So, why invest in people if the parting will bring such grief?

And now to the reason I have had a break from blogging. While we were on furlough last year, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My main symptom was extreme fatigue….until I sat through several hours of testing, and we were surprised by the severity of my depression and anxiety.  While we were overseas, I knew I was not well and so I began doing everything I could to get better….exercise regularly, take vitamin B tablets, cut out sugar (but not coffee!) and practice good boundaries. I saw a doctor who ordered tests for my blood sugar and thyroid, and those checked out fine. What he didn’t know was, both my husband and I were burned out and that resiliency was used up. My furlough doctor described it as ‘air in my tires.’ I began taking medication to help me sleep and also to ‘get the air back in my tires.’ Ben went to every appointment and completely supportive me. By the time we were ready to go back overseas, I was taking meds that I felt good on, and we had strategies in place to ensure that we wouldn’t end up in burnout again. The single thing that haunted me once the meds began to make a difference in my ability to thrive was, why didn’t I pursue this earlier? What if it all started with adrenaline depletion and post partum depression after having the twins five years before?

Fast forward now to today. We arrived back in country, and we poured ourselves into our family and into team building. We navigated some devastating news of friends leaving, worked through some difficult issues in an expat relationship, and helped our kids transition back to life here. I decided to focus on living in the moment.

Brene’ Brown also said this in her book ‘Rising Strong.’ (I can relate to this because of being in boarding school self at age six, this is NOT how my family operates)

You were raised in an environment where emotion was minimized, seen as weakness, invalidated, shut down, perceived as wasteful (e.g., crying won’t help), or even punished, then giving yourself permission to feel, recognize, and explore may be a bigger challenge. You might be the first person in your life to grant yourself the permission you need to experience emotion. If you’re worried that giving permission to experience and engage with emotion will turn you into something you’re not or someone you don’t want to become— it won’t. It will, however, give you the opportunity to be your most authentic self. We are wired to be emotional beings. When that part of us is shut down, we’re not whole.

I don’t know the answers to the questions of why I went through so many things as a child, or had to face myself now, instead of early on in my career in missions. But those words from Brene’ reminded me that the broken pieces exist for a reason. I don’t need to go on as if my history is not important to who I’ve become today.

I’ll end with truth from God’s Word:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15New International Version (NIV)A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2     a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot, and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6     a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7     a time to tear and a time to mend,

and a time to speak,

8     a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; no one can fahom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for people to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat or drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  13 know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

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January 11, 2016

Reflecting the glory of God

by bzephyr

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Next week, we head to our remote village in Papua New Guinea in preparation for our next Bible translation workshop. This time, our teammate John will be joining us from the States, and we will conduct final consultant checking of Titus and Philemon for the 10 language teams we work with.

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These are relatively small language groups, each between about 400 and 5000 speakers. Yet each one represents yet another community for whom God has done marvelous things to redeem a people for himself — people redeemed from unavoidable selfish and unkind actions, redeemed from false belief, redeemed from fear, from death, from terrifying spirits, people redeemed from the devil — those who will surround the throne of Jesus and give him great glory from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

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These are pictures from the recent singsing at our project’s building dedication. Look at these faces, and see people who were made to reflect the glory of God in Christ.

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From Titus 1:2…

I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (NLT)

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January 3, 2016

Singsing for a remote building dedication

by bzephyr
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The new classroom (center) and dorm (right) in the morning sun

 

A few years ago, our ten-language Bible translation project in Papua New Guinea started to outgrow our current facilities. We needed more classroom space, more dorm rooms, more staff housing, and a new generator. Before we returned to the States for our home assignment last year, I had worked with teammates, architects, and funding partners to plan for the construction of four new buildings. Most of the build happened during the year that we were away.

AWTP managers

Missy and Emil managed the whole building project while we were home in the States

 

When we returned to PNG, our local colleagues had decided that we needed to do the culturally appropriate thing and host a building dedication. Traditionally, people in this part of the country cannot use a new house or building until they have hosted various groups to come sing and dance on the buildings and officially open them up. Sometimes the dancing is so energetic that it seems to serve the purpose of testing the strength of the new building.

For this opening, our village partners decided that the real purpose of this event was to dedicate these buildings to God and to his continued work through this language development project. So they invited one local singsing group to sing and dance, and various local church and community leaders were also invited to join in dedicating the new buildings to God. It was a day full of decorating the buildings, singing, dancing, speeches, prayers, cutting the tape, cooking, eating, and enjoying sweet fellowship together.

The pictures that follow are just a glimpse at all the beautiful art and joyful activities of the day…

 

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Fastening bilas (decorations)

 

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Adding color – the new and the old

 

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Hold still

 

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Women folk of the local translation advisor

 

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Children getting all decked out

 

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Almost ready to begin the festivities

 

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Many speeches

 

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Cutting the tape

 

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Exploring the new buildings

 

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All dressed up and ready to dance

 

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Singsing Tumleo – a song learned by grandparents from a neighboring language

 

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Watching the singsing from the decorated new verandah

 

Taking a breather before the next verse

Taking a breather before the next verse

 

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The next generation with PNG flag colors

 

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A headdress to match her afro

 

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Learning from the grandparents

 

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The littlest dancer

 

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Too much excitement for this little super man

 

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Someday, he’ll join the fun

 

Cooking kaukau

Keeping the fire going

 

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Cooking fish

 

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Waving the flies off

 

Distributing bread rolls

Distributing bread rolls

 

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Waiting patiently to eat

 

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Time to rest and story

 

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Leading the singsing with a flare

 

October 7, 2015

A Grand Day Out…

by mendibpng

When Ben asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I replied, “I really want to go to Kainantu with the whole family for shopping and lunch.” I know that on my birthday, I can pretty much get whatever I want, for reals. He took time off work, and off we went….
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This is the view from the centre owned van we rented for the day. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the nearest town. I didn’t take any pictures IN the store or at the open air market because it takes all my concentration to figure out what I want & need.
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This was taken in front of my favorite store in town, called Papindos. It has a lot of South East Asian food items that I love to stock up on!
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My most favorite people in the world…this is the first time we’ve ‘eaten out’ together since July.
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The restaurant has a cockatoo (we call it koki in Tok Pisin) and some tree kangaroos, which our kids had fun looking at. (Pictures by Josiah)
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On top of the trip away, Ben and the kids let me sleep in late that morning, tidied up the house, and filled my counter and table with flowers from our garden. I realize that I don’t need a lot to make me happy…just my kids and husband and a fun day out together.  The last couple of weeks have been rough for various reasons (external stressors) but this was an escape from all of that. *Best Birthday Ever!*

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

September 17, 2015

Happy Birthday Papua New Guinea!

by mendibpng

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Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to our family.  We first arrived in 2002 as a family of four, and eventually grew to be a family of seven. Yesterday was PNG’s 40th birthday. I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to our home of 13 years.

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  • Many of our happiest family memories come from PNG: going to the beach in Wewak, making fireworks out of steel wool, swimming in the river, etc.

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  • Since our kids have grown up here, our friends have become family, both PNG and expats. I love that I can get to a close friend’s house in a 5-10 minutes’ walk.
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  • I love the relational aspects of Melanesian culture. Working together, sharing, reciprocating, and being with people are important here.
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  • We have a purposeful ministry in the work of Bible translation. It is mind boggling that where we live people do not have access to God’s Word in their own language. Every Scripture portion that comes from The Aitape West Project is one more piece of God’s Talk for our neighbors to read and hear for the first time in their language. There is nothing like seeing the look on someone’s face when they hear it for the first time, as evidenced in the picture above, when Pastor Peter played the audio of the Gospel of Luke at the market one day.
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  • I love the beautiful foliage, landscape and animals. (I admit I’m not too crazy about pesky insects though!) Every morning I wake up to a bunch of birds in the eucalyptus tree next to my house singing crazy songs.
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  • We have freedom here to serve the PNG people in whatever way they need it.
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  • PNG is the land of the unexpected. I am constantly learning from this that I am not in control of everything. It is a good thing because I tend to hold too tightly to my plans and my ideas. When we first arrived in PNG, other missionaries modeled being learners and respecting the culture and environment we are in; it has helped us walk into situations with open hands.
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  • Our kids are growing up with lots of people from different cultures. They are learning to navigate cultural misunderstandings as well as value different perspectives. Ben and I have benefited from this too.
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  • We live with minimal commercialism here. Being in a place where it’s difficult to get something (and it’s costly!) means that you really consider whether you want to buy it or not. None of us has it perfect, but I feel like our kids have a lot of opportunities to be in nature, to create, and to be free to play.
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  • To sum it all up, the people here are the biggest reason I love PNG. God put them on our hearts years ago, and whispered to us that He wanted us to stay, even though we thought we’d only come for a short while.

We belong here.

September 10, 2015

You are welcome here!

by mendibpng

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I have spent three days pondering this quote,

Hospitality is rooted in the word hospital, which comes from two Greek words meaning “loving the stranger.” It evolved to mean “house for strangers” and later came to be known as a place of healing. Eventually, hospitality meant connecting with strangers in such a way that healing took place. Therefore, when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing. As we welcome people just as they are and invited them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us–providing us with a healing relationship.

–Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer

I readily admit that it takes a great deal of courage at times for me to be open and welcoming to strangers. A few years ago, a friend of mine taught cross cultural principles to our Papua New Guinean staff here. The thing that stuck with me from that training was simple. “Smile,” they said, “and shake hands with us. You can even hug us!” (The Highlands culture tends to be much more affectionate than I had originally thought.) So, I started to intentionally smile when we passed people on the road, walk into the store or hardware center, and also to the people we buy veggies from at the market. Here in PNG, walking past people without looking at them communicates that we are busy and that the person we are passing isn’t important. (One person said “I feel like a dog or a pig if you don’t smile at me,” which to me conveyed, “I feel devalued as a person.”) I am not saying that smiling is appropriate in every culture everywhere, this is just something I’ve been conscious of here in PNG because I heard that it communicated value to my neighbors.
2010-10-13 Final Checking (12)

I know, I know, this sounds really simplistic. Aren’t I here to share and live out the gospel? If I am, as Elmer says above, “showing openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe,” then isn’t Jesus present there? I really don’t have to go out of my way to search for people to be friendly to since I live in a community full of people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds. If you look at me, you’d likely think, “oh she’s an American.” However, if you start talking to me, you might realize that I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and I am really quite odd/strange/unique. I might find something incredibly funny that other Americans wouldn’t, or I might not catch onto a joke that most people would normally get. It is rare for me to come across anyone who has lived where I lived and had the same experiences as me. It is more common for me to delve into friendships here with people who have had completely different experiences. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be from the same cultural background to share an intimacy with Jesus. He links us together through love. As a student of culture and personality styles, I’m learning how to show love (appropriately) in relationships. In doing so, I feel like I’m holding a small piece of the colors and depths of beauty that I will be seeing more of in heaven.

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