Archive for September, 2011

September 7, 2011

On living in community…Part 2

by mendibpng

Why I love it…

A lot of people may wonder why there is such a large community of expatriate people living in PNG…this is a very good question! Papua New Guinea is one of the most linguistically diverse areas of the world. This means that we have a higher concentration of languages for the size of the land (about the size of California, for you Americans). Our goal here is to make the scriptures accessible to everyone in the language that serves them best.  So in order to reach this many language groups, we need all kinds of people to get the job done—bible translators, literacy workers, pilots, mechanics, teachers, accountants, security personnel.

I love this place because the people I work with have a common goal with me. That is, we all want to see Papua New Guineans accessing and using God’s Word. I don’t have to explain my life or my goals to everyone I bump into. We share this passion, otherwise we wouldn’t have left our home countries, friends, relatives and conveniences to come here.

In my last post I mentioned how sometimes we get into each other’s business. I have a love/hate relationship with this aspect of living in community. The thing I love about it is, when someone is in trouble or sick, people step in willingly to help. If you have followed some of my former blog posts, you might remember that when Jenny Beth needed a medivac to Australia, all kinds of people stepped in: aviation, finance, doctors, nurses, member care, etc. While Australian medical staff took care of Jenny Beth in Cairns, my friends delivered meals to Ben and helped him watch Jacob. Our friend Beth bought a ticket to come to help me, even though she had to organize a road trip to get out of here.

Another example of people helping one another happens when one of us needs something. Even if it’s a food item (like, say I didn’t make it to the 6-7 am market) or something to keep a household going, we can post a ‘wanted’ and we often receive multiple offers of help. This may sound funny to others who don’t live here, but we have no super Walmart or 24 hour grocery store to visit if we run out of something.

I also love the school. The teachers I have met consider my children to be their ministry for God. I am grateful more than I can say for this.  Added to this are the people who work with youth (which is a great deal of people!) and those who run the hostels. (On Tuesday, our son Josiah will stay with a hostel family for one week and join us in the village for the school holidays.)

I could go on and on about the various things I love but the real underlying reason I am glad to be here is that I love living and working with my friends. I like it that I run into people I love and admire at the store, post office, school and wherever I go on center. I know I can call up any one of my friends for a spontaneous playdate or stroller walk on any given day. These little encounters provide sanity relief for me and my little ones, and ultimately DO serve to further the task of bible translation here, because it helps me stay healthy emotionally (thus allowing Ben to keep serving in the roles he has as Aitape West team leader, Greek/exegesis trainer and translation advisor.)

When conflict arises, I pray that God will help me remember these things…I want to practice the ‘discipline of gratitude’ (as Henri Nouwen so aptly puts it) for the place he has put me, and for the chance to work with a diverse and gifted group of people.

September 6, 2011

Living in Community (Part 1)

by mendibpng

We might think of missionaries being heroes. And some are. But most of us are normal, sinful people. I remember hearing that the top reason missionaries leave the field is the conflicts they have with other missionaries!  I heard this as a Missionary Kid and have heard it to this day. I hope I am not stepping on a sacred cow because I don’t handle conflict very well. If this post is a little too gut wrenching, please feel free to come back tomorrow when I will post a contrasting article on why I LOVE living in community.

Here are a few questions I would have for my mission community if I were ever brave enough to ask them:

What makes it okay to speak harshly, either verbally or in an e-mail? Is it okay to say what you really feel regardless of how it will affect the other person? Why is it so easy to judge someone in the name of ‘godly concern?’ Why is it so hard to let people make their own choices of how to live? (I am speaking about how we spend our money, time and how we parent our children) How do you help people who are in the midst of conflict and who are forced to interact with each other often? These are all things I’ve encountered or battled in my own heart since coming here to PNG. I think these questions come up everywhere in all kinds of relationships but when you live so closely, a small thing can get blown out of proportion in no time. You know the phrase “it only takes a spark to get a fire going,” well, I think that is certainly true here. I noticed this especially when people were dealing with grief and transition due to many of their friends leaving for good or going on furlough. Raw emotions lead to some extreme tensions over some fairly minor (in my opinion) issues!

I have noticed that when you live in a small community, it becomes easy to get enmeshed into everybody else’s business. This makes gossiping easier. It makes judging easier. False guilt can ruthlessly permeate relationships. For someone like me, it can be easy to get caught up in demands of well meaning people. All it takes is one insecure or unhappy person to say something to another person and it can affect a great number of people.

Speaking the truth in love begins with acknowledging the truth in my heart first. Most of the time I cannot bear to look at it, or at myself because I don’t like to admit that I have a problem. I’m‘supposed’ to be a missionary after all! Sometimes taking a step back from things helps me realize the problem is in my own heart, and it isn’t necessary to put a burden on someone else. But other times, I feel free to talk with those friends who are safe.

The people I feel safest with here are the ones who don’t feel the need to ‘fix’ me when things are rough. I don’t feel judged by them, and I am free to be myself, all the ugly bits included. Sometimes the most help we can be to each other is to listen and offer to pray and then leave it up to God to do the ‘fixing.’

For my PNG friends, please don’t read into this post–I actually wrote it about 3-4 months ago without any specific examples in mind. 🙂

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