Archive for March, 2012

March 29, 2012

The Secret of Contentment

by mendibpng

“Aren’t you, like me, hoping that some person, thing or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being that you desire? Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fill my deepest desire.” But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment, you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know hat this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burnout. This is the way to spiritual death.” –Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction

Do you think it’s possible that life lessons just keep cycling back in order to keep us humble? For me, the temptation to be dissatisfied with life creeps up on me in very small ways, particularly when exhaustion threatens to take over. Here are some of the ‘if onlys’ that I’ve had kicking around in my head the last couple of days…

If only…

I had this extra kitchen appliance to make my cooking-from-scratch easier

my twins were a little older and not so toddlerish, I wouldn’t feel like I’m constantly saying “no!” “stop!” and “come here!”

Ben weren’t away, I wouldn’t have to deal with the rat running around in my house.

I had a purposeful job to do (besides stay at home mom) I would feel more fulfilled and less like I’m running in circles.

I could figure out childcare, I could exercise and lose some baby weight that I’ve been accumulating for the last 12 years!

Ben and I communicated well every day and were of one mind spiritually, mentally and emotionally

And the one that gives me a lot of thought: If only my personality was completely different, I would have better boundaries with people. In short, I wish I could trade my NF for an ST. (cf Meyers Briggs)

So to counteract spiraling into self pity, I will list what I am thankful for:

I am thankful….

for my daughter, who flipped tortillas on the stove, leaving me free to roll them out more quickly

that the twins are having a nap, the first time in a few days! And they won’t be two forever. Pretty soon I’m going to wish that they were small and crawling into my lap again!

that friends loaned us a rat trap. My oldest son set it, and killed the rat that we caught this morning.

that I GET to stay home with my five children. Our organization does not force me to work outside the home—since I have the freedom to choose, I choose to be home with them!

that my house has two flights of stairs that I am constantly going up and down. If I don’t have an exercise program, at least I’m getting some exercise in here and there!

that I have a husband who loves me and cares about my well being. Although we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, we are learning how to communicate better all the time.

that my life is full of people I love and care about and who are patient with me as I learn how to function better in community life.

THERE! I feel much better, and grateful that I am here, with a few toddler-free moments to write this blog post! A few moments ago, before I wrote this post, I was feeling very sorry for myself over some fairly trivial things, and now I am feeling the presence of God washing over me.

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March 28, 2012

My take on the translation process…

by mendibpng

Above: Ben listens to discussions during devotions. Usually the translators take turns covering the passage they will be working on during their devotion time. Often they will interact with each other and talk about where they might have difficulty in translating the section.

At times the translation process has baffled me…how does one take a previously unwritten language and get into a readable form? How does that writing turn into God’s Word? This post is an attempt for me to speak about the process as simply as I can as the wife of a translator/linguist. I hope I can do it justice!

We have translators from ten language groups coming to a central location (Arop) in the Aitape West region of Papua New Guinea for workshops. Most of them walk, some coming from as close as a 30 minute walk away, others have to walk all day. We hold five or more workshops every year for four weeks at a time. Right now, Ben is in the last week of a translation workshop in Arop, working with his translators to get Acts ready for consultant checking

So the first major concept is our translators are trained by doing the work themselves. As the translators draft the Scriptures, they read them to each other and talk within their groups. When a difficult concept arises, they discuss it amongst themselves and with their advisor and work out a way to translate it. I’ve heard that they can find concepts like forgiveness and mercy to be difficult to put into a language that doesn’t have those terms. Each of the three groups is made up of language speakers who can understand each other, or at least their languages work in similar ways.

The translators use a program specially designed for them called Paratext. Whenever they input things into their databases, the program remembers what they put. It allows them to access this information for later times, which helps them speed up the translation process. Also this program provides a way to track when and if they make changes and also lets them write comments to each other as a group or to their advisors. I don’t really know how it works but it sounds amazing to me!

Ben is the Onnele advisor, so he sits with the three Onnele language groups. As much as they can, they make their translations similar; however, when something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work in one of these languages, the translators are free to translate it differently. The advisors will then make comments into Paratext and the translators can interact with them and write notes back.

After going through advisor checks, the translation is ready for consultant checking. The consultant will sit down with our translators, their advisor and several speakers of the language who have not read the drafts. Then comes the comprehension testing and questions to make sure it is understandable and accurate.

Although I’ve simplified the wording of this process, it’s all rather complicated…the advisors and translators are learning about the linguistics of the languages we work with so that things are said in the proper way. They are also doing careful exegesis for the passages covered. Often the translators will ask Ben what the Greek text says, and they are also adept at using Translator’s Workplace, software that provides them with numerous notes and resources. We have been amazed by the dedication of our PNG coworkers, how they pour over commentaries and Bible dictionaries into the evening, until the generator power goes off for the night. They want to see God’s word speaking to their people, and they want to make sure they get it right.

And that, my friends, is my take on the translation process…

March 23, 2012

Sea travel and hiking for Ben today

by mendibpng

Ben took this picture with his camera phone on the last boat trip out of the village…

Today the road is bad (you can drive about 1.5 hours but the rest of the road is impassable). Ben decided to catch a 2 hour boat ride from Aitape, which will take him as far as Waroiyn, and then he will hike 2 hours to get to our village. Yesterday they could not take him because of the strong winds. It took Ben nearly nine hours on bush roads to get as far as Aitape from Wewak, after waiting nearly a week for a car to take him. In the past few months, travelling to and from the village has become very difficult for our family because both of the government owned airstrips we have used in the past are not being cut and the dirt road in and out of the village is soupy. At least when Ben is travelling alone, he considers it to be an adventure and he doesn’t mind the hours on the road (or water, as it is today!)

Here’s one to show what the road looks like!

Waiting beside a river , because the water is too high to drive through. Ben says that the water covered his ankles in the front seat of the car this week!

We are in the process of ordering life jackets for our kids to reduce the risks of traveling by sea; however  even if we can go by sea next time, the road travel is still an issue, at least between Wewak and  Aitape. Please pray that we will find a better solution to getting in and out of our home in the jungle!

March 22, 2012

Twins: the best and hardest two years of my life!

by mendibpng

The past two and a half years have been the best and hardest in my life. When Jacob and Jenny Beth joined our family, there were times when I thought I was going to die of exhaustion. I remember being afraid to go to bed at night knowing that one of them would wake up shortly for a feeding. I struggled with fears about continuing to live cross culturally and taking care of five children at the same time. Could we really return to PNG and live in a village??? Was I going to fall apart once we got there?

Other twin parents comforted me by saying that these two little ones wouldn’t be little forever. And they were right!! At the time it seemed like forever stretched out in front of me…but here we are, 2 ½ years into this journey and I’M STILL ALIVE!

I’ve been thinking about our twins recently as I have learned about a friend who is expecting five babies. FIVE. I thought having two at once was difficult. My heart just goes out to her!

So here is why having the twins has made these last two years the BEST in my life:

1) I’ve had to work on being less codependent with everybody I know and more careful about caregiving with friends in a healthy way. If I am falling apart, I can’t take care of the family God has entrusted me with. It makes Ben’s life difficult if I get so wrapped up in other people’s problems that I can’t function. I am still learning about this and constantly working on balance.

2) My older kids have become more compassionate and sensitive to other people’s needs since having two little siblings to love. Yesterday Jacob broke a glass window pane, cutting his fingers, and both of the older boys rushed to his side to comfort him before I could get there.

3) Ben and I have had to work together more just to survive. I saw myself as a pretty independent person before Jacob and Jenny Beth came along. I didn’t like to ask for help—I liked being the one giving it. But suddenly, I couldn’t do it all. I have learned to depend on Ben much more these past few years, and he has come through for me! Sometimes I start to wonder if I rely on him too much for emotional support and he assures me that this is healthy for a marriage. He should be the one I can confess anything to. I love that guy more now than I did before. J

4) I’ve had to rely on God as my shelter more. Sometimes when I think about each of my five kids, I wonder if I am enough. But then I realize I don’t have to be. That’s God’s work.

Lately the two year old tantrums have been exhausting, and even more so this week since Ben is gone—I think they miss him and don’t know how to articulate it. I’m adjusting to new stages my kids are moving through and praying for wisdom for Ben and I in our parenting (next year our oldest will officially be a teenager!!!) My prayer is that God will help me love them well and stay sane in the process.

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March 19, 2012

Confessions of a missionary wife: embracing the spectacle…

by mendibpng

Ellie, Noah, Jenny Beth and Jacob with their village friends and spectators…

One of the things which feels ‘normal’ to me is people staring at me. As an MK growing up in Indonesia, I often had people pinching me, laughing at me and calling me names from a distance whenever I left my house. I came to Papua New Guinea thinking that I was used to all of that. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was to see it happen to my children. (At least the pinching and pulling hair is not a problem in our villages—we always have a huge crowd of followers whenever we leave our house.) During village stays, we stay inside our house a lot because of the demands of living…cooking everything from scratch, doing chores with minimal modern conveniences and of course homeschooling. However, sometimes in the afternoon, after the twins have their naps, we take a walk outside. If I feel too lazy to go out, I still push myself to do it because Jacob inevitably declares, “I want to run!!” So off we’ll go to a small courtyard where he and Jenny Beth run in circles or take off down a path to another hamlet. One afternoon when we had a particularly large crowd following the twins everywhere, I thought I’d just embrace the moment and get it on camera. I took the above picture and all of the kids crowded around to see it on the little LCD screen. Notice how Ellie and Noah protect their little siblings—it’s really sweet!

As I reflected on that afternoon, I thought, some things, like getting stared at and being the center of attention, can be extremely annoying. But if I am not too annoyed to think straight, I realize that this is one thing that comes with the territory. I can use the opportunity of having a captive audience to speak a kind word or even share my love for Jesus. I just have to look past my own personal level of comfort. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever enjoy being the spectacle but I can live with it because I’ve chosen to be there. And I have a place (my house!) to retreat to when I need a little privacy. (Although a mom of five children rarely gets privacy anyways!) Seems like most things in this life we’ve chosen end up being about balance. How much of myself can I sacrifice without crossing onto the side of insanity?! It’s not an easy question but it is one that constantly pops up when I deal with cross cultural living. And now as a mother, I am often looking for signs in my children, of when their comfort levels have been pushed too far. Thankfully they have become attuned to their feelings and can usually articulate what is going on. One day at a time…

March 6, 2012

Wailing, beards, and lost for words at a funeral

by mendibpng

This post is yet more “confessions of a missionary wife.” It’s going to be difficult to write.

You may have seen the post I wrote about David Emil’s passing here: https://livingletters.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/he-gives-and-takes-away/

When we were in the village we walked to the Emil family’s house to cry and grieve with them. A death in the family means that several cultural things take place: close friends and family come stay to mourn together. It is the responsibility of the grieving family to provide food for anyone who comes to mourn. This can be a financial hardship. The visitors can stay for weeks, even months. The men grow out their beards, a physical example of their grief and pain. When their initial grieving is over, they shave their facial hair.

Ben has the ability to mourn the way a Papua New Guinean does. When we entered the courtyard, he began wailing loudly. I had quietly explained to our children that this was going to happen, so they were not scared. I stayed back and held our two year old twins, and cried softly. As soon as Ben started crying, the mother and grandmother of the boy began wailing as well. The father stood quietly until I gave him a plastic covered picture of his boy. He started crying loudly then too. Ben came over and they held each other for a while.

Even though we’ve been in PNG since 2002, I still feel like a foreigner in situations like these. In my culture grief is a private matter. I am always concerned that I won’t know what to say to someone who has lost a loved one. However, in PNG, crying loudly with the family and being there says that you are walking with them through their pain.

As we walked the 45 minutes home, I felt anguish for Emil’s family and the loss of a beloved son. I told my kids that it was okay to feel sad for our friends because we love them. Ben went later on with the translators for a memorial service where a big feast was held after the grave had been decorated according to their custom.

Today I wrote an e-mail to Emil with these verses:

1Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.

So often I get caught up in the mundane of the here and now and forget that one day the Lord will return! That last verse “encourage each other with these words” made me think how little time I spend encouraging others with the hope of Christ’s return. There will be no more pain, suffering and grief.

March 2, 2012

Journey to the Lagoon…

by mendibpng

As the translators wrapped up the Acts revising and Luke recording workshop, we asked our Arop friends what the road situation was like. Everybody we talked to told us that four-wheel-drive trucks couldn’t get in and out of the village. The dirt roads had become soupy. A huge truck blocked the road as well.

We began to brainstorm about our next options. We could walk to the lagoon and take a boat out to the Bismarck Sea to get to the town of Aitape, where we could get another car to take us to Wewak. Ben and I realized that although this had been a possible exit plan, it only lived in the idea stage. Our old life jackets had disintegrated, so it wouldn’t be safe for our children. Taking them out onto the open sea through a narrow inlet called The Otto (named after Otto von Bismarck, from the colonial days), where boats are known to capsize didn’t seem like a wise thing to do.

At one point, I asked, “Can we ask the Samaritan Aviation guy to come get us in the float plane?” A few years ago our director came to visit our project via this plane equipped with pontoons. Our managers in Wewak contacted the pilot and he was willing to pick us up, despite the fact that he usually only delivers medicines and flies patients in life threatening medevacs! He was concerned about the wind, so we began to pray for good weather.

(all photos by Dan Bauman, who came out with us to record Luke with Andy Weaver. I am grateful because I was too busy to take any pictures myself!)

Back to the wee hours of that Saturday morning…

We woke at 4:00 am set out around 5:30…I hadn’t slept all night just for the sheer excitement of the day ahead of us. “What if it rains while we are hiking,” and other questions kept rolling around in my head. That’s me carrying Jenny Beth on the left and Kenny (Sissano translator) on the right. Thankfully most of us had flashlights or headlamps to get us through that first part of the journey.

This swamp was my least favorite portion of the hike…we were up to our knees in the mangrove mud and had to take our shoes off in order to get through it. I had a couple of ladies holding up my arms to help me. I felt humbled, but grateful for their help!

Surprise of all surprises, in the middle of the jungle there was this large escavator submerged in the mud! It was brand new and working its first ever job when it got stuck.

We all breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when we came upon this path…this meant that the muddy swamp walking moments were over.

Here is Andy Weaver and Ben walking across a log bridge… notice the hand rail…sometimes we don’t have the luxury of something to hold onto!

Upon arriving in Wauroiyn, the village nearest the lagoon, we were able to rinse off our muddy feet and shoes.

Ben shaking hands with our friend Rosa, one of the ladies who helped us carry our cargo on the hike.

From Wauroiyn we took a boat down the long narrow stream to get out to the lagoon…

The lagoon appeared before us, calm and peaceful… perfect for the plane to land!

And the float plane, in all its glory landed smoothly!

Mark Palm, the pilot, greeted us. Jessie, the kids and I flew with Mark to Wewak, while Ben, Dan and Andy went on this small boat to then find a car from Aitape to Wewak. Their journey took over 14 hours!

The rest of our journey that day was a little more normal for us. We landed in Wewak and met up with the managers there who gave us cold drinks and snacks. A few other friends who live there came by to chat while our older kids played with friends. Then our pilot friend Chris came and picked us up and expertly flew us home to Ukarumpa! As I think back on that day, I can only be thankful for Jessie traveling with the kids and me, good weather, airplanes that worked well, gifted pilots, and willing friends who fed us. God is good, all the time!

March 1, 2012

Journey to Arop…

by mendibpng

Our plane landed at our first destination, Tadji, on the way to a translation and recording workshop in Arop village in January.

The road was good except for this spot…

…and this one.

Finally we arrived in Arop, where we have just a 5 minute walk to our house.

Home sweet home!!

Once we were in Arop, Dan Bauman (pictured above) and Andy Weaver began recording the book of Luke with our translators while Ben and Jessie worked with them on refining Acts. I cooked everybody’s lunch and homeschooled the kids…it was busy but very productive!

(Photos by Dan Bauman and Jessie Wright–thanks guys!)

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