Archive for January, 2013

January 31, 2013

Thoughts on being a Third Culture Kid: the background

by mendibpng


(above) This is me, at one year old, when my family first moved to Indonesia in 1975.


One of my friends spoke in church about her anthropological study of Third Culture Kids (TCK) here in Ukarumpa last week and it sparked some ‘new’ processing for me…comparing my kids and my childhood experiences. I started writing, and it turns out I had a lot to say.

David Pollock’s definition of a third-culture kid is

an individual who has spent significant part of his or her developmental years in a culture other than that of the parents, resulting in integration of elements from both the host culture and parental culture into a third culture. (Raising Resilient MKs: Resources for Caregivers, Parents and Teachers.)

I met David Pollock in 1993 when I attended a ‘Reentry’ course for TCK’s and saw him occasionally throughout my college years when I attended Houghton College. He devoted his life to serving TCK’s and their families, and I would highly recommend anything he has written on the subject of third-culture kids.

I’ve done a lot of naval gazing down through the years, trying to understand how my TCK experiences shaped me as a person: particularly to how it relates to me as a wife, mother and friend. A significant event which helped me greatly was a letter of apology written by the organization my parents were with in their magazine Alliance Life.  You can read the whole article here.

The significant part for me was this section:

“The investigation also concluded that some school administrators, teachers and dormitory parents were not properly trained for or sensitive to the individual needs of the children with whom they were entrusted. Methods of discipline were at times harsh, humiliating, insensitive and abusive.

We, the Board of Directors of the C&MA, recognize that the policy of mandatory boarding school was hurtful to many and abusive to some, leading to a lifetime of significant pain.”

Until this article came out, I thought that the people who ran the organization didn’t know and didn’t care about how the ‘mandatory boarding school policy’ had affected my family and my missionary kid friends. I was grateful to read that I was wrong about that and continued processing these issues with that knowledge.

Back to the talk my friend gave last week: I became intrigued by some of the similarities and differences between my experience as a TCK and what my kids are going through now, which is the basis for the next few blog posts. [I have asked my kids and family members to read this, and am posting it with their permission and input.]

In case you are new to this blog, I will give you a little background on us. My parents left the United States with my four year old sister and me, one year old. Another sister joined the family a few years later. I lived in Indonesia until I graduated from elementary (primary) school, and then lived between Malaysia and Indonesia for junior high and high school.

My husband is not a TCK; however, he married me nearly 16 years ago. He has become accustomed to all the discussions we’ve had around the dinner table about TCK issues, and I think he understands me very well for someone who grew up in Wheaton, IL, and lived in one place for his entire childhood! Ben and I along with our five kids: ages 13, 11, 9 and twin 3 year olds live in Papua New Guinea, training Papua New Guineans to do Bible translation, literacy and Scripture Use.

I started boarding school at age six and continued schooling away from my parents until I graduated high school in 1993, with the exception of grades four and ten, furlough years for my parents. My kids do not live apart from us, except for Josiah, who stays in a hostel for 2-5 weeks at a time when we go to our village for translation workshops. Our other school aged children attend school when we are in Ukarumpa. Their teachers prepare school work for Noah and Ellie to complete while we are away and I home school them.

I seem to deal with the whole boarding school thing in cycles; however, two events in particular triggered some major processing: when my oldest child turned six and then later when we left him in a hostel for two weeks for the first time. I was told by a trusted friend (who is also a counselor) that these things are always going to be a part of me, that the processing will be a part of who I am.

By the way, in case anyone is interested, my favorite books written by TCKs (specifically describing their boarding school experiences) are:

“Letters Never Sent” by Ruth VanRyken (autobiography)
“The Happy Room” by Catherine Palmer (fictional story)
“Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters Most” by Dr. Wes Stafford (autobiography)

Everyone has their own story, but I noticed that the three books above have some similar threads to mine even though these people grew up in different countries and went to different schools.  Stay tuned for the next part of my story, where I will compare my experiences with that of my TCK children….

January 20, 2013

Happy Birthday Luke…and Why We Would Recommend Hosting an Intern:

by mendibpng

luke bday
(above) Luke firebends his birthday candles

You may be wondering how Luke came to be a part of our family. We received an email from Luke’s dad last Spring, asking about the possibility of Luke having a gap year in Papua New Guinea with us. Luke wanted direction for his life BEFORE he decided on which college and course of study to pursue. He hoped that spending a year with a missionary family might give him some of that direction. Often when things come up, Ben and I begin talking and talking about the decision. We weigh the pros and cons. We pray a LOT. This time, we didn’t have to go through that process. Rather, we both knew that God was behind this. I love it when God does that. So we wrote Dan (Luke’s dad) back and said that we were willing. Some of our close friends thought we were crazy. Some of them told us how crazy we were and some of them laughed at us. We already have five kids of our own plus our work requires us to be in constant transition. However, we moved ahead because of the certainty we both felt: God was behind this. The rest of that story (going to Wycliffe’s training for interns, raising support, waiting and WAITING for a visa) was up to Luke. He didn’t get the ‘easy’ route. Nope. He had the chance to see the reality of what it takes to get here. But he persevered and here we are!

Luke tree



Some things we like about Luke…

1. His sense of adventure is a breath of fresh air to us. We came to Papua New Guinea in 2002 and it is fun to watch someone else experience life here since it is ‘normal’ to us now.

2. He is a big jungle gym for the twins.

3. He carries heavy stuff and helps with tasks like taking down my Christmas decorations. Oh, and he’s tall too!

4. His arrival in October sparked a major reorganization of our house.

5. He makes us all laugh. My favorite Luke quote is “I like the way my feet look when they are dirty.”

6. He brought us fun things from the U.S. like ‘Avatar the Last AirBender’, spices, hot chocolate mix and gummy vitamins and chewable vitamin C! (albeit he ate most of the vitamins himself!)

7. He helps feed our twins so they ‘qualify’ for dessert.

8. He has an ability to bring out the best in my kids. He has played chess and had long talks with Josiah. He started Noah on a cross fit routine. And he thinks Ellie is funny.

9. We get to have a lot of late night deep conversations with Luke.

10. We have a connection with the Elliott family in the U.S., who we had never known before this year! For me, in particular, I have enjoyed making the connection with Luke’s parents who are also missionary kids. Thank you Dan and Heidi, for having the faith to send your son half way around the world…we are glad you did!

January 17, 2013

Unexpecteds, silence and pizza making

by mendibpng

Ben food

(above) Ben helps me store food for a previous village stay.

We’ve had six weeks of school holidays here in Papua New Guinea. During the last half of the break, six out of our family of seven became ill (well, eight if you count our 18 year old intern!) as I mentioned in my latest post.

Ever since we arrived back on December 5, we geared our hearts and minds towards our next village stay in January. We had set aside January 22-March 5 as a wokabot (walkabout) to visit six different villages and help church leaders with fluency practice and to listen to audio recordings of the book of Luke. The church leaders requested the fluency training because they want to be confident to read the Scriptures aloud in their homes and in church. The Scripture Media folks carefully recorded and edited audio books of Luke and people donated money for audio players to be sold at a huge discount in the villages…so that everyone who wants to has an opportunity to hear the gospel.

During the month of December, I made an extensive list of what food we would need for those six weeks and sent the order in to our regional managers. We agonized over how many kilos we would book from here to Wewak and then from Wewak to the village. We worked with aviation on whether we would go by helicopter or by plane. It turns out that they cut the grass at the World War II airstrip, Tadji, and that it was safe land there by fixed wing (instead of using the helicopter!) I spoke with Noah and Ellie’s teachers about the village program and they began working on compiling the materials we would need.  Ellie and Noah compiled lists of activities and materials needed to do with kids in the villages we would visit. I spent a great deal of time thinking about how we would run our fluency training and how it would work now that Ben had torn a ligament in his knee. We decided that I would be the one going out to the villages and he would take over the homeschooling. I started getting [somewhat] excited to be able to be in various places without worrying about chasing down my twins or caring for a baby, as I had in past wokabots.

And yet, we were still feeling fatigued as a result of the virus we had caught over Christmas. I even went to the doctor to make sure that my iron levels were ok and that I wasn’t also dealing with a parasite. I rarely get sick for such a lengthy period of time and I was getting frustrated. The doctor compassionately asked about my symptoms and said that he wished he could send me to a resort for a week. Even then, he said, I would probably still be struggling. My blood work came back fine, and all that was left for me to do was to REST. Hmmmm…. And yes, this kind doctor knows that I have five children and that we were planning to go to the village.

While this was all going on, our teammate Beth, who planned to do the listening half of our wokabot, became ill. Her illness made her so sick that it was clear that she couldn’t go to the village, where we have no doctors or medical facilities.

Since we now knew about Beth’s sickness, Ben and I began to look at the reality of our own health. Both of us still struggling with fatigue, Ben’s knee injury and the way we had overworked ourselves this last year started coming to the surface (again!) and we prayed for clarity. It came. We agreed. The team agreed too that the wokabot would be cancelled. However, our Papua New Guinean teammates decided that they wanted to still hold a translation workshop even if we couldn’t come. Ben agreed to support them remotely from here since we can do that now, thanks to the VSAT, which gives us Skyping capability.

I guess one of the perks I didn’t know about for being a Bible translator, is that you can do your work anywhere. Gotta go to Australia for 3-4 months to have a baby? No problem. Take your work with you! Do you need to stay in Ukarumpa for medical reasons? No problem again. Just work remotely.

I suppose the reason I am writing this all down is to convey something real about missionary life. We experience a lot of Unexpecteds. Some of the changes are chosen. In the situation I wrote about just now, we could have gone to the village anyways even though we weren’t feeling well. Our leaders encouraged us to make a good decision but nobody told us we had to stay here.

Some Unexpecteds are ‘forced’ upon us (like illness, death of a family member) and there is no choice. I find these even more difficult to cope with…and grieve for friends and colleagues as I see them go through these things.

When the choices come, we start asking ourselves what this means for our family, for the project, for our teammates? We seek God and ask for direction. Sometimes we hear clearly from Him and sometimes He gives us the choice.

What I’ve started to learn is, having a safe place to express what is going on in my emotions makes it a lot easier to cope with the story that is unfolding around me. I might have a few rants and meltdowns BUT I can come right back to the sanctuary where God speaks. Today as I sent my children to school and daycare, the house was so quiet I could hear the birds chattering outside. This is what infused my heart and mind:

Matthew 11:28-30

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It looks like my pizza dough is ready for shaping. As I do it, I am resolved to meditate on this verse and look to the One who is gentle and humble at heart. He’s not a slave driver who frowns when we can’t do everything. He’s got an easy yoke for us weary ones…and I’m thankful for that reminder today.

January 8, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: self pity or gratitude?

by mendibpng


I’ve been struggling with some kind of flu since Christmas day. Because it hit me so severely, we cancelled our family holiday and we never had Christmas dinner until Friday of this week. I spent the next week basically in bed while my family fended for themselves. I’ve slowly started getting better; however, if I have a really good day (like yesterday) then I am tempted to do too much and end up with exhaustion, sinus pain, etc. Three other frustrations hit me this morning on top of feeling sick and tired and I wanted to just sit in my room behind a closed door and shirk my responsibilities. (ie looking after the twins, taking down Christmas decorations, cleaning the house, getting ready to leave for the village…) After he washed the mountain of dishes that I had already planned to do, Ben came in and reminded me of James 1 where we are supposed to consider it joy when we face troubles of any kind. I had quoted the same verse to Ben just a few days ago in the midst of a major computer failure while he was trying to get translation done. (SHOOT!)  Even though I know that my small ‘troubles’ of today are minuscule compared to people I am constantly in prayer for, I wanted to have my moment of self pity and frankly I wanted to stay in my room and avoid one person that I would need to confront this morning. Have I mentioned I hate conflict and disharmony? I would rather stuff all negative feelings as far down as they can go, thankyouverymuch!

Since getting sick, I’ve been so intent on keeping my family of eight fed and keeping things going (and if you are reading this and I haven’t answered an email please accept this as an apology!) I ignored the prodding from the Holy Spirit to write a post about what I’m thankful for. I’ve been so absorbed in my health (or lack of it!) that it’s really hard for me to actually think of anything I’m thankful for. So here it goes….

  1. Stability. I am thankful for my home and the stability it provides my family when we are in transition going to and from our village for translation workshops.
  2. Flowers. I am thankful for the previous owners of this house, who nurtured amazing flowers, creating an Aloha Path in front of the house. There are roses, several varieties of orchids and many other kinds of plants that I don’t know the name of! All I have to do is walk out my door to drink in their beauty.
  3. My kids. Having five of my own kids and an intern living with us means that my world is full of kids from the crack of dawn until late at night. I am never lonely!
  4. New team members. A few months ago, God spoke to me through the story in Exodus 18:13-22, where Jethro told Moses (please forgive my loose paraphrase) “what the heck are you thinking?? You can’t do this alone. You’ll burn out!” We tried to do too much with few personnel and began asking God to send help. Our team went from us, the Nystroms (working remotely), Beth, and Jessie to adding three more couples and another single, at least for the short term! It spoke volumes to me that God heard our cry for help and came through for us and for the 20,000 people of the Aitape West, who desperately need to hear the gospel through God’s Word in their own language(s).
  5. Aviation. We have been able to get in and out of our village fairly easily the last few times because of the provision of the helicopter!
  6. Ben. I have a husband who loves me and isn’t afraid to admit when he’s wrong. He listens to me without trying to ‘fix’ my issues and tries to understand me. He values my perspective as his equal. Six months ago he ordered things to come on a ship which make our kitchen so much easier to navigate. (Incidentally, this means he’s happier to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up!)
  7. Shared purpose. Ben and I are both sold out for why we are here in Papua New Guinea. Early on, I asked God to make it clear to me that He wanted me to come to Papua New Guinea. He DID. And no matter how hard things get over here or how much I miss my family, I know I am supposed to be here. I’ve never once felt like Ben dragged me over to live out his dream. Never. And there’s nothing quite like sharing work that we both believe in.
  8. Health. If I am going to be honest here, my affliction is really just a blip in the whole scheme of life. I haven’t ever had a terminal illness or ongoing sickness, although being sick for weeks and weeks does give me a greater compassion for those who are struggling with these things.
  9. Safe friends. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where my closest friends are the ones I feel the safest with. I love the verse from Proverbs 13:20“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”  Added to the friends I have here, in the fall I joined an email bible study including three women (two I’ve never met in person) who are navigating a lot of the same areas I deal with: ministry, motherhood and faith. There is no pressure to pull off an in depth study each week (we do it when we can) and I am encouraged by the things these women have written.
  10. Partners. The churches, individuals and families who pray for us and support us financially share a big part of our lives and ministry here. Almost every day we have an email asking us what our current prayer requests are, and this is an encouragement that we are not forgotten back in our home country. We are also grateful for those who are sacrificially giving to our ministry so that we can do our work here.
January 6, 2013

The bad #1: Stuck in the mud

by bzephyr

With PNG teammates who are motivated and capable of making great progress in Bible translation, the last thing we want is for us expat members of the team to be the obstacles that impede their way forward. But that is exactly what is in danger of happening. This is felt most keenly in my dual role as team leader and translation advisor, especially as we incorporated new opportunities and met several unforeseen obstacles this last year. But these stresses have not only affected me, they have had a significant effect on my wife and five children, and on the other members of our team as they have all been burdened with the relentless urgency to fulfill our plans.


Due to roads in disrepair and great difficulties in arranging transportation, on one five-week trip to the village in January/February, I spent fifteen days on the road trying to get to and from the translation workshop. Then in March, I left my family for 22 days to go to another translation workshop but only managed to get to the village for 8 days due to similar transportation problems. My work was slowed, and this also slowed down others who were waiting for my contributions. So we are now dialoguing with our leaders and with partners in the region and at JAARS about a land transportation solution.

The road has not been the only transportation obstacle. When the Aitape West Translation Project started twelve years ago, there were four airstrips in the area that were relatively close to our training center in the bush that we might have used. These days, only one is ever open, and for most of 2012, there were none. This meant a lot of phone calls and face-to-face meetings to see about the possibility of the grass getting cut and the airstrip opening up. The Kodiak airplane doesn’t need a long landing strip, but it does need the grass on the strip to be cut so the pilot can see dogs, pigs, and small children close to the landing area and still land safely.

When the airstrip didn’t open, we have been very grateful for the possibility of flying by helicopter. That helicopter pilot has been our best friend on several occasions this year. But this solution has also meant more work for me in an already full schedule to arrange the logistics of it all. It is also a much more expensive option that tugs at a tight budget.

January 4, 2013

The good #3: Developing local leaders for language development

by bzephyr

This last year our team desired to make progress in equipping local literacy teachers and also in using linguistic research to contribute to the quality of translations and to meeting the language development needs of the communities. But we also wanted to facilitate our PNG colleagues’ development in these areas rather than simply allow outsiders to do this for the local team. So dictionaries were begun this year in order to accomplish these multiple purposes.

This is the next in a series of posts on the good, the bad, and what I’m doing now to sharpen ugly worn-out tools from 2012. See also here, here, and here.


In the past, mother tongue translators have met separately from local literacy teachers at different workshops. This year, however, we sent a handful of translators and literacy teachers to a regional dictionary workshop with the express purpose that they would return to the Aitape West project later in the year and lead a similar workshop for all the others. So in April, four translators and three literacy teachers from four different languages attended the regional workshop in Wewak. In September, these seven led the workshop for local literacy teachers from nine languages.

They taught about basic computing and typing, making dictionaries, parts of speech, the WeSay dictionary software, and what to do with such complicated things as bound verb roots. As the more experienced users of their written languages, all the translators also attended and served as mentors even while growing in their own knowledge and skills. With our recent acquisition of more bunk beds and mattresses, we were able to accommodate more people at a single workshop than ever before as the translators and literacy teachers worked together as part of a single team in this translation project.

We view the equipping of this larger team not only as a means to more holistic language development, but also as a key ingredient to local ownership of the translation task and to facilitating Scripture use among the communities. Plans are underway for this next year to continue this dictionary development and to involve the larger team in the translation task and in Scripture use.

The dictionary workshops were not the only way that we have been developing local leaders within the Aitape West Translation Project. We have communicated to the Aitape West translators that we want to continue facilitating opportunities for them every year to grow in their leadership skills as they are willing and able to serve people from other language communities in the region and the nation.

Last November, four local translators accompanied me to attend a church partnership conference in the larger regional town of Wewak as we prepared for our own conference in Aitape later the following year. Most of our translators attended the Aitape conference in August and contributed by interacting with the district church leaders, leading worship, and speaking out about various issues in the conference.

In June, five local translators traveled with me to our national training center in Ukarumpa and served as training mentors in the Paratext translation software course. The November ’11 and July/August ’12 translation editing workshops for Luke-Acts happened without any expat presence. These workshops involved significant interaction with translation advisors as we communicated remotely over email and Skype. We continue to be grateful for these local partners who take increasing responsibility for various tasks.

This year one of our Arop advisors, Linus, died, and the other two Arop advisors, Emil and Pastor Peter, experienced the death of close family members. This took them away from some of our workshops, but the other translators stepped up and took responsibility for various tasks that always need to be done. Likewise, when out teammate, Beth, returned from furlough, some of the translators took it upon themselves to organize where they were all at with their TEE training (Theological Education by Extension), and before Beth could bring the topic up with them, they presented her with their plan for finishing book 2 and continuing with book 3.

This last year has seen many good things happening in the Aitape West Translation Project.

January 3, 2013

The good #2: Partnership, ownership and good fruit

by bzephyr

Another significant development this year comes on the heels of a trial edition of Luke being published last year and distributed to communities and church leaders. With the availability of this sizeable portion of God’s Word, we have been providing various opportunities for the people to interact with it.

This is the next in the series of posts on the good, the bad, and what I’m doing to sharpen worn-out tools from 2012. The good, #1 appeared here.


  • Copies of Luke continue to be available for sale in the communities and also at the Christian bookstore in Aitape.
  • Audio recordings of the Christmas and Easter story were also distributed.
  • Luke in its entirety was recorded, and our team is working with partners to edit it and prepare it for distribution on Sabers and AudiBibles.
  • Just before Easter, the Easter story from Luke 22-24 was published in a side-by-side vernacular and pidgin diglot format, and this has received very positive feedback from church leaders.
  • Just before Christmas, the Christmas story from Luke 1-2 was also distributed in a side-by-side vernacular and pidgin diglot.
  • Trial copies of 1 Timothy were drafted, and these are being revised before taking copies to the language communities for testing.

With the availability of these resources, we have been intentionally connecting not only with local church leaders when those portions were dedicated in 2011, but also with district church leaders. We have been visiting them regularly in town throughout the last year, especially as we prepared for the Aitape Baibel Conference in August. District church leaders from seven denominations were represented at that conference, and it is evident that they are enthusiastic to encourage the work that is already happening in the languages west of Aitape.

Since these district church leaders are themselves mostly from languages east and south of Aitape, they are even more excited about the possibility of extending this ministry in the years to come to the many other languages in the district which still have no Scriptures.

The most defining aspect of the Aitape West Translation Project is that we are not just producing a product but equipping people to carry on every aspect of this work in the future, not only in their own languages but also as they come alongside other language communities in the region and in the nation. Partnering with district churches will be key to facilitating the use of translated Scriptures in the local churches and also to the expanding Bible translation movement in the region.

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