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.

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6 Comments to “Unexpecteds, silence and pizza making”

  1. Just yesterday I read Matthew 11, ending with these verses, to my boys at family devos, and I took them to heart for myself too. Thanks for this story and this meditation, Mandy. “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.” Blessings on you and the team as you seek more rest during this time when you’re not in the villages.

    • Dan, that’s great that we are on the same page, wow! I’ve already felt blessed today by your son, he helped me take down my Christmas decorations–a big help to this weary mama! Thank you for letting him come here. Hope you all experience His easy yoke this week too.

  2. I’m pleased you and Ben made the decision you did. I think most of us missionaries of the Wycliffe variety don’t know when to rest and slow down. Our work *is* challenging, but our Lord is not a slave driver.

    • Yes Steve you are right. I am really grateful, though, that when we need to slow down our administrators are highly supportive! I wish we had learned to build more rest into our way of life earlier on, when we first arrived in PNG, but I guess it’s never too late to start!

  3. I was reading Matt. 11 yesterday too! And I was also blessed by the Word. Are we all reading the same guide, I’m in Our Daily Bread. God is Good….ALL the time!!

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