Archive for March, 2013

March 18, 2013

What Does Ben Do??

by mendibpng


Today as I looked over the stats of our joint blog, I realized that I end up writing a lot more than Ben has a chance to. It’s easy for me to quickly write something down about my daily doings and thinkings. So this is an attempt to explain what Ben is up to when we are not in the village. Here are [some of] the tasks he works day [and night] on:

  • Researching and implementing ongoing big projects like buying computers and solar equipment for our project.
  • Reporting to the funding partners back home who provide the funds for our project
  • Planning the calendar of workshops and travel for the entire year to submit to the funders.
  • Arranging travel for the majority of our team going to and from the village, often with the options of helicopter, plane and road trip.
  • Completing his translation consultant training (yeah!!)
  • Recruiting new teammates and supervising them through meetings and emails.
  • Dealing with ‘hevis’ (problems) that come up in our project. Last week he spent hours on the phone talking to community and project leaders about a big hevi.
  • Organizing building and vehicle projects for the whole team, which involves conversations with many experts: architects, mechanics, funding partners, etc.
  • Responding to requests for updates and filling in yearly evaluations for our churches in the U.S.
  • Skyping with the translators and helping them fix computer/translation software problems.
  • Talking to translators about their personal problems. This includes giving advice when asked for it, and praying for them.
  • Organizing typesetting (putting Acts into book form) and doing his share of the paperwork for that.
  • When he isn’t busy doing all of the things above, he works on translation, checking the Arop translation (currently Titus) and three Onnele translations (currently 1 & 2 Timothy).

If you look at the [above] list, it might be apparent that there is more than one person can do in a normal ‘working’ week. For the last two years, since Ben took over managing our project, this has been the case. We have at times teetered on the edge of burnout. We’re trying to address some of these issues, and the addition of new teammates promises to help with the workload as well…but in all honesty, this has been a rather difficult stretch in our career as missionaries. I could write a whole blog post on burnout but it’s a raw subject and frankly I don’t have anything ‘uplifting’ to say except that we are working on it. It feels like a roller coaster–we get to a good place and start a nice ride downhill where everybody is getting a good night’s sleep and taking weekends off….and then suddenly there’s a bunch of things due at once and we are back to going uphill again.  I suppose the one thing I can say is that we have to take responsibility for ourselves because we are the ones who have to choose to live in a healthy way. I am trying to navigate how best to support Ben with all of the tasks he is responsible for but also to be transparent about how our family is doing. In a couple of weeks, we will have 10 days as a family vacationing on our way to the village–I think this is a good start!

March 8, 2013

Influencing for Good: Mentoring Missionary Kids

by mendibpng


“How do you know God is real?” I asked my [future] brother in law when I was about thirteen years old. I distinctly remembering him saying something like, “just look around you at creation. Do you think all of this could have happened on its own?” We looked around at the sea, drinking in the tropical paradise: Dalat School, in Penang, Malaysia, which was my home five of the six years of my high school years. [I explain a little more here about my background.] What he said totally made sense to me! He and my older sister impacted me significantly when I was at the beginnings of making my parent’s faith my own and trying to figure out who I was. There were others: teachers, dorm parents, pastors and visiting speakers who I have distinct memories of saying that thing that I needed and who helped me make life decisions (like where I would go for college, etc.) These people devoted their life and ministry to caring for missionary kids and I’m really thankful for them

Seeing people influence my missionary kid children for good is a high value for me because I had this benefit myself. I have relished visits from our son’s teacher, who loves to talk theology. I love seeing her joke around with him and enjoy his unique way of thinking. There are other times, like when he comes home from community groups with a theological question for us where my heart swells up in thankfulness.  I love it that Ben and I are not in this parenting journey alone. I love it that there are people who care enough to speak words that my kids will remember the rest of their lives. I love it that we have ‘family’ relationships here that extend beyond blood relatives. And I’m thankful for all of those people in the past who helped me on my journey and those who are here for my kids now!

March 6, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: bread making and being impatient

by mendibpng


So last week I made English Muffins for the first time. Correction: second time. The first time I didn’t read all the directions (to grill on top of the stove rather than bake in the oven!) and so they turned out to resemble regular bread rolls. They were fine and we still ate them…but if I had taken the time to read all the directions they might have turned out better! This week a friend of mine sent me her English Muffin recipe and I decided to follow it by the book, except to multiply it by 3 because we consume so much food in a day. The muffins turned out good but I did wonder later, if I had let the dough rise the 2nd time, and if I had started them on lower heat (thus taking longer time to cook) would they have been even better? In general, I think my bread would always turn out better if I let the sponge (yeast, water, sugar) go a little longer, let the dough rise longer or leave it in the oven longer. I am in such a hurry to get to the next step!

My bread baking is really a reflection of my personality. I can be impulsive and quick to act without thinking, particularly when life seems overwhelming to me. There are too many things to accomplish in a day and my brain frequently feels like a ping pong table! In recent years and months, I’ve tried to take some lessons from others who take time to think about things before doing them. I’m not saying that I expect myself to be perfect but I do like to keep making progress in character issues, and this is one of my ‘biggies’. I love James 1:19 (New Living Translation)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

So for today, I’m praying for the grace to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Interestingly, when I do slow down enough to listen I find that there’s more opportunity to let God into my conversations. I’ve just gotta get out of the way.

March 4, 2013

Challenges and Advantages of a Geographically Diverse Team

by mendibpng

flying over Arop sm

Challenges and Advantages:
We now have a more diverse team culturally. I see this as a huge advantage because we have opportunity to learn and benefit from the richness of different cultural viewpoints. We’ve already seen this in discussions. On the other hand, having different cultural perspectives is a challenge because we don’t want anyone to feel marginalized or ‘put out’ if someone is unwittingly being culturally insensitive. I have grown from interactions I’ve had with Wycliffe’s cross cultural expert Sheryl Silzer, (whose book is available on Amazon) “Biblical Multicultural Teams.” She teaches that each culture has image of God behaviors but also has tendencies towards sinful ones. I am grossly simplifying here but what I have personally taken away from the two courses I’ve participated in is that I must  make it my first goal to understand where my teammates are coming from as well as process my cultural biases so that we can work together well. What that is going to look like in reality, I don’t know…but I’m excited to learn.

Answered prayer:
When we began crying out to God for much needed help last year, very few new people were coming to Papua New Guinea, much less language workers. We as a team worked hard to draft proposals for 10 new job positions and our leaders approved them. Not only did they approve the new positions, but they began steering people in our direction. We prayed and kept plugging away at our work. And then two by two and one by one, people began approaching us about joining our team.

We’ve talked about how grateful we are to have the help but we are also feeling badly, as other people are short staffed and in the same position as us, desperately needing personnel!  On top of it all, the people who have joined us are well trained and skilled, or as we Americans say, the ‘cream of the crop.’  They have expertise that we don’t have and the ability to do work that we don’t have time to do.

All this to say, we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel for us all: the addition of new team members will relieve the physical work but also provide some margin for us as a family [we hope: no pressure teammates if you are reading this!!]  We’re up to the task of navigating cultural differences and learning about each other’s personalities so that we can all live and work together well…thriving hopefully.

I’ll end with a prayer for my new team that I’ve stolen from the Apostle Paul: [bold and italics mine]

1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (The Message)

May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours.

Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

March 2, 2013

A Geographically Diverse Team: Collaborating Remotely

by mendibpng

free-world-map sm

Right now we have teammates in the U.S., Australia, Ukarumpa: PNG and Arop: PNG. The majority of our team travels between Ukarumpa and Arop for translation and other workshops (eg: scripture use/dictionaries/literacy) So far our team is comprised of American, British, Australian and Papua New Guinean members.

In the past two years, Ben has taken over the ‘team leader’ position in our translation project. We’ve added new expat members: some newer ones already making a contribution need supervision. We also have other more ‘seasoned’ missionaries who are (or will be) providing some much needed technical and ministry related support, who will not need mentoring as much. Looking at our team going from six members (three of whom were in the U.S. last year) to twelve at first was exciting but also a bit nerve wracking for Ben and me. Some of us are never in the same geographic location as the others…

Here’s the thing: we’re new at this. We have never worked with so many teammates before. Ben and I try to live realistically, which means ‘the ugly bits’ will eventually show to anyone working with us. But, we know that God is bigger than our limitations. So this is my attempt to ‘story’ as we say here in PNG about how it’s going.

Common Purpose:
I love it that we as a team are passionate about seeing the people of the Aitape West area translate and use the Scriptures. We long to see the gospel being lived out daily. We want to be living examples of people who are being rescued from sin and have a living relationship with Jesus. In other words, we do not want to appear perfect or self righteous, we would like to be the kind of people who freely admit that we can’t do it all ourselves, that God is the One who enables us. [this is my personal interpretation of our common purpose, but maybe we need to sit down as a team and actually work on writing one!]

We’re still trying to figure this out, but Ben emails the whole team as our main mode of communication. People reply to him directly or ‘reply all’ to the team. Ben added a ‘response desired’ at the beginning of some of the more urgent emails and that helps when need to decide something as a group. One of our new teammates helped us set up Google Calendars so that any of us can access the team’s calendar at anytime. Before, we waded through hundreds of emails to find information that we needed.

Additionally, we are able to contact most team members via skype or cell phone if needed. Having a VSAT [satellite connection] in the village makes this possible.

We host everybody who is here in Ukarumpa with us for lunch every week. In the past we’ve only had team meetings here on an ‘as needed basis’ but we’re finding that now with the larger team, we need regular fellowship and interaction to stay connected. In the village, we meet on Wednesdays as well. However, we see each other constantly throughout the week there…so it’s easier to stay in touch with what is happening simply because we live closer to each other and there are less community distractions.

Each week we ask our Papua New Guinean teammates for prayer requests and we also share our own. I send an email with them all typed up so that we can pray during the week and so that those who are remotely working with us can stay connected.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my next post about the challenges and advantages of having a cross cultural team working remotely.

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