A week in the life of a translator’s family, and “living with the tension”

by mendibpng

vlg house
As I walked into our village, several of the ladies came out to shake my hand or hug me. We all felt tired and hot from traveling, but I had the familiar sense of contentment as our house came into view. It made me smile to see a new house completely built next to mine, since it was still in the ‘skeleton’ stage when I was last in Arop in July. (Some boys built it for their widowed mother, Rosa, a long time friend of ours.)

Ben and our teammate Missy spent their days and nights working on the project computers to get them ready for the workshop, running into problem after problem. It sounded very complicated to me, but they eventually figured it out. One thing that I admire about the two of them is the ability to tackle seemingly impossible tasks, when I would certainly have given up in much earlier stages! They finally finished reimaging the last computer in time for the start of the workshop, but the computer challenges didn’t end there…the next week, the team had to set up all the dictionary and linguistic software on the computers (WeSay and FLEx) which proved to be another gigantic hurdle. Our friend Ryan came out to help teach a course, which requires this special software.

Here are a couple of pictures to give an idea of what goes on during the day:
(above) Ben spent a great deal of his time in recent weeks trouble shooting computer and power problems (both generator and solar).  It turns out now we have no working generator but most of the days have been sunny enough to support the computers for the workshop.
ryan teaching
(above) Our friend Ryan came out to lead our first linguistics course: Discover Your language. Pictured in the middle is an intern named Inga, who came to help us this village stay, and also to learn about our multilanguage project.
Our teammate Matthew and others provided assistance to the participants as they struggled to learn the new software.
Missy helping the Onnele team. She has learned a lot of the computer support jobs that Ben normally does, since we will leave for furlough soon.
In addition to working on dictionaries, translators and literacy workers, like Dominic (above) recorded stories which will be transcribed and analyzed later. The linguistic data gathered will lead to better translations and literacy materials in the long run. On top of that, it helps the language communities to have their languages documented and recorded.
I couldn’t resist adding in this picture because it shows how much fun the participants had recording their stories! Jonathan and Dominic are from Goiniri Onnele language group. We have 10 language groups represented at this workshop.

Meanwhile, back in the Pehrson Village House, daily life is a lot different than the workshop participants experience. On the first day, the kids and I cleaned the house. After being empty so long, we disposed of a couple buckets full of cobwebs, ant dirt and dust. I remember when we only had tiny children to help with this task, and I found it challenging/impossible to keep them out of the way in order to get a little space clean. This time, Ellie and Josiah tackled the upstairs while Noah helped me wipe down the kitchen. Once we completed that task, our daily routine included waking up to prepare the day’s food, getting clothes washed and hung and settling Noah and Ellie into a homeschooling routine. The little ones played outside quite a bit and dabbled in preschool activities. As a family we enjoyed sharing meals with Paul, director of SIL-PNG, (who came for a long weekend) and with Matthew and Ryan, whose families were in Ukarumpa.
Jacob in particular, thrives in the village, because he loves digging in the dirt and running around with his Arop friends. The other day when I asked him what he was doing, he replied “I’m looking for some friends to play with…”
Jenny Beth and Ellie spent a lot of time making this chalk picture one afternoon. I often say how much I appreciate being away from the ‘trappings’ of TV, Wii and other electronic time fillers because it forces our kids to play creatively.

The thing that I’ve been pondering the past couple of days is the balance that those of us in cross cultural ministry need to survive. We need to have a good dose of self-care but there’s also the tension of making our days count, with spouses, kids, neighbors and teammates.  No matter what role we are in: mother, translator, Scripture Use worker, etc., there will always be more work to do than one can reasonably do in a ‘normal’ day. For me, there are times when the ‘pendulum’ swings more to me making sure I’m doing ok (I have a great fear of ‘cracking it’–and at times I wonder if this is the time that I’m really losing it) or I’ve swung all the way to the other side where taking care of others is all I think about and do to the point of personal exhaustion and subsequent meltdown. If I focus on ministry too much, then I neglect my husband and kids. If I focus on myself too much I neglect everything else. I don’t know if I’ve ever focused on my marriage to the point where it’s unhealthy–that is probably the area where I’ve hoped it would feed itself; in most cases, as much as I love my husband, it feels like other things press for my attention more loudly. I keep thinking “we’ll work on that later,” but it usually happens when a crisis comes up. It is also challenging to focus on a marriage when our five children need so much time and input each day.

What does Jesus mean when He says His yoke is easy and his burden is light? I am not really quite sure but I think He wants to carry it with me. So much of the time I try to carry it all myself and end up falling down with my knees all scraped up. This isn’t an ‘I’ve got all the answers’ kind of post. It’s more just highlighting the reality of the daily tension we missionaries deal with from day to day. I’ve been praying that Jesus would teach me what it means to “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”


4 Comments to “A week in the life of a translator’s family, and “living with the tension””

  1. My dearest Mandy, this has got to be my favorite blog post of yours ever. You are very self-aware. And you’ve helped me and all of our children to be self-aware as well. But more than that, you help us to be aware of others and how we relate to them. And most importantly, you’re aware of Christ’s presence with us through thick and thin. We must not ever forget that. Thank you for painting a picture for all of the rest of us to see life more clearly. I agree that our marriage is often the easiest thing for us to neglect, and that’s not right. I’m with you all the way as we allow our Lord to lead us into more creative tension in balancing the various domains of his calling on our lives. In our mutually submissive union and service to Jesus, I am confident that he will fill us up to overflowing and bless our marriage and family so that we can be a blessing to others through our knowledge Him.

    • you said it so well Ben. I wouldn’t be able to hold up my side of the calling if you weren’t so supportive. 🙂 Glad you’ll be home soon!

  2. Mandy and Ben, Josiah, Noah, Ellie, Jacob, and JennyBeth, You are all busy helping in keeping the Bible Translation projects going. Each of you has a special place in what God is doing among your friends in Papua New Guinea. Jesus smiles when he sees your family humming together in His love and in His work. We are proud of you! Sending lots of love, Oma and PapPap.
    ps- for me (Oma) when The Bible says that Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light, it means that He is weight- bearing Presence in the Present.

  3. Great story! Thank you for sharing these insights.
    Greetings and encouragement from Argentina,

    “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not”.
    Galatians 6:9

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