Archive for ‘living overseas’

May 14, 2017

A New Kind of Transition

by mendibpng

(above) Noah, Joe and Jacob after the school play “Almost, Maine!”

Transition is this wildly unpredictable Thing that happens constantly to us. In our 20 years of marriage, we’ve lived in over 10 different locations in three different countries. We travel between our village home and Ukarumpa home 3-4 times a year when we are in PNG.  We’ve done the Moving Transition many  times and we usually know what’s coming…

a week of chaos and misery on either end
challenging travel
lots of preparation (food, homeschooling materials, computer updates)
anxiety and stress
heightened emotions
goodbyes and grieving
reverse culture stress


anticipation of seeing friends again
a chance to use the transition for good (and reestablish good habits)
purging and try to make a stab at a more simple existence (this has been elusive, but without transitions it would be completely unattainable).

However, we are now at the precipice of a transition we’ve never had before: launching Josiah into his new life as a college student/adult. In the past two years, he has proven that he’s ready for this. He capably makes all of his own decisions and manages his own schedule. He processes hard questions in an emotionally intelligent way. We’ve raised him, and the rest of his life is up to him.

But, as with most transitions, this one comes with plethora of emotions and sometimes they come all at once. At other times, there is just an overwhelming amount of one or another. If I had a picture for my emotions at this point, it would look like a child’s scribble. Lots and lots of colors. No real pattern. No easy answers.

In the past decade, I’ve worked hard to notice my emotions, be authentic and tell the truth to others. However, there is still the stubborn independent part of me who refuses to allow negative emotions to surface or to tell the truth to myself.  One of my best friends has noted that if I say “I’m okay” enough times, it’s an indication that I’m really not. So as this transition for our first child to college begins, I’m admitting to myself that I’m sad.  But alongside the sad comes other emotions: happy, excited, proud. I have moments where I think my heart is going to burst when all five of my children are together, laughing, giving advice to each other and debriefing their days. I know that in a little less than 9 months, we’ll be be back here in PNG with only 4 kids around our table.

Joe’s a grown man, I know that. But there’s a bit of loss that comes with this transition that is more costly than the others we’ve experienced thus far in our missionary career. We’re preparing for all the lasts for a while: last birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and most of all what I’ll miss is the daily sight of him and being able to know how The Things in his life are going.  I’ll miss making his favorite meals for him and trying to trick him into eating breakfast.

But, most of all, I want to savor the time we’ve got left, and be thankful for the opportunity we have to have a short furlough to get him settled into his passport country.  I’m thankful he’s going to a school that has the degree he feels called to study, and that he has family and friends who will look after him when we can’t be there for him.

In the quiet moments when I start to feel sad, I want to focus on these words of David:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

These nine words are what keep me from being a perpetual martyr. I don’t need to feel sorry for myself, because God is GOOD. He will sustain us through this next transition, as He has done through every single other one. He’s got Joe, as He’s often reminded me. He’s our counselor, comforter and friend, and as we mourn, He will lift us up.

He is Good.

He’s got this.

February 10, 2016

Nothing is wasted…

by mendibpng

2016-02-10 10.24.44.jpg

Nothing is wasted,” says Brene’ Brown, in her book, ‘Rising Strong.’ Those words marinated in my heart and mind for he past week. Why would they be so important? And, after so many months, why would I take up blogging again?


The girl/teenager/young woman Me was a person who, though unusually resilient, (according to a counselor who knows me well) was an extremely numb people pleaser. Sometimes I cringe thinking about what I was like back then.

The expat life:

I’ve covered topics like transition, culture stress, living in community, parenting and marriage here on this blog. What if I had known earlier what I know now about myself and boundaries? Would I have been able to bypass some of the grief and pain?


This one is a hard one. We have extraordinarily deep friendships with our missionary friends and colleagues. I have heard it said that this is not only due to a common purpose and sacrifice, (leaving behind the comforts of our home countries) but it’s also because we live and work in the trenches together. We don’t have our family around in times of crisis or trauma, but we do have our expat friends and colleagues. Also, since we live in community, we do life together easily. The longer we stay overseas, the more of these precious friends are led elsewhere. It is an intense grief that I have talked about here. So, why invest in people if the parting will bring such grief?

And now to the reason I have had a break from blogging. While we were on furlough last year, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My main symptom was extreme fatigue….until I sat through several hours of testing, and we were surprised by the severity of my depression and anxiety.  While we were overseas, I knew I was not well and so I began doing everything I could to get better….exercise regularly, take vitamin B tablets, cut out sugar (but not coffee!) and practice good boundaries. I saw a doctor who ordered tests for my blood sugar and thyroid, and those checked out fine. What he didn’t know was, both my husband and I were burned out and that resiliency was used up. My furlough doctor described it as ‘air in my tires.’ I began taking medication to help me sleep and also to ‘get the air back in my tires.’ Ben went to every appointment and completely supportive me. By the time we were ready to go back overseas, I was taking meds that I felt good on, and we had strategies in place to ensure that we wouldn’t end up in burnout again. The single thing that haunted me once the meds began to make a difference in my ability to thrive was, why didn’t I pursue this earlier? What if it all started with adrenaline depletion and post partum depression after having the twins five years before?

Fast forward now to today. We arrived back in country, and we poured ourselves into our family and into team building. We navigated some devastating news of friends leaving, worked through some difficult issues in an expat relationship, and helped our kids transition back to life here. I decided to focus on living in the moment.

Brene’ Brown also said this in her book ‘Rising Strong.’ (I can relate to this because of being in boarding school self at age six, this is NOT how my family operates)

You were raised in an environment where emotion was minimized, seen as weakness, invalidated, shut down, perceived as wasteful (e.g., crying won’t help), or even punished, then giving yourself permission to feel, recognize, and explore may be a bigger challenge. You might be the first person in your life to grant yourself the permission you need to experience emotion. If you’re worried that giving permission to experience and engage with emotion will turn you into something you’re not or someone you don’t want to become— it won’t. It will, however, give you the opportunity to be your most authentic self. We are wired to be emotional beings. When that part of us is shut down, we’re not whole.

I don’t know the answers to the questions of why I went through so many things as a child, or had to face myself now, instead of early on in my career in missions. But those words from Brene’ reminded me that the broken pieces exist for a reason. I don’t need to go on as if my history is not important to who I’ve become today.

I’ll end with truth from God’s Word:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15New International Version (NIV)A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2     a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot, and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6     a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7     a time to tear and a time to mend,

and a time to speak,

8     a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; no one can fahom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for people to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat or drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  13 know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

January 10, 2015

I was burning out… (part 1)

by bzephyr


In June we ended our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea in the agony of burnout. I felt a lot like this pickup truck that we came across one day with its rear bumper hung up on one edge of this narrow creek and it’s front end pressed into the opposite bank. The back wheels were spinning in the air, well, in the water really. It was working hard, going nowhere, and they were burning out the transmission.

After 6 months away, we want to go back for more. But not more of the same. In this and the next post: the circumstances in which I was burning out. In an upcoming post: learning to burn bright without burning out.

Too many hats

During our last two years in PNG, I felt more and more overwhelmed by the many hats I wore in our 10-language Bible translation project…

  • Translation trainer/advisor
  • Translation consultant
  • Language development specialist
  • Team leader
  • Budget and reporting administrator
  • Transportation facilitator
  • Purchasing and shipping coordinator
  • Building and maintenance supervisor
  • IT support technician
  • Community relations spokesperson
  • Crisis manager

Whenever we left the village and stayed at our national training center, I wore those same hats in a different location, but added a few more…

  • Translation & NT Greek instructor
  • Translation software troubleshooting assistant
  • Branch policy and strategy contributor

Too little too late

As time went on, I thought I was getting better at managing a myriad of tasks. I did start learning to say ‘no’ and to have better boundaries. And there were many people inside and outside our team who took various parts of the load. But it was all too little too late for what I had already done to myself, and the heavy load that I had placed on my own shoulders came at a cost to my health and to my family.

On many occasions we talked about change and we tried to make improvements to how we planned and how we responded to the overwhelming needs around us, but these intentions were like brief blips on the screen that are gone as soon as they appear.

A year is not too much for the most important thing

By June we were ready for a real furlough, and not one where our work triples because we keep doing our overseas work while adding all the speaking engagements and taking on a study program at the same time. We needed a year of intentional evaluation of our circumstances, retraining of our minds, and revitalization of our spirits. Our hope is that it will be hard to forget a year of redefining who we are and the patterns we follow. It will be hard to forget a year of being remade. It will be hard to forget a year of intentional focus on reestablishing who we are and whose will we’re called to serve.

You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:14-15 (HCSB)

January 7, 2015

Remind me who I am…

by mendibpng


This time last year, I looked ahead to our year of furlough. I anticipated seeing friends and family again after a four year absence, and I couldn’t wait for a break from cross cultural living. I can say overall it has been wonderful to catch up with people face to face, and that has been the best part of furlough.

It truly has been a break for us from other things, like cross cultural stress, community living and the daily tasks, especially cooking from scratch. Last week when we started talking about our return to PNG in earnest, I realized that I am finally looking forward to returning to PNG because that is where my heart is. Even when I picture my life there: waking up early to go to the market, making bread, and hanging up clothes to dry, it didn’t seem to bother me. It surprised me to realize that I want to return! I can’t say I’m looking forward to the other stressors but I feel like I can cope better with them, now that I’ve had a break from them.

I think it all boils down to belonging, and where that happens for us as a family. We have been away from the U.S. long enough that PNG is now our home: that is where we fit in, where our work in Bible translation happens. It’s also where we’ve raised our kids, and where their deepest friendships are, not just with kids their own age, but with other missionaries who have watched them grow up and have celebrated birthdays, holidays and milestones with us.

Thirteen years ago, we joined the ranks of ‘overseas workers’ or ‘global nomads’ as some like to call us, and we can’t ever really come home again and be who we were before. Even though we know this intellectually, it seems that this furlough especially has highlighted this, and it has been hard for all of us.

So now, I’m looking ahead to what needs to happen in the months ahead of us. We are going to be busy: preparing and packing for a shipment, getting medical clearance for each of us, looking at what medicines and other supplies we need to take for our next term overseas. I need to apply for a work permit. Those things I am NOT looking forward to at all. In fact, I feel an anxious bubble rising in my stomach when I think about them.

In the midst of all of this, God gave me these verses to hold onto:

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.  Psalm 143:7-9

I belong to Christ and because of that, only His view of me matters. I love this song by Jason Gray because it reminds me that I belong to Christ

I hope that by the end of 2015, I will have grown to the point where His answer to the question “Who am I?” will just be a part of my natural life, as easy as breathing in and out.

And that’s what I want to keep in focus for 2015. Of course I’d love to improve myself…but…everything comes after knowing Christ more.

January 1, 2015

How beautiful are feet that bring good news…

by bzephyr


Please see the link at the bottom of this post in order to fit these feet with the good news of peace and send them back to Papua New Guinea.

Walking with Jesus in the New Year

You may remember that we finished our last 4-year term in Papua New Guinea very burned out. We had been trying to do too many jobs in our own strength. Yes, we were doing the Lord’s work, but we allowed the overwhelming needs that surrounded us to overwhelm us. We need to keep our focus on what is truly important: to walk daily with Jesus and follow him in his strength and wisdom for each endeavor.

This year of furlough has been extremely valuable in terms of refocusing our eyes on Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. At the counsel of our sending church’s missions pastor, we are learning to use the words ‘focused’ and ‘intentional’ more consistently. For me, this has meant that I have been learning a lot about myself so that I can be very intentional about focusing my ministry efforts on those things that I am called to do, specifically in the areas of training local Bible translators and checking their translations. For all the other needs that we face in PNG, we are looking for others to come alongside us and partner with us in doing those things. In so doing, I desire to walk daily with Jesus and not lose sight of the God I am serving each day.

Another way that we have shifted our perspective is that we are no longer saying that we don’t know if and when we will go back to Papua New Guinea. Instead, we are hoping that with the Lord’s help, the body of Christ will send us back in June in time for our children to start the new school year over there in July.

In order for us to go back, we need to be well supported in prayer. We also need to receive 100% of our required ministry budget.


We will be communicating prayer requests and praise reports in these four ways in the future…

  1. Facebook – for most urgent or up-to-the-minute requests and reports. These are very short and irregular and sent simply as needed or when there are fun or interesting things to share.
  2. Email updates – for brief and regular communication, our ideal is to send these out about once a week, and to communicate more visually through a single picture and short explanation.
  3. This blog – for digging a little deeper into a variety of topics that effect our family and ministry life as often as time and inspiration allow.
  4. Printed newsletters – for reviewing larger spans of time in our family and ministry, sent less frequently in this digital age.

Monthly Ministry Budget

We are currently at 66% of our approved monthly ministry budget. Our support has been low like this for about a year now. Some of our partners have gone to be with the Lord. Some have faced financial hardship and needed to stop or reduce their regular giving. The cost of living has also increased significantly in Papua New Guinea. During our last 4-year term, it was estimated that inflation increased our costs by 25%. Wycliffe requires us to be receiving 100% of this budget before we are approved to go back to Papua New Guinea. It’s easy to give online here at our personal Wycliffe ministry page.

On that page, you will also find an option to sign up for regular updates and commit to prayer. Please consider these ways of partnering with us for the Gospel in the new year.

In a future post, we’ll tell you about specific one-time needs that we also need to meet in order to return to Papua New Guinea.

November 14, 2014

These experiences

by mendibpng

In our village, there are often little things for my kids to get in on. On this day, a few months before we left PNG, Jacob had a chance to observe little ducklings getting their daily snack of ants that these kids had found between the wood and bark of a tree. Our outings there are limited to places we can walk to (and with the addition of twins, I wasn’t crazy about walking far with them, only to have to carry them home!) so we often stayed close to home. Sometimes there would be a community (ethnic) dance, and we loved going to those.
Our outings here in the U.S. this year are quite different. We usually get into a car to go to the library, animal farm or to Chicago on free museum days. Because they are different experiences from what we’re used to, we’re trying to savor all of it and be thankful.  Last week we visited Kline Creek Farm, where they told us about the pioneers and how they lived. We found it fun to talk later about how similar our life in PNG was to what the early settlers experienced. Today we had a chance to meet some other home schoolers at a skating rink. One of my kids remarked on the way home, “I didn’t think it would be fun. But it was really great, can we go every week?!” I suspect we won’t make it there every week but it’s a great way to exercise and socialize in the winter months.

I’m thankful for outings in PNG and here in the U.S….and am looking forward to what’s ahead: spending time with my aunt, uncle and cousins for Thanksgiving, visiting friends, and enjoying Christmas lights and holiday activities. While we were away in PNG, I pictured what it would be like to come back and share these experiences with our kids.  That anticipation makes it even more fun when we actually get to do them!

October 30, 2014

Life in America: by Ellie

by mendibpng

(photo by Ellie) Arboretum fall leaves.

Coming home to America is different then coming home to Papua New Guinea. It is a total shock when you go to restaurants and see how many choices on the menu. Or when you get overwhelmed by Walmart by so many things to buy. In Ukarumpa, there’s only one tiny little store with not a lot of choices. It runs out of things sometimes and it’s really expensive.

When you go to Papua New Guinea there are different rules, because it is totally another culture. Women have to wear skirts below their knees. Here we can wear shorter skirts or shorts.

Here we have the chance to do different things, like maybe swimming. If you live in Ukarumpa its not everyday you get to go swimming in a pool. But you might not get to swimming as much, but I did. Here, there are smooth roads; over there there are rocky and bumpy roads.

There, I have more friends because we are a close community so we get along very well. My friends are very close, I can walk to their houses. I do a special club with all the girls in my class. We play games and go outside every day.

Well in Ukarumpa, in PNG, also part of being a close community is welcoming everyone new. But here in America there is so many more people and you can’t go up to everyone and say, “welcome to America!” They might think your weird or kookoo. I feel shy here but over there I feel very funny. Here I’m serious, there I’m not. And here’s a tip. Don’t tell people about some gross stuff that you eat or do. They will stay away from you for the rest of their life. Or don’t eat off the floor in public!

Being a missionary kid means first goodbye to your home and your friends. Then transition….then you get over with it. I try to feel good about the things that are about to happen here in America. But when I trust in God he hears me and helps me through. I like this verse: Joshua 1:9.
By Ellie I Pehrson. (Or PIE. My initials spelled backwards)
Ahhh I love pie.

October 28, 2014

Failing massively and Finding God Faithful

by mendibpng

As Soon As I Fell
There are people in my life who have offered me hope in times of deep dark valleys of uncertainty and pain during my missionary career. Kay Bruner is one of them. She began writing me in 2005 in response to some questions I put out on an email group for misisonary wives and has provided a safe friendship ever since that first email. On top of that, Kay gave me assertiveness training and encouraged me to be truthful about the realities I faced.

Today, I’m honored to be able to interview her here about the book she has written about her life as a missionary in the Solomon Islands. Although her circumstances are different to mine, there are threads in her story that I can totally relate to in my own service overseas. The things she talks about are quietly spoken about amongst missionaries (if there is a safe place to talk…some do not have this luxury!!) but it is rare to see them in public. In fact, I’ve never seen a book like this before. If I could recommend a book to anyone heading overseas, living overseas or for someone who loves and cares for missionaries, this would be it!

Please feel free to follow the link at the end of this post to enter a giveaway for ‘As Soon As I Fell.’

MendiB: How long did it take you to write this book, and why?

Kay Bruner: Parts of the book were written back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Our son Michael just turned 20, and his birth story is in there, pretty much as I wrote it to family and friends back in the day.  There’s a section of journal entries that’s 12 years old.  Probably 8 years ago, I tried to put it together and I just couldn’t make the structure work.  Finally, last fall, I figured out how to put it all together and I spent about 4 or 5 months being very disciplined in writing the first two drafts.

After the second draft, I thought it was done, but one of my beta readers said, “You have to open a vein here, Kay.”  And Katrina, my editor, kept asking question after question, so I wrote a third draft.  Then we worked on clean-up for a while.  The actual hard-work-writing process ended up taking most of a year, and I worked on it 3 days a week during that time.

MendiB: Why did you write it?

Kay Bruner: I wrote this book because I needed this book and couldn’t find it.  I was such a believer in knowing the rules and following them so my life would come out great, and that didn’t work AT ALL.  I did everything as right as I knew how to do it and I got a mess.  There wasn’t much written in the category of “Fail massively, and find God faithful.”  I knew we weren’t the only ones who had ever failed.  Statistics tell us that the average mission agency will lose 50% of its membership over a 10-year period, but all the books are missionary success stories.

It just seemed to me it was time to tell this other story, that God loves us right where we are, in all of our mess, and he’s not stymied when we fail.  I think the whole Bible is full of stories like that.  Many of the great heroes of the faith were also adulterers, liars, murderers, you name it.  That didn’t slow God down one bit back then, and God still works that way today.

MendiB: If you could choose an specific audience, who would it be, and why?

Kay  Bruner: This is really a love letter to women–and men–who are trying so hard to be so good, who are so exhausted by people-pleasing and expectations and rules and and and and and.  I want to say to you what Jesus said to me: “It is finished.  I have done it.  It’s not up to you.”  Sure, it’s for missionaries.  But I think us good girls and good boys are pretty much the same, regardless of our geographical location.

MendiB: How did writing the book change you?

Kay Bruner: Well, I learned some really interesting things about my own story, mostly because Katrina, my editor, as I said, is one persistent woman.  She just would not accept easy answers.  I would write something and she’d say, “But I still don’t understand…”  Some of the things that had happened were so painful that I hadn’t been able to think them through at the time.  I had just said to myself, “Well, God knows, and I have to forgive.  I don’t understand this, but He does.”

But in the process of Katrina pushing me so hard, I was able to see how some of the very worst things were like surgical tools in the hand of God.  He had used those specific things for healing and wholeness.  Also, hitting the “publish” button was a real act of bravery for me, because I felt like I’d written some hard things that push against the status quo that I was raised with.  It was another opportunity for me to believe that God loves me, even when I go ahead and tell the entire world the truth about some really difficult things in my life.

MendiB: What main message do want people to take away from reading the book?

Kay Bruner: I want people to know that God loves them with an everlasting Love, and that nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING ever separates us from that Love.  There is healing.  There is hope.  There is life beyond anything we could ever dare to ask, think, or dream.

MendiB: What kind of response have you had from your readers?

Kay Bruner: Well, I’ve had two main responses.  One response is silence, because I think this is a book that challenges a lot of the ways we think the Christian life works.  It’s the story of me starting out very sure of myself and my system and my calling and capacity to change the world, only to find myself broken into a million pieces.  I understand that not everybody shares my experience, much less my response to my experiences, and so they don’t say anything, and that’s fine.

The second response is that readers are grateful that someone is giving voice to a different kind of missionary experience, a different kind of faith walk, one that’s not about how to make your life perfect but instead, that no matter what, we can fall into Love, and find Love faithful.

I’d love to give away a copy of my book, As Soon As I Fell, to a reader.  In order to be entered, click over to my blog,, and subscribe before October 30.  We’ll randomly choose a winner and notify the winner by email.

MendiB: THANK YOU Kay, for sharing your story with us!

August 21, 2014

Crisis this week

by mendibpng


Once again, it’s really hard to begin a blog post. The things we are experiencing are balanced with joy and fun, so I want to be honest about all of it…(first world country problems, and all that!). Let me start by explaining some of the blessings we’ve experienced this week in particular:

  • Our furlough home community is now full, which means that families with kids of all ages are here.
  • Even though I’ve never met the other missionaries before now, I’ve already felt a sense of understanding between us. We’re all dealing with similar issues: kids in transition (grief over missing friends, etc.) and figuring out how to live life here.
  • Some family friends took all of us (and Ben’s parents) out for breakfast this week.
  • Ben and I had the chance to get away for 3 days last week, which is the first time we’ve left all five of our kids for more than 24 hours. Ben’s parents did a great job of looking after the grandkids!
  • We’ve had a chance to see some of our old small group friends, people who we can tell anything to, and who know our history.

The truth is, even though we are in the Western world and are enjoying life here, we are not immune to crisis when it happens to our beloved friends in Papua New Guinea.  We left PNG in June, knowing that there were multiple ‘hevi’s’ (problems) resting on the shoulders of our PNG colleagues, and we feel the pain of them even at a distance. Some of these impact our project directly, particularly one this week. I am not free to tell all the details, but our teammate is the only expat from our team in the village managing a building project, when a crisis happened, and one of our key PNG colleagues wanted to resign. Ben stayed up most of the night writing emails and talking to our colleagues over Skype, and we went to sleep that night not knowing what would happen the next day. If we lost this valuable coworker, we didn’t know how the project would continue, at least in the near future. Our other teammate was also able to talk to our colleague overseas and wrote last night to say that the initial crisis is past. However, the underlying community problems are still brewing under the surface so although the initial crisis is over, there is much need for prayer for the others.

When it was all happening, Ben, in his usual calm fashion, was writing emails and staying calm. As for me, not so much…I had a meltdown. It doesn’t take much for me to get really emotional these days, likely due to the transition and overloaded mental exhaustion.

On top of that, we feel really alone. It is not true, of course, because we have people we can email or call (Although sometimes in the midst of something really painful it’s hard to even sit down and write about it.) But if I were in PNG, I’d walk 1-2 minutes to one of my friends’ homes and have a good cry and not worry how the words would come out.

While we processed the crisis, and how we would respond, it dawned on me that we deal with crisis on a constant or at least regular basis. Some of the crises relate to our family directly, other times, our PNG coworkers suffer under life threatening injustice or sickness, and some relate to our physical daily living. For example, there was the time a few months ago when the solar panels went out and it took Ben and several colleagues days to figure out that they had been struck by lightning. On top of that, in PNG there are the stresses of daily living that I wouldn’t qualify as crises, but they do cause us to live at a high level of stress.

Here are some things I’ve caught myself doing:

  • I still look up anytime I’m under a tree. (Yes, I know there are no coconut trees in Wheaton, IL.)
  • I find it hard to throw good peanut butter jars or ice cream containers into the recycling bin (what if I need it, or someone else does?).
  • I still get a chill every time I lock the door at night because there’s no deadbolt!
  • I have to check myself from buying huge amounts of groceries at a time because I can go to the grocery store every single day this week, even nights and weekends.
  • I can’t always remember my phone number or even the names of old friends when I’m looking straight at them!

There are more but every time something like that happens, I laugh a little and tell myself that I’m not on high alert anymore. Deep breaths. When I talk to the Lord, He says, “Mandy, trust Me. I will take care of this. I know you feel the pain of this situation, but I’m walking right beside you. You are not alone.”

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NIV)





June 13, 2014

I am spoiled.

by mendibpng

food sm
(above) Some of my favorite items from Papindos, a store in Kainantu, which I’m able to get to every couple of months!

One of the things that I feel constantly while packing up for furlough is the fact that I’m living in a place where many of my neighbors are subsistence farmers, or work for a small hourly wage. Their monthly earnings are a small fraction of what I spend on groceries each week.

We’ve lived in one place for four years (well, with trips to the village in between) and it has been such a good thing for our family!! But it means that we’ve collected unneeded items: jars for making jam, empty soda bottles for making guava and passion fruit juice, and other things that we are happy to give away. It is just awkward when I am walking down my hill with a box of empty bottles and people are standing there waiting to take them away, with a hungry expression. I try to smile graciously but end up walking away feeling sad, because of what those empty jars represent. I have money to buy things. I sometimes use it frivolously, like last week when I bought a couple of [expensive] chocolate bars, thinking they would help me get through the transition! On the other hand, I do a lot of meals that don’t require cheese or meat so that I can fill us up with less expensive (and fresh from the market) veggies…but I still have money to buy rice to eat with the veg! And I always have coffee to drink every morning.

It is sobering to put things in the trash, knowing that in a few minutes, it will be someone else’s treasure. I don’t think there’s a cure for this feeling. There will always be a disparity between my wealth and the people I live amongst. I try to be generous and kind…but I have to be very careful to do it in a culturally appropriate way. It can be very complicated–just ask the new people who come, because we say, “Yes, you can do that…but it might be better to do…only, if you do that, this might happen….”

Anyway, this is one of the many stresses of living overseas, but in this particular week, it’s something that is on my mind constantly because we’re trying to go from being people of plenty to more minimalistic living. It means we have to look at each item and decide if we need it, and if not how will we dispose of it? If we’re keeping it, how will we store it? (Having the twins potty trained, out of cribs and done with sippy cups, booster seats and toddler toys is already a huge help.) There are multiple layers to the decision-making! I know that in two weeks, I will be gone from here and I won’t face these things as often but it will still be on my mind, when we get emails from national co-workers dealing with illness or a family death (which is a huge financial output for the grieving family). So my prayer today is, “Lord, give me wisdom because You promised you would give it whenever I ask!” And help me embrace the hard bits because I know it will be worth it to get to the more simple life I’ve been longing for.

%d bloggers like this: