September 17, 2015

Happy Birthday Papua New Guinea!

by mendibpng

bilas
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to our family.  We first arrived in 2002 as a family of four, and eventually grew to be a family of seven. Yesterday was PNG’s 40th birthday. I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to our home of 13 years.

JB

  • Many of our happiest family memories come from PNG: going to the beach in Wewak, making fireworks out of steel wool, swimming in the river, etc.

    twins dancing

  • Since our kids have grown up here, our friends have become family, both PNG and expats. I love that I can get to a close friend’s house in a 5-10 minutes’ walk.
    kuka
  • I love the relational aspects of Melanesian culture. Working together, sharing, reciprocating, and being with people are important here.
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  • We have a purposeful ministry in the work of Bible translation. It is mind boggling that where we live people do not have access to God’s Word in their own language. Every Scripture portion that comes from The Aitape West Project is one more piece of God’s Talk for our neighbors to read and hear for the first time in their language. There is nothing like seeing the look on someone’s face when they hear it for the first time, as evidenced in the picture above, when Pastor Peter played the audio of the Gospel of Luke at the market one day.
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  • I love the beautiful foliage, landscape and animals. (I admit I’m not too crazy about pesky insects though!) Every morning I wake up to a bunch of birds in the eucalyptus tree next to my house singing crazy songs.
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  • We have freedom here to serve the PNG people in whatever way they need it.
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  • PNG is the land of the unexpected. I am constantly learning from this that I am not in control of everything. It is a good thing because I tend to hold too tightly to my plans and my ideas. When we first arrived in PNG, other missionaries modeled being learners and respecting the culture and environment we are in; it has helped us walk into situations with open hands.
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  • Our kids are growing up with lots of people from different cultures. They are learning to navigate cultural misunderstandings as well as value different perspectives. Ben and I have benefited from this too.
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  • We live with minimal commercialism here. Being in a place where it’s difficult to get something (and it’s costly!) means that you really consider whether you want to buy it or not. None of us has it perfect, but I feel like our kids have a lot of opportunities to be in nature, to create, and to be free to play.
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  • To sum it all up, the people here are the biggest reason I love PNG. God put them on our hearts years ago, and whispered to us that He wanted us to stay, even though we thought we’d only come for a short while.

We belong here.

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September 10, 2015

You are welcome here!

by mendibpng

smile
I have spent three days pondering this quote,

Hospitality is rooted in the word hospital, which comes from two Greek words meaning “loving the stranger.” It evolved to mean “house for strangers” and later came to be known as a place of healing. Eventually, hospitality meant connecting with strangers in such a way that healing took place. Therefore, when we show openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe, the relationship becomes a place of healing. As we welcome people just as they are and invited them to join us just as we are, it becomes a sacred event reflecting what Jesus did for us–providing us with a healing relationship.

–Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer

I readily admit that it takes a great deal of courage at times for me to be open and welcoming to strangers. A few years ago, a friend of mine taught cross cultural principles to our Papua New Guinean staff here. The thing that stuck with me from that training was simple. “Smile,” they said, “and shake hands with us. You can even hug us!” (The Highlands culture tends to be much more affectionate than I had originally thought.) So, I started to intentionally smile when we passed people on the road, walk into the store or hardware center, and also to the people we buy veggies from at the market. Here in PNG, walking past people without looking at them communicates that we are busy and that the person we are passing isn’t important. (One person said “I feel like a dog or a pig if you don’t smile at me,” which to me conveyed, “I feel devalued as a person.”) I am not saying that smiling is appropriate in every culture everywhere, this is just something I’ve been conscious of here in PNG because I heard that it communicated value to my neighbors.
2010-10-13 Final Checking (12)

I know, I know, this sounds really simplistic. Aren’t I here to share and live out the gospel? If I am, as Elmer says above, “showing openness toward people who are different from us, welcome them into our presence, and make them feel safe,” then isn’t Jesus present there? I really don’t have to go out of my way to search for people to be friendly to since I live in a community full of people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds. If you look at me, you’d likely think, “oh she’s an American.” However, if you start talking to me, you might realize that I’m a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and I am really quite odd/strange/unique. I might find something incredibly funny that other Americans wouldn’t, or I might not catch onto a joke that most people would normally get. It is rare for me to come across anyone who has lived where I lived and had the same experiences as me. It is more common for me to delve into friendships here with people who have had completely different experiences. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be from the same cultural background to share an intimacy with Jesus. He links us together through love. As a student of culture and personality styles, I’m learning how to show love (appropriately) in relationships. In doing so, I feel like I’m holding a small piece of the colors and depths of beauty that I will be seeing more of in heaven.

September 3, 2015

Settling back into life in Papua New Guinea

by mendibpng

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(above) Ellie and our little friend Eowyn. Our friendships here are close, often the kids are like cousins their little MK friends!

I have given myself a full blogging free month to settle into life back here in Papua New Guinea. Knowing my history with transition, it has been a good thing to just focus on looking after my family and reconnecting with both Papua New Guinean and expat (missionary) friends.

I have been pleasantly surprised when I didn’t find it overly taxing to start cooking everything from scratch again. On the other hand, I underestimated the emotional energy it takes to live in a close (and very diverse cross-cultural) community. I wrote about the ups and downs here and here a back in 2011 and still feel the same things now in 2015.

I wish I was able to spout a good missionary story today, but the reality for me most days is that I’m wading through the mundane: going to market, keeping track of our children and their schedules, reading with the twins, helping with homework when needed, and negotiating meaning when interacting cross-culturally with my neighbors and friends.

Since my life mirrors a lot of missionary moms, I thought I might make a quick note of what goes on in a normal day for me. On some days, we have coffee and play dates, which really help break up the days.

6:30
Make sure Joe and Ellie are up
Go to market.
Make fire in the fireplace for warm water.
Start a load of laundry.

7:00
Wake up twins and Noah
Help twins get breakfast and follow their ‘chore’ charts
Make coffee & eat breakfast

7:30
Take Ellie to school, Joe walks to school

8:30
Take twins to school, Noah walks to school

8:45-12:00
Spend time with God & read
Make bread or bagels or tortillas
Start dinner prep
Do errands
Hang up clothes
Make lunch for house and yard helpers
Check email and respond if needed

12:10
Pick up twins from school
Make lunch for everyone who is here

1:00-2:45
Quiet time for twins and I (reading, etc.) Clean house.

2:45-5:00
Pick up Ellie. Supervise homework, instrument practice, playdates, take down clothes, more cooking, etc.

5:00-11:00
Dinner, kids, and more kids…..

I have had several invitations to do other things outside my home, but since I am team leader with Ben for our project and also mom to five kids, we both agreed that I needed to focus on those two roles for the time being. I am glad for the freedom, for instance, to make food and attend a haus krai (literally a “house cry,” or a wake) last week.

Another thing I’ve been pondering is the fact that everybody told me that our kids would grow up fast, and I believed it. However, the reality of just how fast is hitting home, now that our oldest is in 11th grade and beginning to plan out his future. The ‘letting go’ has already begun, although we’re still really involved in his life…in many ways, he and his siblings (at least the next two older ones) are fairly self sufficient. Their lives are busy and full.

I am really grateful to be back here. Both Ben and I are being very intentional about maintaining our spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health, since we both arrived home on furlough in 2014 in burnout mode. It has been wonderful to reconnect with our close friends again.

A dear friend gave this verse to me last week:

You are chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be holy, God’s instrument to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night and day difference he made for you–from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2: 9, 10 (The Message)

I want to start each day being drenched in the love of God, so that as I go about my daily (mundane) tasks, I will be God’s instrument of grace and love. Whether I’m at the store or market, or passing someone on the street, this is my prayer.

September 2, 2015

Does the rain have a father?

by bzephyr

The wisdom and power of God is simply awesome. In Job 38:25-28, the Lord says to Job…

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?

Truly, we are dependent on God who controls the rain and the dew and the miracle of sprouting plants.

We’re in the midst of a drought here in Papua New Guinea, and the need for rain becomes more and more urgent as water tanks become depleted and our local neighbors are running out of food in their gardens. Everything is drying up outside, and the green hillsides and colorful flowers are all turning brown. Please pray to our heavenly Father that he will send rain on this dry and thirsty land.

A few days ago, I started a new hobby. I’m growing sprouts and herbs. In the context of the dry conditions surrounding us, it’s a good reminder of how dependent we are on God for the wonders he performs every day, like the sending of rain, the germination of seeds, and the growth of his wide variety of living creations.

My new sprouter trays

My new sprouter trays

I picked up this little sprouter tray system when we passed through Cairns, Australia, on the way back to PNG in July. Having grown sprouts before in a glass jar, the thing I’m really enjoying about this multi-tiered tray system is that each tray has a small water outlet to allow water to wash over each level of the trays. I think this will prove to be really helpful with growing sprouts, because one tip to keep them from spoiling before they’re ready to eat is to water them frequently. This system makes it easy to do.

I was amazed how fast the alfalfa seeds began to sprout…

Alphalfa sprouting within 24 hours

Alfalfa sprouting within 24 hours

The mung beans were the next to sprout with the soya beans not too far behind…

The soya beans are not too far behind the mung beans

A few soya beans are trying to keep up

The Japanese radish, black mustard, and rocket only show a few signs of sprouting…

Rocket, mustard, and

Rocket, mustard, and Japanese radish

The basil, sunflower, and more rocket are proving to be the slowest to start.

The

Basil, sunflower, and rocket

As I went outside just now to check on one of my herbs, I noticed the ground was wet. It’s not raining outside, but it’s misting. Praise the Lord! Please send some big rains.

June 26, 2015

A Missionary Tale of Moving…

by mendibpng

JB&GPA
(above) Jenny Beth getting in a last hug from her grandpa the night before we left Chicago.

As I laid awake at 2am, the questions flashed through my mind like,

“did I get enough sunscreen?” (insert any item your family regularly uses)

“how much luggage do we get from LA to Melbourne? Melbourne to Cairns? etc…”

“did I respond to that urgent email?”

“when will my visa come?”

“will they take (spices) off me going through customs in Australia?” (so should I put it on my Australia list?)

During the days, we kept packing “just one more” trunk for shipping, and “just one more” piece of luggage. The number for each grew, and I felt more and more guilty because “why do we need all this stuff??” Which was followed immediately with relief because, “we do have five kids!” And, we’ll have no more access to Costco/Walmart/Target or American pharmacies for the next two (or so) years.

Between the strategizing of packing and packing itself, we took everyone to the dentist, optometrist, and family doctor and then had follow ups with specialists. In the middle of all of that, four of our kids had oral surgery, Ben had knee surgery and Noah broke his arm! I remember Ben saying that it felt like every appointment we went to led to another set of appointments. On top of that, we squeezed in homeschooling our kids in between going to the appointments. I remember feeling significant relief when, during the week before we left, there were no more doctors or dentists to visit!

Then there were the piles and boxes accumulated everywhere. We couldn’t see our floor in our bedroom–the staging room–for six months! Our ‘give away’ piles for Good Will got bigger and bigger as well, which gave me a huge sense of relief. (Have I mentioned how wonderful it is that they are open 7 days a week???)

These scenarios occurred over and over in the weeks leading up to our moving out of our furlough home. So many large and small details to attend to, that my mind and heart were in complete chaos. That tight wad of unease in my stomach just lived there, and I can feel it coming back, just writing about those weeks. I did what I could to keep my focus on God, listen to worship music, and I knew He was walking through it with me. But there was just the matter of walking through it. Not really anywhere else to go, except just keep going.

If you had seen me during that time, I might have said something about being overwhelmed but I really did try to put on a brave face and keep going. Stuffing down my emotions is really my coping mechanism, something I perfected in boarding school starting at age six.

I’m on the other side now, relaxing at my sister’s house in Australia for a few weeks on our way to Papua New Guinea. In many ways, we went through a lot of things that normal people in America do when they are moving. (What to pack, what to give away, what to throw away) But we have several categories of each thing (ship it, leave it, or take in our luggage, for instance.) plus all the other things mentioned above needed for our return, which almost puts us into ‘crisis’ mode.

Since I’m on the other side, why am I waking up again with my mind racing at 2am in the morning? Jetlag? Or maybe it’s my anxiety kicking in again, trying to process the unknowns ahead of me…I’m heading back to a lot of knowns and a lot of unknowns. I’m grieving the loss of face-to-face time with friends and family that we’ve left behind or who have left Ukarumpa in our absence. And once again, it just ‘is.’ The difference this week, is that I actually have time to think about my emotions and process them. It’s times like these when Davids words from Psalm 91 comfort me,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

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May 20, 2015

Common Ground and Gratitude

by mendibpng

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I am not a stranger to grief. In fact, I feel like it’s a regular part of life for a transient overseas worker like me. So as our third furlough wraps up, the cycle of grieving has begun. Along with the grief of saying ‘good bye’ there is the roller coaster of anticipation of returning to our life and ministry in PNG. It can change hourly, even by the minute, these deep and often overwhelming emotions. The kids are feeling it, too. I know our twins and their little MK friends have been talking about the day when they will have to say “good bye” to each other…and then in the next moment, they talk about going “home” to the country they have spent most of their time growing up in.

We have been able to reconnect with dear friends and family (although we did not get everywhere we had hoped!) and had some new unexpected friendships develop during this furlough. For me, especially, coming back to the U.S., feeling like an anomaly/stranger, these old and new friendships were my lifeline. God used these people in my life to help me piece together the broken parts, something I didn’t even know I needed. I’m never keen on being the ‘needy’ one but I found out along the way that as I was willing to open up and share the hard things, people began opening up to me and sharing their hearts. Often there were ‘life giving’ moments where someone has shared something meaningful, and it has stuck with me. Very rarely did someone expect to ‘fix’ me or give me easy answers; rather, I felt heard and cared for. Something I noticed were threads of common ground, even with people who had completely different backgrounds, occupations and circumstances. Work stress, parenting, marriage issues are all things that a lot of people can relate to, whether you are a missionary or not. Following Jesus and loving each other are also threads of commonality amongst believers. There is nothing like the deep spiritual connection we have with one another!

So I am leaving with a sense of deep gratitude for the relationships I’m leaving behind here in the U.S. This is mixed with sadness. Because there’s nothing like seeing someone face to face, even if you are good at communicating over the miles! To me, it’s a little piece of what I’m expecting from heaven…not just walking into Jesus’ arms but being able to see my loved ones anytime and just “be” with them.

To you all who invested in us, knowing that we would only be here for a short while, thank you. I know that it isn’t easy to share a piece of yourself with someone who is going to leave in a few months. For me, even though it grieves me to leave, I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn, grow and receive healing through these old and new friendships. Those impactful moments are stored away for those lonely times overseas when I can pull them out of my memory and remember you.

May 8, 2015

The Pehrsons in Papua New Guinea

by bzephyr

Pehrsons-in-PNG-2

Is it worth the sacrifice to live so far away from home in Papua New Guinea with our five children?

Watch this video to learn about our life in PNG and why we answer that question the way we do.

Mandy’s PNG visa was granted today. That’s one more hurdle removed so that we can return to PNG in June.

April 30, 2015

Renewal

by mendibpng

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Ben’s dad Bill Pehrson took this photo of spring beauties….gorgeous!

“Mom, furlough isn’t really less work than when we are in Papua New Guinea, right? Maybe it’s more.” I thought for a minute and realized my son was right. Furlough has been full of speaking opportunities, visiting friends and relatives, getting caught up on much needed medical and dental work, staying in touch with our team, and doing translation remotely. Oh, and I can’t forget about homeschooling our five kids!

In spite of these things, we began our year long furlough intending to make time and space to recuperate from our last four year term in PNG.

Resources
Ben and I focused on our marriage and have spent time working through ways that we communicate with each other. When we were overseas, it was rare to have date nights or even significant time to focus on our marriage. It feels good to not just be surviving life together as roommates (and parents of five kids!) but to actually be ‘us’ again.

We’ve also benefited from pastoral care from our sending churches, and encouragement every time we share about our work in Papua New Guinea. When we arrived, our ‘tanks’ were nearing empty. But every interaction has been filling us back up so that we are feeling excited about returning to Papua New Guinea. When people approach us and say that they are praying for us or that they ‘get’ our heart for Bible translation, it encourages us deeply. We’ve been soaking up sermons and worship music in our mother tongue, English, which has helped our thirsty souls get much needed nourishment again. We have been so thankful for the new friendships we’ve made this year and the chance to renew old ones.

Re-Vision
In my roles with my family and our team, I have been doing some deep soul searching, asking God to renew my purpose for being in Papua New Guinea. I felt like I really needed to hear something again from Him. I’ve been consumed with being a mom to my five kids for the past 15 years, so in a way, I felt like I had lost myself. So I prayed, and waited. If you saw me last year, you’d have likely seen me with a dazed look in my eyes, completely overwhelmed and focused on survival.

During the course of the past couple of months, the theme has been “feed my sheep.” Over and over, in the books I’m reading and the sermons I’ve listened to, God has been confirming His purpose for me. Then the question that follows is, “how?” He answers, “I will show you” and “wait.” I don’t have to have a plan. In fact a plan would mean I could easily slip into following my own thinking. I’m continually learning to listen for the Holy Spirit speaking to me, rather than going about my business as I want. I am choosing Him every day, even every minute.

At the same time, God confirmed to Ben that his love for translation and Biblical exegesis is where he should be spending the majority of his ‘work’ time. As we head back with our (emotional/physical/mental) tanks full, we plan to continue using the new skills that we’ve learned this year to keep ourselves focused and intentional on loving God and others.

This last week has been full of doctor’s appointments and a missions conference but as we take one day at a time, I’m reminded again and again that I’m not in control. This handing over of myself is something I have struggled with my whole life. Although it is scary at times (because I don’t know what is going to happen!), I am secure in the One who loves me.

At Houghton, we used to sing this scripture, and it has been playing in my head this week. It’s amazing how God uses Scripture to give me strength for the next thing…

We wait in hope for the Lord
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice
For we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, oh Lord, even as we put our hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22

March 21, 2015

Mercy, not sacrifice

by mendibpng

car

I have been thinking a lot about the word “mercy” because this week I took several Spiritual Gifts inventories online. It turns out, that was my top categories in all of the inventories. (By the way, if you are interested in taking one, I thought this free one was the most detailed/helpful.)

I looked it up online at Meriam-Webster and the definitions were

: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly

: kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation

: a good or lucky fact or situation

The gift of mercy does resound with me because I gravitate towards righting injustice, caring for those who are downtrodden, and showing compassion to those who are left in the gutter. (A note here, this gifting can quickly lead to compassion fatigue, but that is a post for another time!)

As our return to Papua New Guinea fast approaches, I have begun praying for a renewed sense of what God wants for me over there. In December of this year, I clearly heard Him tell me that we would return and He would provide for all of our needs. But the question I have now is…what does He want for me? So far, my roles of wife, mother and team leader (a job I share with Ben) keep me busy. But I don’t want to end up tired and burned out again because I was seeking my own list of tasks without pursing what God has for me.

I usually like to write posts AFTER I’ve figured things out, because that makes me feel less insecure and more justified in writing. Credibility is something I value…but as I said in my last post maybe it’s not as important as being authentic.

I have loved the book “The Emotionally Healthy Church,” by Peter Scazzero for many years now, and end up re-reading it once a year. This year, I came across his wife Geri’s book called “The Emotionally Healthy Woman.” While her husband was pastoring a church that they planted, she quit. Her book explains the things she had to quit in order to become a more healthy person. I haven’t progressed in the book because I got stuck on chapter three, where she says,

“Quit dying to the wrong things”

I’ve never asked myself that question, ie, “what am I dying to that I shouldn’t be?” quite so succinctly. When Ben and I joined the Bible Translation movement over 15 years ago, God spoke to me personally. I asked Him to speak to me clearly because I didn’t want to wake up one day overseas and blame my husband for dragging me over there. He did. I left relationships, material things and cultural comforts and traded them for new relationships, a labor intensive lifestyle, culture stress/conflicts and a ministry where we could see God’s Word directly impacting people’s lives. As I often say, it’s hard, but good. Painful, but purposeful. There are some days when the sacrifices feel like they are too much. Then there are the days when we feel encouraged by the stories we hear or by prayer times we have with our PNG colleagues who face constant injustice and hardship and we know we are in the right place.

So, as we prepare to go again for our third term, I’m asking Him again, “what do you want of me?” and adding to it, “what am I sacrificing that I shouldn’t be?” and “Am I really ready to say my goodbyes and pack up my family again for another term overseas?”

So, back to my spiritual gift of mercy…the ideas of mercy and sacrifice are actually together in the Bible, but for some reason I never linked them, even though the following verse is one I memorized as a small child. I don’t understand how they fit together (if you do have some insight for me please comment, because I really want to know!) I can’t have mercy without sacrificing some part of myself, either in some material way or an emotional one…but maybe the key is in “acknowledgement of God.” So once again I’m asking for His wisdom, rather than seeking my own.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (NIV)

March 14, 2015

Watch what God will do… (part 2)

by bzephyr

IMG_9797cropColorTwo months ago, we invited you to watch what God would do as we trusted him to provide the resources for us to follow his calling to return to Papua New Guinea in the ministry of Bible translation there. We were receiving 66% of our required monthly ministry budget at the end of December, and we have to be at 100% before we can go back.

Praise the Lord with us for his continuing provision!

At the end of January, we were receiving 82% of our required monthly budget.
At the end of February, were were at 85%.

And listen to this… 82 days ago, we started keeping a record of the new ways that God would use his people to provide for our needs. There are 59 items now on that list, which is exactly 5 per week (not even counting the many ways that people continue to faithfully partner with us month after month and year after year).

Please pray with us, too, that we will receive the significant one-time needs in order to go back. One of those needs is our return airfare for the seven of us to fly seven legs from Chicago to our remote village in Papua New Guinea, with some needed stops along the way. Thank you for partnering with us in God’s ministry of Bible translation.

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