Learning is the name of the game on the mission field. And not just the “fuzzy” lessons that are neat revelations that feel good. I’m talking about the yucky, “I don’t want to learn this” kinds of lessons. As a relatively new Nazarene, I’m continually learning about what it means to be part of a holiness denomination. That may sound like high church talk, but at its core, holiness is allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you continually in an ongoing re-making into the character of Christ. It’s humility and patience and self-control and many other tough-to-learn characteristics of the Savior. According to the father of our tradition, John Wesley, this change is both “instantaneous and ongoing.” I love this. Marriage has been the best teacher of this concept for me. I made the decision to make a vow to Justin on 10-16-06, but that wasn’t the end. The relationship I have with him continues to grow…some days it feels good and immersive, and other days, we are together because that’s what we do. We’re choosing each other, even when it’s not pretty or it’s hard. And through ALL the days, we are being made more into the image of what a holy marriage looks like. It’s a choice we made 12 years ago and it continues to mold who we are today.
*Displaced for their sake
Today I was messaging back and forth on social media with our pastor from back home. He’s young (well, I’m 45 now so that’s not saying much), but he’s honestly one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. He asked how we were and I responded with “well, there’s the things you say in newsletters and on social media and then there’s the real stuff, you know?” He does know. He and his wife served overseas for awhile not long after they were married. So yeah, they know. Even though it was a different country and a different context than PNG, any cross-cultural experience needs its own secret handshake. Because there are definitely things that westerners moving abroad all “get.”
His response to me helped put into words something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is I’m supposed to be DOING these days…these ordinary days…in PNG. He said, “…There is such value and faithfulness in the struggle itself that speak to those around you who see that you are displaced for their sake.” Being vs. doing. It’s been my struggle for literally years. One of my strengths on the strengths finder is developer. Developers celebrate the little things, the lessons learned, the small victories in themselves and others. But they can also see themselves and others as projects. We always need to be working on something. That’s when the “doing” can get in the way of the “being.”
*”Do not fear…she is mine”
This weekend, I had some big emotions around raising our little girl as a Cross-cultural Kid (CCK—apparently, it’s a term now). I get stuck in those big emotions sometimes and have trouble getting out, no matter what I know in my head. My heart feels things so deeply that sometimes it physically hurts. I’ve had a lot of guilt about taking our daughter out of her original country, then away from the US after five years, then living in this place where hellos and goodbyes are more than common. Her childhood looks nothing like that of me or Justin: no house that’s “ours,” no siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or a sense of place and belonging. She doesn’t have much that I considered to be the most positive things in my own childhood. She has already gained a sense of non-permanency, having said goodbye to numerous people from our mission station in the 15 months we’ve been here. She’s been in seven countries in as many years. She was internationally adopted. Her life looks nothing like mine did at her age. But wrongly, I have assumed that meant her life would be lacking.
God is teaching me, yet again, to trust. I have been reminded by friends, in prayer, and through scripture that she does not belong to me. God will use every experience in her life to draw her to himself. Isaiah 43:1 says, ‘Do not fear, for I have ransomed (her); I have summoned (her) by name. (She) is mine.’ This verse serves as much a promise to me as it does to her.
*Preparing for home assignment
In just five short months, we will be heading to the States for our home assignment. We’re already scheduled to speak in 12 churches, two kids’ camps, and several zone rallies in our denomination. How do you condense a year and a half of your life in Papua New Guinea into a half hour presentation? How do we tell the story of this place, the learning, the grieving, the people, the steps forward, and the heartbreak? There’s the story of how God is re-making our family and the story of how we’re seeing God at work in this place. Both/and. We’re praying for clarity and wisdom in the task of carrying these sacred stories back to those who have supported us and to those who will as we return to PNG.
*”What do you eat?”
To finish out these five things, let’s talk about something a little more lighthearted. People ask us all the time what we eat in PNG. We grocery shop once a month and buy the same things from month to month. We make 95% of our meals at home and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Our dinner menus consist of chicken (instantpot with honey, curry, mustard, and butter—try it, it’s amazing), veggies (fresh, not canned mostly), ground beef (tacos or spaghetti), steak stir fry with jasmine rice, and breakfast (homemade pancakes, bacon—more like ham, and eggs). If we don’t feel like cooking, it’s normally grilled cheese sandwiches and potato soup. But our favorite staple has been fresh pineapple. When we moved in, we found out that our house had a pineapple patch in the back yard. On a good week, we get 1-2 from the garden. We usually will eat a whole pineapple with dinner. It’s definitely my most favorite thing about the food scene here. Well, that and a potato called carrot kaukau. It’s the closest thing to a sweet potato and I could eat it every day! The cost of food is reverse from the States: produce is cheap and packaged food is expensive. For example, a box of cereal is around $12. What we spend on food each month takes up the bulk of our budget. We’re learning to use a Kitchenaid mixer for the first time ever. We love our Instantpot. And we know how to light an oven using a long match 😉