We just finished our first week of NCLA (national culture and language acquisition) and it was quite a busy one! A typical week in language study will be Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm with a few of those mornings spent out in surrounding villages, developing relationships and making fools of ourselves…er, learning language.
This week we also got the opportunity to help with an immunization day that our medical clinic hosted. Our doctors and nurses were busy administering shots to over 700 people while all us non-medical types were used as kid-clamps (Brent’s job, haha) and shot mixers/fillers (I think I loaded over 400 syringes that day). It was awesome to be involved in helping the surrounding villages in such a needed and practical way.
Our trip to the village this week involved crossing a river and a four hour-ish walk around the villages on the other side. We met a handful of our neighbors, picked up a bit of language, learned a little about their gardens and homes, and in general got a brief glimpse of the culture that surrounds us. We took our kids out for this and they did great until about the last hour or so when the exhaustion of walking around in the sun for several hours started to get to them. Brent and I did a lot of this when we were here before in 2009, so much of the PNG way of life is not shocking or unsettling for us, but with kids, village visits can be very challenging in different ways.
After going out this week, we realize that we will be dealing with a delicate balance between letting our kids have some freedom and play with the PNG kids and trying to protect them from elements of PNG culture that are very normal for them but scary and even potentially dangerous to us (ie toddlers wandering around with machetes). Pray for us to have wisdom as we continue our classes; we want to make friends and feel comfortable in the villages but we also want to be careful with our children and what they are exposed to.
In all, it’s been a fantastic week. We’ve been in country about five weeks now and it’s great to finally be getting involved in the community outside of our missionary center. There is a sense of pervading contentment that we have not felt in a long time. For myself, I feel like I’m finally “home” in the sense of serving in a place and a way that God created me for. Let me tell you, there is nothing better, absolutely nothing more fulfilling, than being in the very spot that the Lord has asked you to be. It might be difficult, it might be scary, it might even be the last thing that you thought you’d be doing but when the Lord has put you there, you’ll find the deepest sense of peace and wholeness that you could ever imagine.
When we were giving the immunizations, I was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people who look different from me, talk different than me, smell very different than me, and in general are about as far away from what I consider “normal” (as in the culture I was raised in) as possible. But the sense of joy I felt in the midst of that mass of humanity was as profound as anything I’ve ever known because in that moment, just by smiling and touching and attempting to communicate, I was being who God has asked me to be, who he created me to be – his ambassador on earth. All that to say, I’m very glad we’re finally here!
(Sorry, the internet is EXTREMELY slow and none of our other pictures are uploading so here’s what we’ve got.)