When we were getting ready to come over here to Papua New Guinea and move into our tribe, people were always telling us how exciting and full of adventure our lives were. They acted like we were going to be experiencing something akin to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” every day. It was presumed that our lives would be a regular montage of exotic travel, epic drama, and thrilling exploits.
I never really bought into the idea that life over here was going to be similar to a Hollywood movie, but that just goes to show my naivety. It turns out that living amongst a remote people group in the jungle is JUST like a movie. But instead of experiencing a daily fare of Indiana Jones-style adventure, we often feel more like we’re in a really low-budget version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”*
Seriously, I didn’t know what monotony WAS until we moved in here and started language-learning! Every day, I do the same thing with the same people. I talk about the same culture events,** trying to improve my comprehension of the Iski language. I stare blankly into the same faces, trying to understand the simple, yet completely unintelligible, utterance that was just directed at me. We don’t meet new people. We don’t eat new food. The sun goes down at the same time every day. The weather never changes. Jungle living is usually NOT EXCITING.
Case in point: the most adventurous thing to happen to me in the last several weeks was that I contracted my first abscess (also referred to as a “boil”) on my big toe. And, personally, I wouldn’t really call this “adventurous” as much as “just plain painful.”
I had always kind of thought that boils were like big pimples, or something. It turns out that this is true in much the same way that you might say getting a splinter is a lot like getting impaled by a spear; they’re similar in theory, but very different in experience.
For about a week, my carbon-copy living included the slight addition of a limp to my walk. Eventually though, in a crescendo of pus-filled glory, this mammoth-sized sore on my big toe ruptured, leaving a swollen, oozing crater in its stead. This set the stage for my second “adventure” of the week, wherein I stopped working at the computer only to realize that 20+ ants were huddled together on my toe DRINKING THE GOO FROM MY WOUND.
These are the sort of fun-filled thrills that abound in the land of the tribal church planter.
So, the next time you find yourself thinking of how exciting life must be working with an unreached people group, stop, watch “Groundhog Day” 4 times back-to-back, and then pray for all of us bored-out-of-our-minds missionaries, that we wouldn’t forget why we’re here and why this work is worth a few years of mind-numbing doldrums.
* For those who don’t know, “Groundhog Day” is a comedy about a grumpy guy who gets stuck reliving the exact same day for a super long time until he learns to be nice.
**We learn language in the context of the culture happening around us, so instead of working from a list of English words that we want to learn the Iski equivalent of, we often go around with photo books depicting events that we have taken part in. This helps us illicit language through the lens of the Iski speaker, instead of trying to force them to communicate through the narrow framework of our own language.