When our team first moved into our specific village among the Iski, there were several factors that led us to choose this location over others:
- Our village was built for the sole purpose of hearing God’s Word explained in their language.
- Since the village is composed of many different family clans (which is not normal), it should be easier to facilitate future outreaches among other villages later on.
- Our village is directly on the border of another language group that has recently heard God’s Word, so this spot allows us the opportunity to model interdependence with other members of God’s family, in spite of socio-linguistic barriers.
What DID NOT lead us to choose this location is its available cell phone signal (or, lack thereof). I know that a poor cell phone signal may seem like an inconsequential thing to many people, especially those living in more developed countries, but over here it’s kind of a big deal. In our neck of the jungle, there are no roads, no phone lines, no power lines, no cable networks, and DEFINITELY no coffee shops or public libraries touting internet “hot spots.” Our cell signal is our ONLY means of contacting the outside world.*
This means that, when our cell network is up and running, we can do things like contact our mission doctor for medical advice, email our supply buyers for groceries, and book helicopter flights to bring in supplies and consultants. Once in a blue moon, we can even load a web page or two. Of course, this also means that, when our cell service is down, which is often, we CAN’T do any of those things. As you can imagine, this can be fairly irksome at times.
Like earlier this year, when I was trying to pay my taxes.** My money was in a bank in the U.S., but I was in a jungle in Papua New Guinea, and my internet was too slow to load any of my bank’s web pages. My eventual payment plan involved me sending all of my passwords and user ID information to my mom, helping her get through the security questions, and walking her through the transaction procedures. Via email. That was a fun two weeks. The IRS made it especially memorable by mistakenly adding an extra filing charge afterwards:
“Mr. Callahan, our records show that you paid an arm and a leg to the government this year, but you failed to pay that sum through your nose, as required per section IV, Article 43 of the current tax code. Please see the attached penalty invoice. If you feel this charge is invalid, because we did the same thing to you last year and admitted as much, then please feel free to call one of our representatives, and they will respectfully laugh in your face.
P.S. We are too busy laughing at people to read any emails sent to us, and no, we will not talk to your mother about it.”
For those of you computer savvy people, a thought may be crossing your mind about this time: “Wait a minute; you say you can’t do things online, but I’m reading this on a BLOG! Blogs are on the internet!”
Here’s the thing about my digital footprint: most of it is the result of other people’s efforts. For instance, all my blog posts, including this one, are put online by a friend of mine at our mission’s home office in Florida.
Our stream-lined editorial process goes something like this: I get tired of hitting my head against the wall learning the Iski language, so I stop and write a blog post instead. I email the content to my friend in Sanford, FL. He stops whatever important communications work he is doing, good-naturedly rolls his eyes at my whiny depictions of jungle living, and writes back to remind me to send a picture along with the text. I write back and send a resized photo. He responds and kindly mentions that the point of the picture is to get people to WANT to read the blog post, so I probably shouldn’t send gross photos of my tropical ulcer. I send a different picture. He puts it all online for me. You and 17 other subscribers read what I wrote.
You may be wondering why I’m even taking the time to write such a lengthy discourse detailing the limitations of our communication situation. Well, that’s the good news! A company has recently struck a deal with our mission organization to allow missionaries like us to have access to satellite internet at half the normal cost!
We had looked into the option previously, but the expense was out of our team’s budget. Now though, with the reduced rate, we can afford to pay the monthly fee! Once we are able to raise the $5,000 initial start-up costs to purchase the hardware, we will be able to have consistent, usable internet in our jungle location! Homeschool research, easy communication with far-off friends and family, online banking, all within our reach!
If you or your church would like to join in the efforts to raise these funds, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
*Unless you count our team radio, which, when it is working, allows us to call our leadership between 7:00-7:30 PM and inform them that we are not dead.
**Yes, missionaries pay taxes. Lots and lots of taxes. Federal taxes, State taxes, Social Security taxes (including the part usually paid by one’s employer). It is entirely unenjoyable.