Back in fall of last year, some friends in Jacksonville reached out to us about writing a kids book. The church we attend in Jacksonville has a reading program for the youth highlighting missionary biographies. One of their ideas was to not only use biographies of “famous” missionaries but also to highlight the missionaries and their kids that the church is raising up, sending out, and supporting from within the body.
We did some brainstorming with Dina and Abby about what their life has been like here in the village, and what parts of it they would like to share with people back in the States. That was the beginning of the book, “Backwards But Normal.” The final version of the book was sent to the printers back in January 2020 and then shared at Christian Family Chapel’s mission conference.
The thumbnail sketch of the book describes Dina and Abby’s “normal” life in the village. They share the things that they love, what they do day to day, and introduce some friends of theirs from the village. The “backwards” part is expressing how their experience growing up in the village isn’t what most of us grew up with and therefore it’s “backwards”.
Paralleling their experience we also tried to share some of the tribal ideas that appear backwards on the surface, yet their underlying reason for those ideas is actually very normal. It’s normal to want to protect your children, its normal to want to stay safe, and healthy. Achieving that goal though exposes some backwards ideas.
Well I’m not going to reveal any more of the girls’ book, “Backwards But Normal.” If you are interested in getting a copy email us and we can give you the details of how to order a book. The money we get from the sale of these books is going to be used for printing more reading material in the Kendawangan language.
One final reflection I would like to add related to the girl’s book, is about how we all face health and safety issues. In Psalm 121 we see a traveler who is facing a fearful and unknown journey. The question he raises is a question that we all ask, “From where does my help come?”
Interestingly the psalmist’s starting point is what he can see with his eyes. “I look up towards the hills.” The NLT translation I believe captures the true sense of the verse, “I looked up to the mountains – Does my help come from there?”
Primitive cultures saw mountains as inaccessible places, places of spiritual power. Often in the Biblical text you hear about “high places”. The mountain tops are the domain of spiritual power, their place to call upon their gods. The point again is that on these mountain tops God or the gods are more accessible to man.
In the village we have heard many stories of people climbing a tall mountain to seek help from their spirit gods. In the picture below you can see in the distance one mountain that pokes above the surrounding hills. That is Limpang which, in our area is famous as a place to seek fortune from the spirit gods.
Although that may seem very different from modern man, it’s actually not that different. Where do we look to deal with the unknowns and fears of life? We are surrounded by large institutions that help us manage these unknowns. So when we are faced with trials and troubles it’s very natural to allow these institutions to be our mountain, our “high place”.
If we follow the writer of Psalm 121 he is starting out his journey, a journey that has the potential for many dangers and unknowns. The potential dangers and unknowns cause him to question what help he will have on the journey. He looks up and sees the mountains, the natural source of strength for so many people. This is the well worn path, what everyone else puts their trust in. Yet instead of choosing that false path he remembers the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth. Then in genuine trust he confesses the Lord as his ever watchful and loving protector.
We are wise when we choose that same path of steady trust in God no matter what journey is before us. There is no other spirit god or institution that can lovingly guard us and sustain us in every circumstance. Only the God of the Psalmist, who is our God is able.
“The LORD will protect you in all you do, now and forever more.” Ps 121:8
Tim for the Ullums.