Recently we posted on facebook that we would be answering any questions YOU have about our lives over here in Papua New Guinea. As a result, we received many great questions and are excited to present to you Part 1 of Your Questions Answered!
- “How has your view of American culture changed in light of your new experiences in the Tigak culture?”
- “What do you like most about the people you are serving?”
- “Are any of the people on your island interested in the world outside their village or what they know?”
- “What do the Tigak people think of you and other missionaries being in their village? Do they feel like you should be there or some like it and others are a bit more hesitant/not happy?”
- “Do the people on your island like your style of home and lifestyle (technology and all)?”
- “Would they like you to live like they do and want to share how to survive with less western-type things?”
- “Do they understand you can get lonely being far from home?”
- “What local foods do you most enjoy?”
- “How long does it take to get packages to you?”
- “Is there anything (besides the obvious things) that might not be good to ship? Is there something you would LOVE to receive?”
- “How has God changed your thinking/perspective since you’ve been in the tribe?”
- “What is the latest word on your house building project?”
- “Do you see Jude and Iris continuing to love their time there as much as it looks like or is there something we can pray about in this area?”
- “How do I get a beard like that?”
- “How are you guys keeping yourselves fed/encouraged/challenged from God’s word?”
There’s a few things that come to mind, but I’ll just touch on one. From our vantage point, people here are much more invested in relationships. Generally speaking, back in the States we all have blips of moments in other people’s lives throughout the day and that seems to be it. We go home and have closeness with our immediate family, but everyone else we keep at a safe distance. Then there’s facebook, which is great in a lot of ways, especially for us out here with all our friends and families back there. But even with facebook you can only get so deep, and it has become a lot of people’s preferred platform for socializing with other human beings.
Alternatively, here in our village community of over two hundred people we are all around each other all day, everyday. People are coming over all the time, whether I like it or not. I am going around all the time seeing the same people day in and day out. They know what our daily lives look like better than anyone back home. They see the day to day reality of how we are raising our kids, relating in our marriage, living out Christ (or not) in our daily lives.
Even though there are obvious negatives to this (like lack of privacy) for our work here, this depth of relationships is actually a huge positive for ministry, for day-to-day, life-on-life discipleship.
Personally, my view of American culture has changed since living here in PNG, I think this is unavoidable for any missionary. I do sometimes struggle with having negative feelings toward American culture in terms of self centeredness & materialism. When this has happened I have really tried to go to the Lord with it and ask him to help me remain balanced and wise. I do not want to become judgmental or develop feelings of superiority to the struggles of our home culture now that we are in a third world one. This can be easy to do with out even realizing it when I hear news or little snippets of story’s of what is going on in the states. What people are getting upset over, what someone did etc. Often hearing the “problems” in America compared to what is going on over here, it can seem completely absurd to me that people are consumed with these things that in my estimation do not matter. Though I can slip into this easily I really want (and need) to guard against this kind of attitude because it is a dangerous and slippery slope and one that will not glorify God or help me with the way He wants me to serve Him.
On the flip side I do not want to idolize my home culture as if it is the standard by which all others fall far short of. When going through culture shock and in times of home sickness it can be easy to have glorified memories of a culture that is far from perfect. Doing this does not help anything.
I still love America of course, it is my home and it is who I am. I am still an American through and through and I miss it often. I cannot ever escape that and never want too and God wouldn’t want me to be in denial either. The reality is that any culture that is not in submission to Christ is a real mess. This is true here in PNG and in America as well as many other countries. Every culture just shows it’s lostness in different ways. That does not mean that pain is more painful here than in America or vise versa. It’s all pain, it’s all horrible and everyone needs the Lord! That’s what I want my perspective to always be no matter where I am and what I have experienced or think I understand. I just want to focus on the Lord and how He is asking me to live my life in spite of cultural norms.
One more thing though-I miss Target, the $ Store, Hobby Lobby and I NEED ME SOME Taco Bell! Haha!
I like a lot of things about the Tigak people. One of those things is their friendliness. Of course there are exceptions but for the most part the Tigak people (and most PNG people we have met in general) are easy to become friends with. Maybe this is because we are like rock stars with our white skin or..just because it is a very social culture here. 😀 It is not usually a challenge to find a person to sit down with and a way to spend time with people who are glad you are there with them. This is a huge plus to getting settled in here and growing in relationships with the community and I love it! So many of our friends here have such distinct personalities and it is fun and a privilege to get to know their quirks and exactly who they really are. There is never a dull moment in friendship building! Oh. Also, Tigak babies are so cute! 🙂
It’s probably a good thing that you asked what I like about the Tigak people rather than the opposite. LOL
Yeah, I agree with Beth about their friendliness. One thing I personally like most about the Tigak people is how laid back they are. In a lot of ways the stereotypical “kick back and take it easy tropical island living” is totally true. They spend a lot of time relaxing, and even when they do work it is not rushed. They go fishing almost daily, which of course, is practical since it is a main staple in their diet. Sometimes you can even catch people wandering around playing the ukulele!
Their being laid back is helpful for learning the language, since they are generally not too busy.
We get questions about America from our friends here, but its not obnoxiously often. They are interested to know more and periodically they will want to know something specific from us about our home. I’ve been asked mainly about how we live our day to day lives in American and what it looks like there. They are SUPER interested in pictures. Many of them have seen some Americans movies, which sometimes gives them a picture of some of the most basic elements of American culture.
They are highly fascinated with other parts of the world, too. Beth has a picture book of her mission trip to Israel a number of years before we came to PNG, and people love to look at it. They also like to look at our Cambodia picture book. Some people have a hard time understanding the world in the sense of looking at a map. A lot of times they think most everything is in, or comes from, America.
My language helper here is a former PNG boxer, and he traveled all over the world, including all the way up to Canada to box for Papua New Guinea. Its awesome hearing stories from him about things he experienced in the western world. One time, I heard him try to explain to another guy in the village about wheelchair lifts on city buses. (They don’t have city buses here either, so that was interesting)
ABSOLUTELY people are interested in the world outside the village! Like, Tom said, interest in America is HUGE here. Especially among young people it is a huge influence in their lives (this can often be a very unfortunate fact), it affects how they want to dress, act and even in wanting to learn to speak English. Understandably though many people have major misconceptions about America that we are continually having to correct. The biggest misconceptions I would say most have is just that Americans are “better” in most ways. Almost like they think America is a very morally pure place and people are just good there. For instance they do not think people get divorced, there is murder or crime, no illness, no cancer, etc. Many have a super glorified opinion of what the US is like! We do our best to answer their questions but are also honest with people about the realities of the many negatives of life in America. Many friends have also been really interested in hearing about other places I/we have traveled to. Like Tom mentioned, they are super interested in hearing about my time in Israel, as well as our time in Cambodia.
We are very blessed in this area. The majority of people in our village love us being here. They are very very welcoming and thankful of the help we give them in their lives. Many of them acknowledge that us being here doing ‘God’s work’ is a good thing even if they do not have any interest (yet..) in hearing the Bible teaching. Often people will thank us for helping them with medicine stuff and other stuff too.
A couple months ago I had offered some kids some bubble gum if they would run and do a small job for me (this is my standard pay for kids :D). Our neighbor over heard our interaction and come rushing over to scold all the kids. He said, ‘You shouldn’t be taking bubble gum from Beth! You should do whatever she asks you for nothing! Whenever you are sick and you come to her she gives you medicine to make you feel better and she never asks you to pay for it! When you have a sore she gives you bandaids for nothing and she gives you her kids clothes and toys! You should do whatever she tells you!’ Then he turned to me and told me I didn’t have to give the kids the gum and that they would be happy to work for me for nothing. Haha! 😀 I just laughed and told him it was ok and that I wanted to give the kids something to thank them for their help. It was funny.
So the majority feeling of people here is very positive towards our presence here! We would never be allowed to live here if that were not the case. [The few problems we have had in this area are not things we are able to publish on the web but suffice it to say that God has looked over us, attended to our worries and kept us here!]”
Also, it is a point of pride for them to have white people living in their village, especially that can speak their language. Relationally, they like us because we treat them well, as friends, and respect them and their culture. Even learning their language means a lot to them. The ladies on our team, Beth, Aimee & Linn, where the appropriate kind of dress, which is uncommon for other white people they see, who usually live and work in town and dress how they feel comfortable or are vacationing in the area, and dress as you can imagine people would dress visiting a tropical area. 🙂
We also assist them in practical ways, like helping them with the things they need to patch their canoes or make their fishing spears. We also help them out with basic pain relievers or first aid when things arise. In general, we try to be culturally appropriate, “generous” people without going overboard.
As soon as we are finished with language study we will be restructuring the literacy program, so teaching them to read and write will also be something practical we do to help.
Our partners have been here for over twelve years and overall they have been treated very kindly and consider themselves safe in the village. When their former co-workers left the field, the people mourned their loss, and still to this day tell stories about them.
To my knowledge there is only one person on a neighboring island who has a problem with us being here, and he is the leader of a false religious presence in our area.
We do live differently from the people. Our house is up on stilts, but that is about where the similarities end. They spend most of their time outside. Their kitchen is outside, they eat outside, they relax outside and even nap outside. Then they have a hut, which is really more like their bedroom, where they will retreat for the night and sleep.
All that to say, I think they see it and are interested in it, but not to the extent that they would choose to live the way we do exactly. I could be wrong about that, though. They don’t seem to mind the aspects of our life, like having a water tank with pump running water into the house, a toilet inside our house, a washing machine, freezer, etc. It probably seems very individualistic to them really. Even so, it doesn’t overwhelm or consume them, and it hasn’t as far as we know posed any hindrances to the gospel.
As far as technology goes, more and more people on our island are getting cell phones. They don’t use them like we do or as much as we do, because it is all prepaid. They make quick phone calls sometimes, and mostly play games on them. It is more of a status thing really.
Yeah, we have never heard any negative comments from any villagers about they way we live (having solar electricity and running water, etc.). On the contrary they have said many positive comments about the few ways we try to live like they do. We dress like they do, we eat their foods (even if we are just trying stuff) and we try to learn to do the stuff they do. All of that means so much to them and has helped us so much in building relationships! They know we are not Tigak people (Duh! :P) so they do not expect us to be exactly like them. It’s more like they are amazed at how much we are able to be like them considering we are Americans. Also, there are several people in our village who have their own generators, chainsaws and even TV sets. Our village is not clueless of or without ANY modern tools and toys (just remember-it is 2012 here too! Heehee!).
It’s pretty awesome and fun to be told things like, ‘Oh! I saw you cooking over your fire in your haus kuk the other day and you looked so nice!’ or ‘You are so good! You know how to canoe now and you do it really well!’ and ‘I like how your yard looks. You have planted all kinds of flowers like you belong here and you like to live here. It looks so nice.’ 😀 Many friends are very proud of us and what we have been willing to do- ‘just like they do.’
My two house helpers and language helpers come in our home twice a week and it has not been a problem. They have adjusted well to working and visiting inside and that has been a blessing.
I guess I kinda answered this above, but I don’t think so. No one has ever made us feel that way. I was just talking to a friend the other day and she was saying how amazed the villagers had been when missionaries first moved in here (our current parters and their previous co-workers who left). She said, ‘We were so amazed and surprised at how the missionaries acted. They dressed just like us and showed us respect in how they lived here. We were so, so amazed and we knew that they cared for us.’ Wow-Praise the Lord! 🙂
Yeah, they don’t mind the way we live. They know we are different and that’s fine with them. Like Beth said, anytime we do anything like they do, they love it. We have a haus kuk (outdoor cooking area) just like they have and they think it is awesome. We don’t use it for every meal, every day like they do, but just the fact that we have it as an outdoor place to hang out with people and sometimes learn how to make their kind of food in, is something that shows them we respect the way they live.
I am sure some of them never even stop to think about it but those we are close with are aware of that fact. We share openly with our friends about home and our families and about how we miss them. Family is everything to PNG people and if any of them stop and think about what it would be like for them to leave their parents, siblings and families like we have, they are very saddened and impressed by the thought of it. I cannot even keep track of how many times my friends have admired Jude & Iris and said things like, ‘Oh! If only their Gramma could see them right now they would love it. Oh, sorry, sorry. I am so sad that you are not with your grandparents!’ So yeah, I think to those who stop and think about it, they do realize that it can be hard for us and that makes an impression on them.
I don’t know if its a man thing or what, but I really don’t feel very lonely ever. I think its because I have my wife and kids with me. Also, because I have actual friends in our village, that helps, too. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family and Beth’s. Its different for me, though.
Personally, I am thrilled to be eating so much fish. The people in our village fish all the time for themselves, and also to sell in the market. People come to us all the time wanting to sell us fish they caught out in the water right off the island.
Aside from the fresh fruits and veggies (which are mostly the exact same stuff you can buy in America also) my favorite village dish is ‘greased rice.’ This is just rice that has been cooked in milk made from fresh coconuts. It’s super easy to make but it has such a yummy and distinct flavor that you just can’t beat! YUM! Our whole family loves it! Oooh! I should make some tonight! 😉
This is a very good question! We never, ever know! 😀 Welcome to the ‘land of the unexpected!’ LOL! The record for the quickest time so far was two weeks. That felt SUPER FAST! We could hardly believe it. The longest time was over 4 months. Others have been everywhere in between but I guess I would say the average is one month. Oh. And right now there is a package somewhere that we have never received yet and it was mailed over 4 months ago. 🙁 A little birdie told me there was white chocolate coffee syrup in it too so I am extra depressed about it. *sigh*
Beef Jerky & pepperoni is almost always confiscated much to the dismay of Tom. We have also had some nail polish confiscated two different times too. Sadness. Mailing us things like rice and beans would not be good since those are plentifully available. Haha! Ok. What would I LOVE to receive? I will be completely frivolous and say right now we really want to get some new Wii controls. We hardly ever use our Wii and a couple weeks ago Tom wanted to play with Jude and when he got our controls out he discovered that they were corroded and did not work any more. 🙁 Very sad. Corrosion ruins a lot of stuff here. Fashlight’s, head lamps, mini speakers etc. have been ruined. Boo hoo.
We LOVE to get packages from the States. They are such a huge encouragement to us, and so fun. It seriously feels like Christmas getting a package. Things people will put in packages that we love: Starbucks Via, candy bars like Reese’s, Hershey bars, KitKat bars or Twix, nice hot cocoa mix, stuff for the kids, etc. We would also love to get a picture of the family or small group sending it so that we can put it on our fridge and remember to pray for them.
If anyone would like information on sending us a package, you can read some more info here.
This is a hard question to answer because it could touch on so many things, but I will answer this question as it relates specifically to our ministry over here. I think I have grown a lot in my perspective of what it means to make disciples. Christ said to ‘Go into all the world and make disciples.’ (Mt. 28:19) So often we make seeing people come to know Christ our main objective, when really our objective should be seeing people built up in Him. This of course includes introducing them to Him in the first place, but it doesn’t stop there. Most of us Christians haven’t actually been discipled ourselves, and so we have no clue where to begin.
It’s one thing to bring people to faith in Christ and a whole other thing to walk with people from spiritual birth to spiritual maturity. It involves a ton of time, commitment, prayer, planning and follow through (not necessarily in that order). It involves competency in handling the Scriptures as disciple makers, and then being able to transmit its truth to others via teaching, modeling and training. It involves goals, including the goal of seeing the person brought to maturity so that they are then able to do the same with others after you are out of the picture.
One of our Bible teachers asked me recently what I thought of him going over to do an evangelistic outreach at a nearby village. After asking some questions I discouraged him from doing it for the time being. Why? Because he had no plans to do anything once the new church was born. I told him that was like having a baby and then abandoning it; like making spiritual orphans. It is important to have a plan for discipleship when we reach others for Christ.
Paul felt responsible for the maturity of those under his care when he said, ‘It is my ambition to present everyone mature in Christ…’ (Colossians 1:28) This has become our goal working among the Tigak.
Oh my goodness. This question is so huge it would take a book to answer (maybe some day..:D). He has changed my perspective in so many ways! I have seen my need to rely on Him to a greater degree in just about every area of my life. I have been challenged to be a more grace filled person (both with grace towards myself as I rest in my security in Christ as well as grace extended to others, saved and unsaved). I have been humbled by seeing how much I do not understand and need to learn. I could go on but I will just say that yes. God is continually chipping away at me, changing me and challenging me and I am so thankful for His faithful love and willingness to do so!
Our house building project ‘Project:Haus’ has been postponed indefinitely. Our house as it stands right now is sufficient and stable to meet our needs until a later date. We are choosing to focus solely on language and culture study at this time, as opposed to fundraising for this future project.
It will be a need down the road. Our special account is still open to save towards it, so people are still able to give towards it.
Our house here in the village has been a great blessing to us (because we did not have to build it) and we really do like it. We have made a lot of improvements to it and If you looked at it you would think that there was nothing wrong, it looks fine. And it is fine, mostly.
Aside from needing all the posts replaced under our house it’s really most of the appliances and stuff “under the surface” that has been the problem. It has needed almost constant repairs on things we couldn’t have seen coming and has kept Tom very busy. We have had to spend a lot of money that we were not planning on just to maintain our house (primarily involving the generator and solar system). The second limitation with the house is just space. It is a very small house with super inefficient storage spaces. Eventually when I start homeschooling the kids we will have to add a school room and possibly another bedroom.
Right now our kids are young and there are just two of them so we are fine. It’s really a blessing in many ways to have a small house in terms of cleaning it! 🙂 We are going to try to get by as long as humanly possible with out needing to make an addition. It is most important for us right now to be focusing on our language study and culture study. We are just trusting the Lord with the need and praying that He will provide for it when we need it!
We do think that Jude and Iris are thriving here as much as they possibly could. Of course there are always seasons of super bad heat rash, bumps and bruises… normal stuff like that. Jude loves playing outside and loves all his little village friends even though he cannot communicate perfectly with them all yet. 😀 Jude is starting to try and speak more pidgin as well as some Tigak these days and seems to just be realizing that when he says the words in another language he is actually communicating! LOL.
Iris is doing really well. She loves most people here and will willingly go to them and be passed around. Of course she is the little village favorite of many and is never short on attention! She is really into trying to say whatever you tell her to say so she can kinda say three different Tigak words right now. One is saying Good morning = ‘lo-moah’ which Iris shortens to ‘Moah.’ Oh MAN! Our friends here LOVE it! They will hoot and howl and grin their faces off saying she it the best and smartest baby they have ever known. Haha. It is a crack up and I love “showing her off”. That is, IF I can do it before a friend grabs her and runs her over to someone else who hasn’t heard her say it yet and shows them! So funny!
There are challenges that you could pray about. One is the challenge of parenting in the midst of village/PNG culture. There are so, so many things about how we want to teach and train Jude that are the opposite to village and “unsaved” culture. It is often very difficult to know how to make a balanced and wise decision of how to teach and train our children in a Biblical manner while still being culturally relevant. Trying to teach Jude the principle of apologizing when he has hurt a friend is only one example of something that is completely foreign to the culture here yet something that as parents trying to follow the Lord, we must teach him.
Pray that Jude will grow in his character and the desire to choose obedience to his parents even when he is being egged on and encouraged to do bad things by little friends. The peer pressure is difficult for him, especially considering he is only 3. Jude is not perfect but so far we are very encouraged and proud of Jude’s character development. One example of this would be in the area of compassion. Most often when a Tigak child is hit or gets hurts somehow and starts crying, the other kids will just laugh or continue to taunt. Jude will often be filled with concern and go to the sobbing kid, pat them on the shoulder and ask them, “Are you ok? I am sorry you are hurt.” Sometimes he will even try to hug them or kiss them on the head! Haha! This is completely contrary to Tigak culture but I am so proud of him that he is learning and showing compassion! We praise the Lord that Jude is responding to consistent training in spite of the difficult surroundings at times.
Its all in the genes. But if you want a nice, full looking beard, my sister-in-law Chrissy sells knit beards that you can wear on your face. Check them out here!
Also, by purchasing one of these beards you are supporting some missionaries in training. Win win. 🙂
I enjoy daily time reading and meditating on the Scriptures and talking to God in prayer. This time has kept me fed, encouraged throughout the day and challenged.
I’ve come to find that spending regular time in the Scriptures is a lot like drinking water. Considering all the options of things to drink these days, water seems like the boring choice. However, for overall health of the human body, nothing beats water. Its easy to get bored with the Bible and settle for the latest Christian author or thinker, listen to sermons by popular Bible teachers, or even come to the point of not reading at all. At the end of the day, nothing hydrates the soul more than hearing from God Himself, through His Word, illuminated by His Spirit. We have experienced this over and over again in our lives. “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joins and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)
Of course, we still like to avail ourselves of good, solid Bible teachers to allow God to use them to challenge us as well. We have digital recordings of sermons and lectures on the Scriptures out here that we have been encouraged by on many occasions.
Much more could be said, but overall the question is a good one because it assumes that God’s Word has a central place in our lives and our work, which it absolutely does.
There are a number of ways. Firstly I just have to say that I am so glad God has given me a godly husband who loves to talk about spiritual things with me and does a great job of leading me spiritually! Tom and I really enjoy discussing all that the Lord is doing in us, struggles we are having and all that we are learning in the word. This is a great blessing!
I do my best to spend time in the word on a regular basis, some weeks this goal goes better than others. Such is life. Another thing I find really encouraging is to listen to sermons, classes and presentations that we have downloaded. These are easy for me to turn on and listen to while I make a meal, do dishes or other house work. Provided the kids aren’t being too loud. 🙂 Sometimes I read in Christian books too but not very often because I do not have the time for it. My partners Linn Beall and Aimee Hedrick and I meet together (right now Linn is on furlough so it is just Aimee and I) weekly and we will either do a Bible Study together (We have done two Beth Moore Study’s so far) or just discuss how we have each been encouraged by the Word in the previous week. This is a helpful way to keep each other accountable to not be neglecting our time studying the scriptures! Each Sunday morning we meet with our co-workers for a “church” time. We pray together, share about our week and also listen to a sermon together. Shortly after we wrap up our time together it is time to gather with the Tigak believers for the village church time.
We are also doing “Puggles” (Awanna for little kids) with Jude each Wed. evening. Jude LOVES it so much and we have been so excited about how much he enjoys learning about God and growing in his understanding of Bible stories and who God is.
We have found walking closely with the Lord crucially important to thriving in our ministry here. This of course is true about life where ever you are and whatever you do! God has continually held our heads above water in very difficult times here and we are counting on Him to continually do that as we go to Him and admit how desperately we need His help! Praise the Lord for the Savior friend who will never leave or forsake!
Alrighty, that’s it for now! Don’t forget to stay tuned for Part 2 coming up in a few weeks! If reading some of these answers spurred on some more questions in your mind, feel free to email us or facebook message us with your questions and we will include them in Part 2 of Your Questions Answered!