A few months back 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 2 of Your Questions Answered! (Check out Part 1 HERE!)
We both answered most questions, so to distinguish, my (Tom’s) answers will be in BLACK and Beth’s will be in RED.
- “What are your best times?”
- “Are most patient with your language learning and want to help and communicate with them more?”
- “Have your thoughts/experiences on spiritual warfare changed at all since you’ve been serving as missionaries?”
- “What are your most challenging times or even times of the day if that is applicable?”
- “Who is teaching the lessons (do you have an interpreter, is someone else that knows the language teaching or is a well trained villager/native teaching)?”
- “What is your goal (in time) to be able to communicate very well without too much struggle?”
- “What do the people think about you leaving for long times (furlough) or even shorter vacations?”
- “Do the people ever take trips?”
- “Do they realize you have great compassion for them and concern for their place in eternity?”
- “What are some of your favorite stories of the Lord working and miracles happening?”
- “What would be 3 or so daily things people can pray about for your family and the people there?”
- “Do you have any little habit or practice that you do just to make your lives feel ‘normal?’”
- “What daily activity do you do to make time go by? In the US it’s video games, TV, etc…?”
- “What do you do with the diapers? :)”
- “How has NTM training prepared you for your ministry? If you could change one thing to improve NTM training what would that be?”
Because our main job right now is learning the Tigak language and culture, I would say my best times are those times where I am able to clearly see significant leaps in my communication ability. This happened recently as I have previously been trapped at phrase/sentence level I have now begun telling stories around the village. I have a long ways to go, but those are good times.
Another great time is when I am able to be used by God to encourage, challenge or invest in our two Bible teachers. I have left many a conversation feeling energized by being able to help them grow. They have also encouraged me on many occasions as well. This mutual edification is what real life within the body of Christ should be, and it is the reason we came as we seek to be used by God to bring this church to maturity.
Just last week I shared with one of our Bible teachers what the Lord was teaching me from my time in the book of Colossians. There is a Scripture passage that says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” I shared with Him that I had really been challenged by that in my life and that it showed me once again what kind of person God’s wants us to become. What followed was a great conversation where we both reflected on the goodness of God and how we need to continue to grow in knowing Christ and being conformed into His image.
Hmmm. Well, naturally that would be our ROCKIN’ parties with our co-workers! Lol. As much as those times ARE fun, I do have a more serious answer to this question. My best times are when I get to see God at work, too! I will never be able to adequately express in words what it does to my heart to be a part of seeing people grow in their relationship with the Lord or grow closer to accepting the gospel and getting saved! This is what all our lives should be about according to how God designed us and designed His plan for the church, His bride. This is ALL I want to be about, all I want to be involved in because it is the only thing that is true and will last! Being able to praise the Lord over and over for His faithfulness to us and His faithfulness to this ministry is our greatest joy! Every bit of pain, difficulty and struggle (and there is plenty of that, just as Christ promised there would be) is worth it when compared to the jewels we get to handle in this spiritual life! This walk with the Lord is like none other and provides the greatest amounts of joy and contentment we could ever imagine on this side of eternity! They are the BEST times!
This question has so many answers because people are all so different! I would say generally most of our Tigak friends have good intentions and do want to help us learn. Practically though it does involve them needing to sacrifice their time to do that and sometimes that is a bit much for some of them. They can all of sudden be “busy” and “can’t” help. 😛 We think we might have narrowed one thing down and that is we think often people feel intimidated to be our “teachers.” (Which I can empathize with honestly. Imagine if a foreigner came to you and just asked you to be their English teacher when you were not an “official” ESL trained teacher.) Like they think they need to be experts and are afraid they will somehow mess up when helping us. In reality though, they speak their own language better than we do so therefore they all qualify as great teachers in our eyes! LOL
We do our best to not put pressure on them, but sometimes it can be hard to get someone to sit down with you and give you a good chunk of their time. Speaking for myself I have found the best strategy with getting language help is not even to ask for it sometimes but just start talking! Then they don’t have a chance to tell me they can’t help! Haha! I don’t want to make it sound like it is horribly hard to get help though. Most of the time we can find someone so it’s not awful. It’s VERY NICE that we have committed language helpers who actually come to our house a few times a week though! Without them I think we would be in a big heap of trouble!
Yeah, for me, I would say its about fifty-fifty. A lot of people are willing to dialogue in the language and hear me speak what I know, but as far as actually helping me in a really productive way, there are only a handful. Its hard for people to be patient when you talk like a small child. 🙂 Especially since we all speak the trade language, its really easy for people to switch languages and use the trade language for the sake of better and quicker communication.
This is a great question. At this point, I actually think our experiences on the field so far have been consistent with what we already believed about spiritual warfare before coming overseas.
The Bible teaches that there are evil spirits in the world and that they are active in the lives of people in our world. However, where some people would believe that they operate overtly in the areas of witchcraft and demonic possession, our convictions about what the Bible teaches would challenge us to conclude their main method of operation is not by giving people the heebie-jeebies, but more subtly in the area of worldview; their personal belief system. In this sense, our experience has validated the Scriptural fact that people are completely blinded by the lies of Satan, and it is his endeavor to see that it stays that way.
We’ve seen a witchdoctor work on someone, we’ve seen people act strangely, and we’ve even been told a lot of interesting things about “spirits” in the area and people’s relationship to them. We have yet to have any strange experiences where we “felt” some kind of “spiritual oppression” outside of the sobering reality that people are lost.
The fact is, we are in a battle for human souls. If there is any way our perspective has changed at all, it isn’t about spiritual warfare itself as much as it is the love we feel for those around us. Our deep care for the lives of others causes us to be vigilant and alert that we are truly in a spiritual battle. This is not only true for us here, but it is true for you as well.
I agree with Tom. I don’t think my views have changed necessarily. I have probably considered the topic more since coming overseas but what I think about the issue has pretty much stayed the same.
Just as in the States, it is something we need to be aware of, that there is a spiritual battle raging between God and His enemy and that these spiritual forces are real and relevant. But the fact is, the principles of how the spiritual realm works doesn’t change when you cross over third world time zones. The enemy’s aim is to confuse, distract and hinder people from knowing the truth. Our enemies strength is no more powerful over here. Satan hates those who love and follow Christ just as strongly in America as he does here. He is just as opposed to people being saved on either side of the ocean and will use his schemes to try and deceive people (lost and saved) and get in the way of Christ followers just as heartily in either arena.
God is still the same. He hates sin, He hates when people are enslaved to it and without hope of life in Him. He is just as passionate to pursue and save the lost and just as powerful to do so! So, therefore we continue serving Him knowing these things and doing all we can to be reliant upon the Lord in times of temptation, fear and discouragements. These times do come, and they will continue to come just as we are told in the word that they will. However, our security in Christ is no less true here in the “jungle” than it is in the malls of America. There is a battle, that is for certain. But we are more than conquerers in HIM who loves us and saved us and… our side wins!
Oh man, where do I start? 🙂 Ok. Missing big things in lives of family members is really hard. Missing my grandfather’s funeral, missing the birth of my sister’s first child (soon to happen again with another sister too), missing holidays, missing nephew’s and niece’s birthdays, first hair cuts, performances and recitals (miss you Criss kiddos!), etc. Missing these things in the lives of friends is hard, too. I have several dear friends who I have not even met one of their children yet, and in some cases two! 🙁
Physical problems are also hard. Whether its cycles of heat rash on the kids or us, different bites from who knows what that swell up and get infected randomly or just getting sick. All of those things can really get to you! Its difficult to focus on doing life when the top of your foot is swollen, throbbing and burning because something bit you and you didn’t cover it with a band aid for a few hours. But we are “getting used to it” in a sense and figuring out our assorted rituals of creams and such to try and minimize pain while we heal. It could be worse (that’s for sure) , so we are counting our blessings in the midst of discomfort when it comes along.
As far as a worse time of the day-I have that too! LOL Early afternoon is often my hardest time of the day! The mornings are always so busy between kid stuff, trying to get around the village, house chores, language sessions (on certain days) and then lunch. It just gets hotter and hotter and by the time the kids are down for naps and the house is hot as a pistol some days I just feel like crying or dying. 😛 I want to nap but I cannot because I have too much to do while the kids are out of the picture and I just feel so tired and hot that I feel like I can hardly function.
So if I can just get through that super sleepy stage and power through it then the day always gets better from then on, but man is that 1-2 hour window a struggle some days!
Last but not least, discouragement is an issue. Feeling like I am failing in areas, that I am not doing as well as I should be in the language etc., the kids being crazy and just having prideful self pity! I can be such a fleshly woman and must continually go to the Lord with all my struggles! It is so important for me to just focus on what God is asking me to do through His word and just do those things. I always need the Lord to help me see what things I am focusing on that are not from Him. He is such a wonderful Savior to love me through my pride and selfishness and comfort and teach me!
The most challenging times for me is when I am having a lot of interruptions in my language study. This happens mainly because of house maintenance and sickness. The best thing I need for progress in language study is uninterrupted consecutive days, weeks and months of work. So far, I have barely gotten a few uninterrupted weeks. This has been discouraging a lot of times.
As for times of the day, I would have to agree with Beth about early afternoon… I just get so sleepy! 🙂
Right now, our two Tigak speaking Bible teachers are teaching the lessons when we meet together. One of them has been a teacher for nearly five years, while the other just started about a year and a half ago. Both of them trusted in Christ about ten years ago and have received a greater level of personal discipleship and training.
Once I complete language and culture study, I will teach as well.
My personal goal is to be completed with formal language study in March/April 2014 (just about a year from now). Because our job mainly entails communicating and explaining spiritual truths, our language consultants require us to be at a high level of capability. By this point, there should be no struggle to communicate at a discourse level of even the most abstract concepts.
Absolutely! This IS the goal- to be able to communicate very well without struggle. Like Tom said it is crucial that we have high standards and goals in our language learning because we are teaching the Word of God! If we prioritize our discipleship than it is crucial that we strive for great language abilities! We are able to do some ministry at this time in the trade language and God is using it, but the ideal is to speak well in the Tigak heart language for sure!
As a wife and mom, I have my hands in all kinds of areas of my jobs with in our family and within the ministry so I do not know when I will finish my Tigak study. No matter what though, I am working hard at it and doing my best! I’m trusting the Lord with that, praising Him for the progress so far and plugging away!
As far as I understand people totally understand home assignment times and breaks. Travel is a very common thing with the Tigak people, mostly having to do with going and visiting assorted family members in other villages. While the distances they travel to see their family are not that far, they all seem to clearly understand why we desire to go back and see family and friends. That is about the extent to which I have explained home assignments to people. So, in short I have never known of anyone who had a problem with it.
Yeah, so far we have left the village for a six month maternity leave, a two week conference/break in another province, and two one-week breaks to our provincial capital. Our partners have taken home assignment over the last twelve years every few years, as well. Everyone seems to understand that taking breaks to get out of the village for rest or to go home is just what missionaries do from time to time. 🙂
I kinda answered this above but yeah, they do. I will add, too, that the Tigak people are in general very “mobile” people so to speak. It’s kinda funny to us, but many people will up and leave the village and go live in another village for up to a year or more! Then they come back, settle back in and it is like they have never been gone.
Yeah, I agree with Beth. It seems like people can up and head to another village for a while, and then just return one day. The other day I just realized that an elderly man in our village went on a trip and has been gone for a couple of months without me even realizing it.
The small Tigak church understands that about us, in relationship to everyone else on the island. I imagine that it is hard for the unbelievers in our area to truly understand why we are there. There has been a strange rumor about us going around as to why we are “really” there, but overall I think people do understand that we are at least not here to take advantage of them. They know we are missionaries, but many people think they already know everything about spiritual matters, so it might be difficult for them see the actual need for our presence.
To add to what Tom is saying, I sure hope they do, but honestly I do not think that anyone can even grasp that sort of care, other than the believers. Naturally this fact is very clear to the believers here. They know how deeply we care for them! As for everyone else… I often wish that I could understand just what people really think about why we are here. Or even if they think about us at all. (ha!) There is no doubt that many feel that us being here is a very good thing and that we are here to “help” them but many people just think automatically to physical helps I would say. This is an area we are trusting the Lord in. We are trusting that He will use our lives to make His love for them evident. We cannot (nor do we want to) force people what to think and people will talk and say crazy stuff about us but that is not our concern. We will just remain faithful and let the Lord use that!
Apart from the awesomeness of seeing people come to know and believe what God says in His Word, and be deeply impacted by it, we as a family have had many occasion to praise God for His provision. Every time we have been short financially or needed something in the area of maintenance He has continually provided just when we needed it.
Just recently our washing machine died after just one year! We had major problems even finding this washing machine last year and the price was astronomical. Well, it just so happened that around the same couple of days, we got an email sharing that someone was selling a washing machine with the exact details we were looking for. The price was great, but we weren’t sure how we would get it to us, since it was on the PNG mainland. Well, it also just so happened that there was a flight coming from there right to us in just two days that needed more stuff loaded on to make the weight worth the trip! All of the details worked out perfectly just in the nick of time, and this is just one story of how God has done that for us.
Yeah, we are always praising the Lord for something! It seems the general theme would be God’s constant provision for us. And I mean in every area! Of course He continues to faithfully keep us on the field finically which is amazing and wonderful in and of itself! In addition though He has always provided just what we needed when we needed it. Great encouragement from His word, direction and wisdom in different difficult times of decision making. He has cared for our marriage, helped us be parents, comforted us in pain and just never abandoned us. The best missionary care comes from Christ Himself and man have we felt it!
We’ll give you 5. 🙂
- Pray for Beth & I to complete our language & culture study
- Pray for our continual provision and protection as a family
- Pray for the Tigak church that they would grow in maturity
- Pray for unbelievers of our community to be convicted by God’s Word when they are under it and by the testimonies of the believers
- Pray for our team to have unity and love for each other and wisdom to know how to do this work
“Normal.” What an interesting word… LOL! This is a very good question! I think there are many things we do to try and maintain a little bit of the American sense of feeling “normal” I suppose. Staying connected on facebook and e-mail is one thing. It is very nice to be able to “see” friends and family and the daily goings-on of them; a blessing I am very thankful for!
I also paint my nails. 🙂 In the States I hardly ever did but for some reason since coming here I just need this one little area of maintaining my femininity! It’s not like it’s every week but usually once a month I do. When we eat meals with our team mates sometimes we ladies try to look kinda cute and wear mascara and some bits of “normal” clothes from the US. Like a niceish t-shirt and earrings for example. Stuff like that.
Sometimes we get together as a team and watch an episode of a TV show. That is really fun. I know its silly, but it reminds us of home. I also try to stay up on US and World News, via Google News, to know what’s happening. It helps make sense of what people are posting on facebook! 🙂
We don’t usually struggle to make time go by, but in the area of pastimes, I like to read on our kindle. Ever since I discovered that I can easily download books online right in our home in the village I have been burning through books! (Check out our Wishlist on Amazon if you want to hook me up with some reading!) Sometimes in the evenings, Beth & I will watch an episode of a TV show or movie before we go to bed.
Yeah, I usually spend more time wishing I could slow time down! I can honestly say I have never experienced a time here where I wish time would go faster. (This is a blessing) God has a job for us to do- bringing people to Himself! I praise God that He has given us a purpose on this earth, something to do other than eating, working, going to sleep and then repeating the process! A purpose that brings fulfillment and joy.
In spite of a busy life though we do carve out time to try and relax and do fun things. I think we would go crazy and burn out if we didn’t. We eat a meal once a week with our teammates and sometimes watch movies together too. I like to try and make time to look at magazines occasionally, too.
Ha! They are a pain! Right now I am trying to primarily use cloth diapers which although is a lot of work, is easier to deal with in some ways. And it saves A LOT of money! But with the diapers I use at night and when I am behind on washing diapers, we have to burn them. Yeah. Yuck. 🙁
Poor Tom has to soak them in kerosene and burn them along with our other trash in a big hole so the village dogs don’t rummage through them and drag them through the village. (We’ve learned this lesson the hard way) It’s a pain but it’s all there is to do.
We consider our training though New Tribes Mission as having been crucial to our ability to live and work in Papua New Guinea right now. We are firm believers in training for missions, specifically through New Tribes Missions Missionary Training Center.
David Hesselgrave, professor of mission and director of the School of World Mission and Evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has said, “NTM is in the vanguard of Christian missions. NTM sends out trained missionaries; they send them to the most needy peoples and places on earth; and they send them equipped with a missionary strategy that is second to none.”
Whenever we told people we were going to train for missions, some made comment suggesting that training was overrated. Since being on the field, we are very thankful that we took the time to go through training. It has not only helped us practically in areas such as learning a foreign language & culture and strategic ministry planning, but it also prepared us emotionally and spiritually for what we have encountered overseas. Our training emphasized God dependance, Christ-likeness and Holy Spirit yieldedness in ministry and fostered in us a personal commitment to seeing lives changed as a result of the gospel going where it has never been.
We are very thankful for our training.
Looking back, if there were one area that I would tweak in the training, and it might be something that has already been worked on, is the area of practical tips for interpersonal disciplemaking cross-culturally. Discipleship was covered generally, mostly in the context of overall church planting, but in the nitty gritty areas of practical steps to take, I would say the training was a bit lacking, much like the overall western church as a whole. One book that I have found very helpful for helping me develop my thoughts and convictions in this area has been a book called Organic Disciplemaking by Dennis McCallum. Even though it is written for a western context, I am finding a lot of it to be practically applicable as I seek to grow as a disciple maker.
In many many ways NTM Training has prepared us for ministry over here! “Prepared” is a really the perfect word actually. It didn’t make us perfectly knowledgeable, perfectly ready for every single thing but it DID prepare us! It’s like anything-before you go through something it doesn’t matter how much you hear about it, you will never be able to understand exactly how it will be, like having kids, etc. The training with NTM did a very good job of just getting us ready for a lot! Maybe we couldn’t grasp it all at the time but it was time very well spent! If anyone was planning on doing this kind of ministry with little or no training, I would caution them against it and eagerly recommend training through NTM.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions! We hope that our answers have been enlightening and encouraging and have helped you understand how to better pray for us!