For the first time this week, Jacob and I feel like we have rounded a corner into understanding most of what we hear in Tok Pisin!! YAY! There is still so much work to be done in order to communicate (aka speaking), but it’s nice to finally understand what people are saying to us. For those of you who may not know what we are doing: we are interns participating in New Tribes Mission’s training program for new missionaries to Papua New Guinea. The reason we need to learn Tok Pisin (the national language) is because it is the first step the missionaries must complete before they can be placed out in a tribe. (For more info, visit http://www.ourjunglelife.com).
Ok so this week’s theme in our modules was ‘simple living.’ Simple living is something I love. My favorite magazine is Real Simple, I love de-cluttering and organizing, and I love the idea of not having very many extras to distract me. But here’s the kicker- simple living American style is NOTHING like the simple living here in PNG. As missionaries and Americans, we think we need so many things just to survive. But our leaders (Bill and Kelly Housley) challenged us in our thinking this week by explaining how they did things when they were missionaries to the trial group Itutang. Basically the idea was to start with nothing, and only bring in the things you absolutely need. When you are living among a group of people who have nothing except what is absolutely necessary for survival, it can really hurt your testimony to them by living with a bunch of things that may make your life easier, but are total luxuries in the eyes of the people. It was definitely challenging, and also makes me think of what I define as “needs” in my life.
Here are some HIGHLIGHTS from this week:
- Last Sunday, we went as a team to a black sand beach with an incredible Volcano view in the background. So stunning.
- Each week we hope to spend as much time with people as possible, participating in the events of their everyday lives. Talking through these events with them is such a great way to learn both language and culture. This week I was invited by Anastasia and Ellen to join them and their children to go digging for clams. So…here was what I was anticipating – nice beach, little shovels, wandering along in the nice, cool, clear water and digging in certain spots for clams. Right?! WRONG. We hiked for 10 minutes through some pretty thick jungle to a swampy mangrove. I could see the beach and thought we were headed there, when the ladies all stopped, took off their shoes, and headed straight into the dense, VERY muddy swamp. I had no choice but to follow. We waded in knee-deep mud, digging with our hands to find clams hiding just below the muddy surface under the roots of giant trees. It smelled like filth, and I was completely covered in mud within 2 minutes. Giant spiders crawled past me as I dug and each time I took a step I had NO idea what was under all that mud, or if I was stepping in a sink-hole up to my waist (that happened once). But here is the great thing- God gave me so much peace and I actually was able to put aside my worries pretty quickly and just decide that I was going to enjoy it. The kids loved running through the mud to show me the handfuls of big clams they were finding… Oh and to make fun of me for only finding two “lik lik kina” (little clams)!
And did I mention they do this every day for food??
- While I was clamming, Jacob was able to learn how the men dig wells for drinking water.
- Jacob and I were able to spend a lot of time “storying” with people this week. When you go to visit friends in the village, they always ask you to sit with them and “stori.” One couple named Terri and Rosewita had us over twice this week to ‘stori’. They are an incredibly educated, loving couple who have really taken us under their wing along with their 21 year old son Benson. This week they wanted to teach us the various uses for the Coconut tree branch. Benson brought Jacob to show him how to get the branches (these people can scurry up ridiculously high trees like it’s the easiest thing in the world).
Then, Terry and Benson showed Jacob how they weave the palms into a mat. Meanwhile, Rosewita taught me how to make a broom. All the while their four-year old son kept climbing fruit trees to bring us mangoes, papaya and coconuts to eat/drink. It was such a great experience.
- Because we are the interns, we get to have mentor meetings each week with Bill & Kelly Housley, who are the leaders of the training program. Guys, they are incredible. They came to Papua New Guinea in 2003 and chose to work with the Itutang people. They spent a few years learning the language spoken by the Itutang as well as their culture, then taught the people how to read and write in their own language for the first time, taught through the whole Bible, and planted a church among the Itutang. The Itutang believers have taken off with God’s word, and now are sending out their own missionaries from their tribe to reach tribes around them. We feel SO blessed to rub shoulders with such wise, fun, godly people. They have been such a wealth of information and advice and we love hanging out with them!
Here are some LESSONS from this week:
- Learning a new language comes with its fair share of mistakes and embarrassments. Jacob experienced that in full this week. He was trying to ask a man if he had brothers and sisters. He said, “Yu got brata na susu?” The man burst out laughing because instead of sister (susa), Jacob asked the man if he had brothers and breasts (susu). HAHA!!
- This week, our leaders gave us the opportunity to try buai for the first time. Buai, also known as Betel Nut is the most popular thing in PNG. It is a green nut that grows on trees that, when chewed mixed with crushed shells and mustard seed, produces this red juice and gives you a kind of buzz- like very strong coffee. It is something that everyone does, but it’s a little gross because it rots your teeth quick and you have to spit out the juices. So there are just red stains everywhere because people spit it all over. Anyways, we tried it for the first time. I took one chew of just the nut and it was so gross, I had to spit it out before I even added the extras. Jacob tried it all together, and said it was “terrible.” For the life of us we can’t figure out the appeal of it 🙂
- All the ladies here wear Mari blouses, and they seem like simple patterned shirts anyone could make. So some of the girls and I decided to test it out and bought some fabric to make mari blouses. We all were horribly confused when we tried to sew them. So Kelly Housley asked a lady at the market if she would come show us how she makes them. It took us over 2 hours with her to finish just one! And it was so difficult! She told us she makes 10-15 per day and is also the widowed mother of 4. Howwwww… well anyways I have a new respect for her and those like her who make them. It was also great getting to spend the afternoon with her even if she was laughing at all our mistakes 🙂
Tomorrow we are headed out to a tribe (Kaje) where some New Tribes missionaries have just started working (6 months ago)! We are so excited to get to have our first exposure to life in the bush. Please pray for us as we hike in (5-6 hours) and spend a couple of days there! We can’t wait to share about it next week!