Evaluation week!! The week everyone dreads, the week where everyone cries, the week we wish we could avoid. This is the week where a trained, New Tribes language consultant sits down with you and your language helpers to watch you interact, asks you questions, and evaluates your skill level to determine where you are in knowing the language. Then he places you in a level. In order to be placed in a tribe, you must know the national language at the “capable high” level. The levels look like this:
Basic low, basic mid, basic high (word level- sentence level)
Progressing low, progressing mid, progressing high (sentence level- paragraph level)
Capable low, capable mid, capable high (paragraph level – discourse level)
Discourse level (fluency)
On Monday afternoon, Jacob and I went with Aaron (our evaluator) out to our language helpers Terri and Rosewita. The evaluation itself was nerve wracking, but also kinda fun. Aaron asked Terri and Rosewita to tell us to do different things so he could test us on our comprehension. We also had to translate short stories they told us. Basically, the evaluator’s goal is to push you until you fail to see how much you know. So at one point in the evaluation, Aaron asked Jacob to describe in detail a decathlon! Jacob did a great job trying to get out as much as he could about it. Next Aaron asked me to describe the history of the lobster in New England. Haha it was really funny to try and explain something so difficult and watch our language helpers die laughing at our attempts. They were so sweet about it too- Rosewita really wanted me to do well so every time Aaron turned his head, she would start whispering the right answers to me haha. But we made it through! Jacob is well above average and was placed at progressing mid. I was at basic high. We are both so excited to have had the experience of being tested since we know in the future this will be the same format for all our language checks wherever we end up! Thanks for the prayers you guys!
Some HIGHLIGHTS from this week:
Jacob speaking: As I talked with Ramos this week he circled back to a previous conversation I had had with him earlier. He wanted to talk more about the spirit world and how the spirits have control over everything that they do. He talked about certain men who work magic and sorcery, and about how powerful they are. He then told me that he desires to hear the story that NTM tells so that they can get rid of the spirits and serve only one Big Spirit. This conveys misunderstanding about the gospel message, but the desire to hear God’s word is there nonetheless. I have been struck with the animist’s desire to appease the spirits. The world Ramos lives in right now he thinks he must appease the spirits in order to live a safe life. Though this seems foreign to us, it is actually a mentality close to the hearts of all men. How often do we do things because we think we can earn favor with God, or obey God so that he will bless us. Often times this is the mentality guiding our decisions. We think God blesses when we do good, and curses when we do evil. This is the type of God that everyone but Christians serve. The difference between Christianity and all other religions is that in Christianity God showed grace and came down to us to make a way to Himself. God reached down to man. In all other religions it is up to man to find his way to God or to heaven. But in Christianity all one must do is trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There is no need to appease, as there is in all other religions. God has appeased Himself by sacrificing His Son (who by the way is raised from the dead). This is the truth that Ramos does not yet realize that he desires to know, but hopefully one day he will hear and accept it.
The lack of missionaries New Tribes has to send is so sad. New Tribes has stacks and stacks of letters written from tribes all across Papua New Guinea asking to please send them a missionary so they can hear God’s talk. It is actually heartbreaking to read these letters. People here are begging for the word of God and there just aren’t enough missionaries to go around.
- We were able to rub shoulders with a bunch of missionaries from many different tribes over the course of this week as there was a conference happening here in Madang. It was so awesome to hear a bit about each team and their joys and struggles with their different ministries. Want to know the number one reason why missionaries leave the field? Co-worker relations. You are out in the middle of nowhere in a tribe working with one or two other families and they are the only people who speak the same language as you. It’s like a giant pressure cooker for your relationships. Our leaders have impressed upon us the urgency of GRACE with co-workers and the importance of having a really good strategy statement. A strategy statement is something you as a team must come up with together before you can go into the tribe and it lays out all the important ground rules and procedures you as a team will stick to. This can really be make it or break it if you have poor relations as a team and have to constantly be coming off the field to deal with your issues. It can also be really bad if you are not modeling good relations as the people are constantly watching your every move, and later you are going to be discipling them on principles from God’s word such as UNITY among believers. If they never saw unity between you and your co-workers, how are they supposed to understand how to do that?
- I got to learn how to make a bilum! Bilums are basically the PNG version of a backpack, baby carrier, purse, wallet, shopping bag all in one. It is a bag that both men and women carry with them everywhere they go. Their infants sleep in a specific type of them as well! Well one day this week my good friend Anastasia was working on one and I expressed interest in learning how. She told me to come on Saturday and she would teach me. We had a great time together with me struggling through just a few stitches and everyone laughing as I attempted to make the bilums. It is hard work you guys! So we certainly didn’t finish, but I am excited to go back and continue working on it with them.
- After this stressful week of testing, we were able to get out for a little “break” on Saturday afternoon. There is a place called Jais Aben close to our base where they have a decent restaurant and an area to swim in. It was such a joy to be able to relax a little, get cooled off, and get the closest food to an American cheeseburger!
Some LESSONS from this week:
- Ok, so you know how I’ve mentioned babies go naked here? Ever wonder what happens when they poop or pee? Found that out up close and personal this week! As I was making the bilum, a girl was sitting next to me holding a baby boy….who decided to pee all over my hand, which was resting close to him. I didn’t make a big deal about it because I didn’t really mind, and they get so upset about their kids doing things like that on the “white lady”. A little while later, a one year old decided he had to poop. So when the ladies saw him about to poop on the tarp we were sitting on, they quickly stood him up against some logs. He just stood there for a while until he finally pooped everywhere. They wiped him up with a piece of cloth, wiped the poop off the ground and moved on with things. Sorry if that was too graphic, but it was just so interesting to see the way different cultures handle child rearing…or potty training to be exact 🙂
- We saw a snake AND a giant toad this week. Too many creatures lol.
- It has not rained a single drop since we’ve been here. No joke. I guess there is an El Nino right now causing a massive drought. They keep telling us that this bad of a drought hasn’t happened since 1997. The people here are all living completely off their gardens so many of our friends are really hungry right now and have no food since their gardens have been ruined by the lack of rain. They are living off of just a few potatoes a day, basically. Please pray that it will rain soon!
- Ok. This lesson is something God has really been impressing on me, and it’s a super hard one. OBEDIENCE.
I don’t like being out of my comfort zone 24-7 and I certainly don’t want to fly halfway across the world and make my home in some tribe somewhere, away from family and away from all that I know. BUT here’s the thing… God has asked me to do this. In fact, He asks every one of his followers to let go of their life. Jesus says “‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25). God has asked us all to let go of what we want in this lifetime and embrace what He wants from us. And here’s the tricky part- His plans may look different than what we want. If I could chose my perfect life, I would stay close to my family in America, make money, live comfortably, travel the world, raise my kids right by their grandparents, and live in relative peace and security all the rest of my days. But guess what? That is not what God has asked of our family. He has clearly asked both Jacob and I if we would follow him to a people group who has no opportunity to hear his word. He loves everyone, and wants all his children to have the opportunity to know him and to be with him forever. And here is where we get to practice that verse- losing our lives for Christ’s sake.
But Jesus didn’t stop at “lose your life.” He continues and says that when we lose our life, give up our desires in order to follow His better plan for us, that is when we “will find [our life].” We were reminded this week by a very wise missionary who had been through the wringer with his tribe that God doesn’t just love the unreached tribal people. He loves me and Jacob too. He knows what is best for us and what will be the best possible life for our family. My view of an ideal life versus God’s view of an ideal life for me look totally different. God knows, He KNOWS what is going to be the best for our family because He loves us that much. The ball is in my court now to TRUST that God loves me and has the best plan for my life. So when people tell me, ‘Oh man I could never do what you and Jacob are doing’ I just chuckle because I can’t either! I CAN’T do what I’m doing! Really! It is only because God has asked me to, and promised me that He would sustain us, that I can look at our future and say, Ok God, we will follow you.
-Rain in PNG so our friends can have food
– We are headed out to the highlands for the next week! We are sooooo excited to see a totally different landscape of PNG and to participate in the central conference (where all the missionaries working in the central region come for a week of meetings). Pray for our travels as we are flying on a little prop plane and I am nervous haha!
-For the Lord to continue to work on our hearts