Thinking like an Animist

Want to know how some Papua New Guineans would cure infertility? Lets just say I’m sure it is nothing like anything you’ve heard before!

20150909_143527

As we spent the week working on learning language and culture with our various friends and language helpers, we learned so much about various aspects of some PNG culture! Jacob will tell you a bit of what we learned:

In the village this week Katie and I learned some fascinating tidbits of the information.  One man, while conversing with us became very excited to delve into a story concerning an interesting, animistic mindset.  This man (Rex) began to tell us that if Katie and I were to ever find out that we were unable to have children by natural means, this did not have to dissolve our hopes of having our own progeny.  Rex began to tell us that there are ways to become pregnant besides sleeping with a woman.  He explained that another way one could become pregnant would be to sit down with a certain man who had specific powers and talk with him about the buai tree.  After talking with this man he would scale this particular tree and take some of its fruit.  Then he would bring it down and the woman would have to chew the fruit and then spit it out.  Immediately the woman would be with child.

20150909_150122

As we heard this story we were fascinated but also taken aback at the mindset that these people possess.  We know that this process could never impregnate a woman, but some of the people in PNG are convinced that this is simply an alternative way to conceive a child.  This is the mindset which besets many of the people left in areas of the world where the gospel has not yet reached.  While this is a specific story that we heard, I would like to share a story we heard from one of our mentors here which will better illustrate the animistic mindset:

Bill (our mentor) told us how in one tribe there was a man who was seen rubbing a bunch of leaves on a coconut tree that was producing a lot of fruit.  The man then took these leaves back to his house and proceeded to rub the leaves on his wife’s breasts.  Later the missionaries asked this man why he had done this.  The tribal man explained that his wife was not able to produce milk for their newborn baby, so he went to this tree that was producing much fruit.  He figured if he rubbed this productive tree with leaves he could then transfer the power this tree had to his wife.

Now those of us who are in the west would never think this way.  In fact, to most of us the actions of this man seem very silly.  Those of us who have even a trivial background in science know that the actions taken by this tribal person could never help his wife produce milk.  But to this man his actions made absolute sense.  Instead of reasoning with western style logic, the tribal animist reasons by using parallel experiences.  For instance, if a tree is producing much fruit, then all one has to do is transfer the power from that tree to his wife in order for his wife to produce much milk.  Or if cutting the forehead of someone to release blood helps to relieve the pain of a headache, then when a motor stops working, it must help to bleed some oil out of it.  These conclusions do not make sense to many of us but to the tribal animist these conclusions flow naturally.  This is the kind of worldview that missionaries with New Tribes are walking into.  What we have been learning since coming here is that we cannot simply confront the animist with science or western logic in order to help them see the truth.  This is because they will not accept this kind of reasoning, and even if they did they would simply be removing their trust from animism and placing it in science and reason, but God would still not be the one they are trusting in.  Rather, the Word of God must be presented to these people, and we must allow the Word of God to change these people: their hearts and their minds.  By our own power we cannot change an entire worldview, but through the work of the Holy Spirit, lives can be changed.  We have heard story after story of how God’s talk has changed the lives and mindsets of tribal animists.  It was not necessarily the missionaries but God’s talk that effected the change.  We pray that we will always remember this as we head into our tribal future.

20150911_111653 2015-09-13 11.21.44

It’s me Katie again 🙂  One important thing we have come to vividly understand is that these people live in CONSTANT and OPPRESSIVE fear of the spirits. They are afraid of “Sanguma” or a spirit that kills you without you knowing.  Sanguma could be anywhere, in a bush, someone can send sanguma on you, if kids are bad they can bring sanguma on themselves, etc.  And they believe this from a very young age.  Parents, in order to control their children, will threaten sanguma on their kids if they eat some food from the garden, if they scream, or if they are misbehaving.  From an early age, this fear is instilled deep in the people and as they grow up, it becomes part of their life in a deeper way.

20150909_131707

As a missionary giving them the freeing word of God, you have the opportunity to present to them a release from the fear: an all-powerful God who made them and loves them and wants the best for them.  He is not seeking to destroy them, rather to give them life! I was reading in Hebrews this week and this verse (Hebrews 2:14) took on SUCH a new meaning after seeing the intense fear in this culture:

(About Jesus) ” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” SO crazy right?! God wrote about this exact issue!

We in America have been able to control a lot in our lives.  We have quick access to incredible health care, we know the reasons behind specific functions of the world around us…we just have an attitude of “knowing.” As Christians, I think it is important to remember that, although we know a lot and have been blessed with incredible understanding of the magnificent world around us, it is God who brings WISDOM and FREEDOM from fear.  Hearing the stories of PNG tribal people who hear this news for the first time and are literally jumping for joy makes me realize what it really means to be released from the ‘slavery of fear’ the author speaks of in Hebrews.

2015-09-13 11.23.33

I switched my typical order of highlights then lessons learned this week because we have been learning SO much this week! So let me give you some HIGHLIGHTS from this week:

– We have girls and guys bible study each Tuesday and Thursday night (respectively). It has become such a time of encouragement and community, we just love all the amazing people who have devoted their lives to reach the people of PNG.

Baby Copeland sleeping through girls bible study where we had Taco night!
Baby Copeland sleeping through girls bible study where we had Taco night!

– Participating in daily life while learning language and culture has been so amazing.  Having friends in the village just take you in and bring you along as they do life has been so great. This week I got to see a few moms getting water from their village well nearby.  I also got to see what bath time looks like haha!

20150909_144348

Evelyn and the kids getting water
Evelyn and the kids getting water

20150909_143540

-Jacob has been making awesome progress in language with his language helper Ramos! Here they are practicing telling stories together.

2015-09-09 20.04.38

-Jacob and I go together to see a wonderful couple Terri and Rosewita with their son Benson.  This week we learned their kinship terms (which are fascinating- you cannot call any of your in-laws or old people by name, out of respect.  You can call them “old man” or “bald man” instead lol!)

Terri
Terri
Terri & Rosewita's house
Terri & Rosewita’s house
Their tiny puppy
Their tiny puppy

Prayer requests:

-That God would continue to reveal more of His heart for the unreached people of this world to Jacob and I

– Confidence as we are attempting to speak more frequently in Tok Pisin

-For friendships to deepen with our language helpers!

A Day in Kaje

This week, for the first time in our lives, we were able to experience life in the bush!

Early Monday morning, we all piled into a land cruiser and headed out on our trip to Kaje.  Kaje is a tribe about 10 hours travel time from Madang where we are currently based.  Two families, the Goheens and the Meyers, just started working with this tribe in January.  They are in the very early stages of the church planting process, i.e. learning the native tongue and the culture of the tribe.  They invited us to come spend a couple days with them so we could all get a sense for what life is like way out in the bush.

Our group hiking in (minus baby Copeland)
Our group hiking in (minus baby Copeland)
tight squeeze
tight squeeze

So our car ride was about 4 hours long on increasingly terrible roads.  The farther we got from Madang, the larger the potholes were.  And I’m not talking about potholes that are a nuisance.  I’m talking washed out roads, break your axle kind of potholes.  By the time we reached the end of the road (literally it was as far into the bush as you could drive), our bodies were so tight from just trying to stay in an upright position on the drive.

Pit stop to get water and snacks
Pit stop to get water and snacks
gorgeous view from our pit stop
gorgeous view from our pit stop

20150831_105426

We pulled into this catholic mission up in the hills.  It had a gorgeous 360 degree view overlooking large expanses of untouched jungle.  As bunches of kids came running to stare at us, an old, wrinkly, Italian man came to greet us in his boxers. He said we caught him mid-shower haha. But he greeted us in heavily accented English and told us we could leave our car there as we hiked out to the bush.  When he realized we were going to Kaje, he raised his bushy eyebrows and said, “I can see their houses from here!” I was so relieved thinking that it must not be that far away. He took us to the vantage point, and to my despair, he pointed to a tiny gleam of a tin roof that was miles and miles away.  Suddenly I realized just how long of a journey we had ahead of us.  Jacob was SO excited and encouraged me that it was going to be great.

headed to the hills
headed to the hills
view from the Catholic mission
view from the Catholic mission
That's where we were headed :0
That’s where we were headed (the far off almost invisible hill) :0

We set out around 1pm, aka the HOTTEST part of the day.  Taylor Goheen and John Meyer had hiked out to guide us into Kaje. We began a long descent from the top of the mountain we were on until we reached a large stream.  There is a pretty bad drought going on in PNG right now, so thankfully the water wasn’t too high. I was thinking we would be following along the bank of the stream for a while, but silly me of COURSE we would just be hiking IN it for a while! So through the stream we went.

20150831_132147

initial descent
initial descent

The hike was intense, mostly due to the extreme jungle heat.  We were absolutely drenched in sweat within the first 10 minutes. But man was it spectacular! We saw all kinds of huuuuge jungle trees with vines hanging all over.  The trail itself was incredible- sometimes we were walking on the jungle floor, but more often we were balancing our way across huge, fallen trees.  Our leaders Kelley and Bill call them “jungle sidewalks” which is a perfect description.  We heard and saw large birds, bright blue beetles, and weird jungle plants!

jungle sidewalks!
jungle sidewalks!
break time
break time
look at the size of this tree!!
look at the size of this tree!!

We hiked for 5 hours. As we got closer to the village, John and Taylor pointed out an arena, and told us that was where the Kaje people went to do ritual dances to the spirits.  It was so cool talking to John and Taylor hearing how the people are eagerly helping them learn language because they want to hear “God’s talk.”  Seeing the arena where they spend their time desperately, fearfully trying to appease spirits so they won’t die, contrasted against their eagerness to hear the word of God was so powerful.  Soon they will hear about a God who loves them and wants to permanently, graciously restore them to a right relationship with Him.  Nothing they do can earn salvation from God but simply believing that He really did send his son to die for the sins they deserve to die for. It gave me chills thinking someday we may be dancing in heaven with people from Kaje!

the arena
the arena

Also let me just take a moment to say that unreached people are really hard to reach! It is no joke that the gospel could not get to these people unless someone brings it to them- they are in the middle of nowhere.  It just solidified in my mind how important it is to recognize the urgency of sending missionaries to people like this who would otherwise never encounter the word of God. The term “unreached people groups” took on a whole new level of meaning for us after this trip.

20150831_141732      IMG_20150902_192119

When John and Taylor said we were coming up on the last hill that their houses sat upon, I was so excited. And then I saw the hill. It really was more of a long cliff. But knowing a glass of cold water waited at the top, we all scrambled up, huffing and puffing.  We got to the top as the sun was sinking low, and the beauty of the scene in front of me took my breath away (not that there was even any left after that cliff). About 30 members of the tribe were gathered all decorated with intricate flower headpieces, waiting for us. When they saw us they began to sway and sing a song, welcoming us to their village.  As they sang, they sent the kids to bring us flower crowns and take our bags.  They walked us to some benches under the Meyers house, sat us down, and gave us a big bowl of sak sak to eat.  (sak sak is pulp of a tree that, when mixed with boiling water, becomes like jello.  Its dark gray. It’s not very good.) But it’s the gesture that was very touching. We chatted with them for a while and then as darkness grew, they went back to their homes and we got a much needed nights sleep in the homes of the missionaries.

our first view at the top of the hill
our first view at the top of the hill
welcome songs!
welcome songs!

20150831_180747

flower crowns!
flower crowns!
sitting (yay)
sitting (yay)
in that bowl is the sak sak
in that bowl is the sak sak
sunset view!!
sunset view!!

We spent Tuesday walking around the village, meeting people and seeing some parts of their daily life.  One sad reality in Papua New Guinea is the lack of education for children in the bush.  These tribes are so remote, it is very difficult to get teachers to go live there and teach the kids.  Not only that, but the system as a whole is very corrupt, and teachers get paid no matter what their work is like.  So there is no incentive for them to actually teach.  We saw a school in the village that looked really nice on the outside, but all the villagers said the teachers leave so often that there is rarely school.  They’ve never had anyone graduate from eight grade.

school buildings in the background...notice the kids are not in school.
school buildings in the background…notice the kids are not in school.

Jacob was able to spend time with the guys as they had various language sessions to learn the native tongue.  Although many people can speak the national language (Tok Pisin), around the village they speak their native tongue. It is crazy to listen to the tribal language- it sounds so foreign and complicated, with sounds I’ve never really heard used for language before! (Lots of nasal sounds). Jacob and some of the guys helped the missionaries by hauling up some huge pieces of lumber for a structure they are working on.

Papua New Guinea is considered a step down from a third world country so it is termed a “non-developing country.” We have wrestled with understanding why this is, and Jacob made some interesting insights into that during our trip which he is going to tell you about:

  • Since being here in PNG we have been trying to understand why this country has never progressed except when influenced by the west.  During our trip to Kaje I had the opportunity to go to a bathing area (at a waterfall) with Taylor.  On our way Taylor told me that he never brought soap to bathe with and if he did he would only bring a tiny bar.  I was curious and asked why this was.  Taylor responded by stating that if someone were to see him with soap they would ask for it, and eventually he would have to give soap to the whole village.  He then stated that people in the village often did not acquire nice things because they would end up having to share their valuables with everyone else.  From this we began to discuss the effect this mindset would have on how a country might progress.  The conclusion was that if no one ever desired nice things (because they would inevitably have to share them with everyone else) then progress would be halted to an extent.  While this discovery first seemed simply interesting, I soon began to realize how important this notion was.  In order to effectively share the gospel with a different culture, it is essential to understand the mindset of the people we are sharing with.  This small window into the mind of the PNG tribal person is one of the areas of understanding missionaries here are utilizing in order to contextualize the gospel message.  We are enjoying every moment of learning how to be more effective ministers of God’s gospel.
This was the waterfall Jacob talks about
This was the waterfall Jacob talks about

Life in the bush is pretty incredible.  Simple living, like I mentioned last week, looks so different than what I had expected.  The missionaries had just a few pieces of furniture, simple kitchen items and homeschooling material for the kids.  They had so little, and yet their home really felt like a home.  Their kids couldn’t have been happier, they had what they needed and nothing more.  It was both refreshing to realize what you can live without, and daunting knowing how much Jacob and I will need to give up to pursue being missionaries.  But we know that God will guide us in knowing what we need to be able to live sustainably in the bush for our family, and also giving us peace in what we need to give up.

The Goheen's home
The Goheen’s home

After a wonderful time of seeing Kaje, spending time with the Goheens and Meyers, picking their brains about tribal ministry both the hard and the fulfilling aspects of it, we packed up to leave.  Wednesday morning at 6:30am we headed back out for home.  What a difference it made to hike in the cooler hours of the day before the sun was high! The only scary thing was about an hour into our trip back, the guide (a Kaje man) told us he had to go and told us we’d be able to find our way back. I was not so sure- we still had 4 hours of dense jungle ahead of us.  But besides one incident of hiking too far through a river, we found our way back without a hitch. After the grueling car ride back to base, we were so exhausted and slept well that night.

Saying goodbye
Saying goodbye
the guys trying to rest their legs in the car
the guys trying to rest their legs in the car

The rest of the week we all took it easy as our bodies were still recovering. We did our grocery run to town on Thursday, the girls all went out on Friday for a girls day (since all the moms couldn’t go on the hike because it was too much for their kids, so they were just as weary as us hikers having been alone with their kids for three days).

Both Jacob and I can’t tell you how much we learned from experiencing life in the tribe.  Seeing the daily life of the missionaries in that context as they work so hard to bring the gospel to the Kaje people was so encouraging.  Though we ourselves didn’t get to do much language learning this week, having the opportunity to see firsthand what tribal church planting looks like was worth the time away.  We have so much to process and so much to thank God for as we take this journey one step at a time.

20150902_092455   20150831_180840

Prayer requests:

– For Jacob and I as we process through what real tribal mission work looks like in looking at our future as tribal church planters

– For the Kaje people that they would have open hearts to hear the word of God

– For the Meyers and Goheens as they work to bring the gospel to the Kaje people

Digging Deeper

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.20150822_133000

    Our team!
    Our team!
  • 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)!
hiking through the jungle
hiking through the jungle
Mangrove trees
Mangrove trees
digging!
digging!
so.much.mud
so.much.mud
So proud of her finds!
So proud of her finds!

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.

IMG_2631 IMG_2632 IMG_2634 IMG_2636

  • 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).IMG_2645
    There he goes!
    There he goes!

    IMG_2656

    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.

IMG_2659 20150827_102911

Rosewita
Rosewita

20150827_115915

The finished product!
The finished product!
  • 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!
This is where they took us for our mentor meeting! There is a downed WWII plane 30 feet under that water that Jacob dove to see!
This is where they took us for our mentor meeting! There is a downed WWII plane 30 feet under that water that Jacob dove to see!

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!!
Jacob talking with his buddies
Jacob talking with his buddies
  •  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 🙂

20150823_161750 20150823_160654

  • 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 🙂

20150828_104042 20150830_160648

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!

Cargo Cults and Cookie Tossing

This week kicked off with one of the most unique experiences our lives!

Matt and Christine are New Tribes Missionaries to the Manam people.  They live on a volcanic island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea.  Recently, the volcano erupted (which happens quite frequently), and they were forced to leave the island from the ash and smoke.  On Sunday, they were set to return and asked us if we would like to take the 6 hour boat trip with them to help clean out their home and meet their tribe.  We jumped at the opportunity.  Early Monday morning, we headed for the boat launch, got our things packed on their speedboat, and began the long trek to their island with them and the boat driver from their tribe, James.  I took a Dramamine just in case I got seasick because I’d never been out on the open ocean for that long before.

a picture I found online of Manam Island
a picture I found online of Manam Island

We were going along smoothly, enjoying the view for about an hour and a half when suddenly, the boat engine died.  At this point we were out on the open seas (which were pretty rough).  As James and Matt struggled to get the motor to kick back in, we were getting pounded by waves.  It only took about three minutes before Jacob, Christine and I began getting really sea sick.  I was really nauseous and slipped down into the fetal position on the boat floor, where dirty water kept sloshing all over me.  But I didn’t care.  I was so nauseous and dizzy and thought I was going to lose it all to the ocean.  Meanwhile, Jacob was throwing up at the front of the boat, and Christine at the back of the boat.  James and Matt were unaffected, but could not get the motor to start.  Land was much too far away to swim to, and the one paddle we had on board was useless against the giant waves.  Matt attempted to call people for help but got no response for about 20 minutes.  Those were the worst 20 minutes of my life.  I was praying so hard that God would push our boat towards shore and not out to sea, and that someone would respond so we could get help from this horrible situation.  Finally we got a mechanic on the phone and he said he would head out in his boat to come find us and help us.  The downside: we had to float for about 2 hours.  Jacob and Christine couldn’t stop throwing up and I was in so much pain trying not to get sick.  It was the longest two hours of my life.

But here is how God is so gracious: we floated IN towards land.  Not only that, but our boat floated right to a dock in a place named Malalo, meaning place of rest. (how cool is that?!) And a place of rest it surely was.  We had a bunch of people from Malalo help us get out and let us sit in their village while we recovered from our harrowing experience.  I have never in my life been so thankful for dry land.  The mechanic showed up right as we were pulling in to fix the motor.  We were driven (on land) back to base, and spent 2 days in bed recovering.  I never knew how intense sea sickness could be.  We found out later there was a stretch of 20 miles of no cell service not too far from where we were.  I try not to play the what-if game, and instead chose to thank God that he protected us.

This was the type of boat the people came out to greet us in
This was the type of boat the people came out to greet us in

The second half of the week was spent learning some fascinating aspects of Papua New Guinean culture.  So you all know, or you’re about to, that I’m a huge history buff. One thing we studied this week was a very prominent piece of PNG culture: The Cargo Cult.  Back in the days of WWII, the Japanese took over PNG for its strategic location.  This had a profound impact on the virtually untouched population of Papua New Guinea.  Among people who were still in the Stone Age and didn’t know a world existed outside of their immediate villages, suddenly there were enormous boats, planes, machine guns and a full war.  Can you imagine the shock and confusion of the people as the Japanese set up camp in their villages? Where did these foreign people come from and more importantly, how did they have all this stuff?

As we visited a local village, they brought us to these enormous Japanese guns left behind from WWII
As we visited a local village, they brought us to these enormous Japanese guns left behind from WWII

20150819_133803

Two worlds colliding
Two worlds colliding

Modern hit Stone Age so fast, the people had no way to evaluate what was realistic & what wasn’t. Because they had never seen factories or thousands of years of development in the world, they could not figure out how suddenly all these new objects appeared.  So they spiritualized it and decided the gods had given the foreign people cargo.  The people of PNG wanted this cargo that made life easier (tools, weapons, food), and so they decided to start trying to appease the white man’s god in order to get the cargo. As some missionaries began to tell the people about God without learning the PNG culture, they saw many “converts” as people flocked to obey this god in order to get the goods that the white people had.  When they didn’t immediately get the cargo, they began cults where they would do sacrifices, pay money, sing and dance, anything to get this cargo.

Now this may sound crazy or silly to our western, logical thinking.  But are we really that different? Don’t we struggle just as much with the exact same issue- MATERIALISM? The human heart is the same, whether it’s in America where we rack up debt to pay for things we want right when we want them, or here where they perform rituals to get things they want. The only way to defeat materialism is to find something more valuable than what you are desiring. What God has promised to those who trust Him FAR outweighs any material possession we could ever dream of here on earth.  In order to teach the PNG people who God really is and what He has in store for them is only possible through a discipleship relationship, understanding the root issue and walking through it side by side.  Re-calibrating the heart, not only theirs but our own selfish hearts, is a day by day refining process with the Lord.  Finding this common ground between cultures is an amazing process which has been teaching me that no matter how completely different our worlds look, we were all created by the same God and all have the same, desperate need for Him.

sweet girl
sweet girl

20150819_143438

As we’ve been trying to bridge the gap of language and culture, we have been putting in 40 hours a week visiting local villages every day, making friends who are willing to work with us on language. Jacob has made some good connections with Gabinus, Ramos, Patrick, Allu and Sylvester- guys from the nearby village Susu Banis.  He visits them frequently throughout the week and they help him both in learning Tok Pisin and in culture by bringing him along on various excursions and activities that are part of their daily life.

learning how they weave blain (or walls)
learning how they weave blain (or walls)
Gabinus teaching us how to do it
Gabinus teaching us how to do it
a blain in the schoolhouse
a blain in the schoolhouse

We also spend time processing what we see, practicing the new language we learn each day, and documenting culture finds.  These relationships are so valuable and are where we start to bridge the gap between us.  Tomorrow I am going to meet with a woman named Ellen who is going to show me how she gets clams for her family.  Each of these activities brings friendship, learning, and valuable insight into the world of the people here in PNG.  We feel so blessed to be here!

Prayer Requests:

  • For Matt and Christine as they did end up making it safely back to their tribe a few days later.  They are almost done with the first phase (learning the tribal language and culture) and are about to move into the next phase (literacy) which is one step closer to teaching through the whole Bible for the first time among the Monam people! Pray the hearts of the people would be preparing to hear the word of God!
  • For our relationships with the people here to grow and for us to be a blessing to the people as we learn their language.

Getting out of the Banis

For the past two weeks, we have been in full swing of training!  The focus these weeks was to observe the culture of the people in Madang, where we are based, as well as to learn practical methods to learn language.  Which is why I titled this “Getting out of the Banis” because banis means fence in Tok Pisin.  We have been out of our fence a LOT the last two weeks!  We wrote papers on our cultural observations almost every time we went out.  We began classes every morning at 8.  Our classes met outside since it is always sunny and hot, and out there we can get a breeze from the ocean.  We had a guest church planter come and give us a two day intensive course on how to do CLA (culture and language acquisition).

Lisa teaching us phonetics!
Lisa teaching us phonetics!
Learning survival phrases in Tok Pisin
Learning survival phrases in Tok Pisin

On Monday (August 3), we met all the nationals working on our base.  They are so friendly and are eager to help us all learn language.  This is something that has really impressed me- the nationals working with us really have a heart for teaching us about their language and culture.  Those who are believers have truly caught the vision of seeing the new missionaries get to the tribes and share the word of God with the people of Papua New Guinea.  And the first step towards getting to the tribes is learning the national culture and language.  Some of them were living in tribes and became believers because of New Tribes Missionaries learning their language and presenting the gospel to them, so they are eager to help us learn quickly.

Some HIGHLIGHTS this week:

  1. Jacob got his Papua New Guinea driver’s license! Now that was a funny process- here they drive on the left side of the road. He had to adjust to that and to shifting gears with his left hand. On another note, driving around the country is extremely limited. You cannot drive far as there are no roads connecting the major cities here in PNG!
  2. Part of being a full time missionary is planning food for your family for about a month at a time. When you are in the bush, you can really only get a supply drop once a month, maybe even longer. So here in Madang, they have us practicing planning food for longer periods of time. They are training us to plan food two weeks at a time. On Thursday we did our first major grocery shop in town. Our orientation leaders showed us all the different grocery stores, butcher shops, pharmacies, etc. we could go to, as well as the open air market where we get all our produce. The fresh fruit and veggies have been a MAJOR highlight so far!
    Market
    Market
    papaya from a tree near our house!
    papaya from a tree near our house!

    Jacob about to eat a squid!
    Jacob about to eat a squid!
  3. A helicopter landed right on our base to pick up some supplies and fuel. SO awesome!                       20150803_104207
  4. Jacob and the guys went on a scavenger hunt in the area looking for Krangket island. The key was they had no English help- they could only speak in Pidgin. Our language helper (a national guy named Joshua), went with them to make sure they didn’t die, but couldn’t help them at all with language. They ended up finding the island, but brought back some pretty funny stories of all their blunders 🙂

    from left to right: Jason, Jacob, David, Clint
    from left to right:
    Jason, Jacob, David, Clint
  5. On Friday, August 7, we women got a cooking class from Joshua’s wife, Amelia. (Side note, Joshua and Amelia are a married couple who grew up in a tribe that our orientation leaders worked in. They became Christians through the teaching from the missionaries). It was a simple, typical soup they eat.  The ingredients were bananas (unripe so they are more like potatoes), kaukau (tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a regular potato), greens (the leaves from a summer squash plant and another green plant), and coconut milk- made from an actual coconut.  We all ate together that night and listened to Joshua & Amelia’s testimonies- which were an incredible reminder of why we are doing this and how powerful the word of God is in changing lives.Ingredients: a certain banana that is more like a potato, kaukau (cross between a sweet potato and a regular one), & coconut milk
    Amelia scraping a coconut
    Amelia scraping a coconut

    Soup's on!
    Soup’s on!
  6. One afternoon we got to meet with the pastor of the local church we are going to and he was able to tell us more of his story, how we can reach this community more effectively, and how not to make major cultural blunders. It was really helpful to hear!
  7. We have been walking around to the villages by our base, meeting our neighbors and beginning relationships with the local people. This has been so exciting. People, especially the kids, LOVE when we come into the village and welcome us to their homes.  We have been really limited in what we can say because we don’t have a lot of language ability yet, but we are making the initial steps towards asking them to help us learn their language and culture.  We have started to use the language learning techniques we aquired in class to more proactively learn their language as we visit with them.  New Tribes full time missionaries are expected to be actively learning language and culture 40 hours a week, so we shoot to be with the villagers about 4-6 hours a day, and then the rest of the day is processing the information we learned and practice, practice, practice!!  2015-08-08 10.49.46 2015-08-08 10.54.06 20150810_084611          20150813_160641
  8. Jacob was invited by some local villagers on a Bandakoot hunt! They hiked through the jungle to a field that was a few acres large. There they set the field on fire and lined up waiting for the small, possum like creatures to run out of the grass so they could kill them. This was the highlight of Jacob’s time here so far!
    They got one!
    They got one!

    unnamed (16)

    Setting the field on fire
    Setting the field on fire

    unnamed (7)

  9. One of the new missionaries is a guy who grew up here in PNG as a missionary kid, so he knows the country really well. He took us to this island just off the coast of Madang called Top Island. It was the most stunning, amazing place I have ever been! We just hopped on a boat, headed to the island, and spent the day on a perfect, white sand, tropical beach. It was INCREDIBLE.

20150815_094400

crystal clear water
crystal clear water
landing on our island for the day!
landing on our island for the day!

20150815_100539 20150815_110715

20150815_110600

Some LESSONS learned this week:

  1. After having been in town a few times, we met together as a team and worked out a dress code. For guys, it’s not much different than what you would wear in America, but for women it is MUCH different.  The big thing here is that your thighs, or even the outline of your upper thighs should never be showing.  All the women wear “mari” blouses- basically a simple, long, baggy, flowy shirt that hides everything.  It’s really important to look like they do so that you are not viewed as such an outsider.  By simply dressing like them, we show that we are invested in relationships with them. 2015-08-12 10.34.10
  2. Burning trash is the only way to get rid of it. There are little pockets of smoke everywhere and it is potent smelling since most of the trash is plastic. I can’t stand the smell, but I am trying really hard to get used to it….

    trash burning outside our window
    trash burning outside our window
  3. There are so.many.bats. And they are huge. AND they fly around during the day.  It’s quite disturbing…

    so manyyyy
    so manyyyy
  4. Malaria meds do crazy things to you in your sleep. It’s no joke- one night I woke up in the middle of the night and was CONVINCED that Jacob was a native man sleeping in my bed! Haha!
  5. Saturday morning we walked to a market right down the street from our base. This experience was my first time of real culture shock here. There were probably one hundred people crammed into this small, fenced-in plot of land.  We were shoulder to shoulder with people walking through the different rows of produce.  It was loud, smelly, hot, and people were staring and pointing at us the whole time.  Babies here are not in diapers so if they go to the bathroom…well you get the idea.  SO needless to say it was definitely overwhelming and something we talked a lot about later in terms of processing culture shock.

    this is where the market is
    this is where the market is
  6. As Jacob was walking through the tall grass on the bandakoot hunt, the guys told them to look out for a snake they call “pyton”, which are incredibly poisonous. AKA you have about 45 minutes to live. Good thing I didn’t know that before he went on the hunt…..
they found a dead one...
they found a dead one…

Prayer Requests:

  • Managing culture shock (it really hasn’t been hindering) but just getting used to the environment and change.
  • Dealing with the stresses and frustrations of culture and language learning.
  • That we would find language helpers in the villages who would be willing to partner more directly with us to learn the language.

We are so SO thankful for all you have done back home to support and encourage us! We miss you dearly!

I made a video of the past two weeks…annnnd internet is too slow to handle uploading it :/ Keep an eye out because maybe I’ll get it up one of these days 🙂

Sweating through Adjustment

Lets just start by saying it is no joke traveling to the other side of the world! All told, we traveled for about 33 hours straight to get to Papua New Guinea.  We left on Monday from LAX, flew to Fiji, stopped in the Solomon Islands, flew to Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), and finally landed in Madang!

Fiji from above
Fiji from above

The rural-ness of PNG is amazing- as we flew across this beautiful, mountainous country, it was almost entirely jungle speckled by small pockets of villages.

20150729_161422      20150731_133433       20150729_161339

The rich people live in tin homes, while the majority of people here in Madang live in huts made of wood and woven palm branches.  All the homes are built on stilts to preserve the home from insects, water and general deterioration.  We arrived on the New Tribes base and got settled into our new home! We can see the Pacific Ocean from our home.  Dealing with the time change has been somewhat of an uphill battle- we are 14 hours ahead.  Our bodies keep waking us up at midnight, but luckily we are pretty good at forcing ourselves back to sleep.

our home!
our home!

We have been meeting the other missionaries arriving for their first 4 year stint, as well as those who work here full time.  It has been great all being in the same boat- newbies not knowing a thing about the national language (Pidgin) and culture.

Here are some HIGHLIGHTS so far:

– Getting to go into town to the local grocery store and open air market. We cook our own food and will be eating the freshest produce we’ve ever had- straight from the gardens of the nationals!

local market
local market

– A couple came out of their tribe for a two week break and we became good friends, picking their brains about life in the tribe. They invited us to go with them to the neighboring village to accompany them as they visited some old friends they made.  We got to walk around and meet the locals! We all stuck out like sore thumbs, but the people flocked over to say “apinoon” or “good afternoon” to us.  Jacob befriended a man also named Jacob.  The man was so excited they had the same name, and told Jacob to come back and practice Pidgin with him! This walk through the village was the best event this week as we were able to get out for the first time and meet our neighbors.

–  On Sunday morning we were able to attend the local church which is conveniently right across the street! This was especially exciting since Trinity VBS raised money this year to help them build a church structure since they are currently meeting under a tarp. The pastor was very welcoming, as well as the church and we had a great time worshiping with the local believers.

Pastor Japheth
Pastor Japheth
how cute is he?!
how cute is he?!

LESSONS we have learned about jungle life:

  1. Never, EVER leave so much as a crumb on your floor/counter!! The ant life here is absolutely nuts- they come out of nowhere/everywhere and suddenly you have this huge army of ants all over! On the first day I left some dishes in the sink… let’s just say that was the first and last time that will ever happen again.
  2. The toad’s pee is poisonous. Don’t pick them up. (Advice not learned from personal experience, thank goodness).
  3. I have literally never felt the urge so strongly to jump over a barbed wire fence and run as fast as I can and dive into the ocean. Even if it is the place where everyone dumps their waste. But it’s JUST. SO. HOT.

    how tantalizing is that?!
    how tantalizing is that?!

4. Babies are 95% of the time naked. Also how the nationals greet cute babies is by flicking & pinching their cheeks, or fliging them around yelling about how cute they are. It’s hilarious to watch our friend’s kids’ reactions!

5. Geckos are a part of indoor living. They will just appear on your floor/window/table and there is nothing you can do about it. They are way too fast to catch.  So you just have to live with it.

sneaky little devil
sneaky little devil

Most importantly, we are so excited to begin learning Pidgin and getting out to meet more people- especially travelling to the tribes! Thank you for your prayers & encouragement!!

20150731_133529

Prayer Requests:

– Patience & peace as we are sometimes under culture stress being in such a new place trying to adjust

– For learners attitudes as we begin our training classes and as we get to know this amazing country!