Monday, March 31, 2014

I Lack

I’m not the person I want to be. Three weeks in and while getting to know this country and the people who live here remains a great joy, each day I become more and more aware that I am so lacking. I lack language. I lack cultural understanding. I lack the ability to solve problems without confronting it head on (major no no here). I lack strength in the heat of the day. I lack motivation. I lack patience. I lack, I lack, I lack.

Rich, who lives and works with the Moi tribe in the island’s interior along with his wife Karen and three daughters, told us, “Learning the language and culture is hard. That’s why not many people do it. If you can do it you will be so glad you did.”

I step forward. Speaking and writing simple sentences in Indonesian. Reaching out for friendships. Listening, observing, writing, and contemplating all that happens around and to me.

Still, I lack. The awareness of how little I know and can contribute pushes me daily to prayer and I bury myself in the scriptures.

“For consider your calling, that not many were wise, not many were mighty, not many noble, but God chose the foolish things…, the weak things…”

I lack, but I am loved and strengthened by a most gracious God who chose me in all my foolishness and weakness. I lack, yet I stand firm. Held steady by love and grace.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Post 7

Today was our first day at language school. Morning class and afternoon practice in the community. "Don't walk around Post 7" we have been told numerous times. "There are too many drunks. The white people prefer to drive in cars here."

I had two thoughts. The first was that we had a problem. Our guest house is in Post 7, we don't have a car, and we need to practice the language. My second thought was, really? How will the drunks who live on this hill know the truth and love we proclaim to live in the name of if all of us avoid their neighborhood?

We threw around the idea of walking in Post 7 all last week. Today we decided to leave all valuables at home in hopes that if we were hassled by a drunk we wouldn't have anything to give them and they would leave us alone. We also went walking in the mid afternoon, around the time we supposed school would be letting out. Hoping that if we avoided the evening we'd be ok.

My heart is so full. Everyone we met today was kind, talked with us and helped us with our language learning. Everyone loved Isaiah. He sat on nearly every motorbike we came across. We played with a group of children in school field. We spoke with older women who come from the interior and live in tree houses. What a rich afternoon. No one hassled us. Everyone welcomed us.

We will go out again tomorrow. Walking the "don't walk there" neighborhood. I am not naive. We've been stopped by a drunk previously while driving with an Indonesian colleague. I know this very well may happen again. We pray before we go, "Lord, we want to meet the people you have for us to meet. We want them to know that not all the white people will avoid them. Thank you for the privilege of walking in Post 7."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Golden Days

I am overjoyed at being in Papua. Each day there is some new discovery that seems to make this island more and more endearing.

The heat may be oppressive, but I don’t complain. The mosquitoes quick to take advantage of the tiniest spot of unsprayed skin, but I just swat them away. I’m taking motion sickness medicine every day because the roads are so bad, but hey, that’s what medication is for, right? I can only speak a couple words of Indonesian, but who cares, I’m connecting with people in smiles. This place is awesome.

Yes, I know. You veteran missionaries maybe rolling your eyes and saying, “Oh the honeymoon stage!” And yes, I know that these are the golden days of our time here. I know that times will change and I will inevitably become frustrated and at some point want to quit.

All of these charming aspects of culture will become annoying and I’ll long for my own culture. Eventually things will even out and I’ll adjust to living in a new culture. I’ve experienced the honeymoon stage before. And here’s the one thing I learned – Enjoy it while it lasts!

Eventually, when I do hit the hard times, here’s what I ask of you. Remind me of the honeymoon stage. Remind me of my calling. Remind me of the big picture. I’ll even out in the end, but I may struggle to do it alone. Walk this road with me and in the meantime let’s enjoy these golden days!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sentani: Everything New

The mountains are soft and green. Waterfalls long and wide visible from miles away cascade over dense jungle terrain. White clouds sag around mountain peaks. On the ground Indonesians and Papuans move along at a steady pace mostly on foot and by motorcycle. The air is hot but clean and the streets are dirty. Row after row of small shops crowd together forming a town center.

Sentani is at once richly beautiful and stereotypically impoverished. We are honoured to live here.
Our new home, just built, is nearly ready for move in. Along the bottom of a mountain and up a red dirt road, our home is a small apartment size row house. The row houses directly across the road from us are still being built. About two minute walk away is an Indonesian church that we plan to attend, perhaps alternating Sundays with an expat church. We hope to build solid relationships with our neighbors.

While work continues on our home we are staying at a guest house. The guest house is a stopping point for international workers coming in and out of the island’s interior. Men, women, whole families living and working among the isolated tribal groups sit at the breakfast table and share their lives and stories with us. In eight months or so once we have a firm grasp of the language these, or individuals like them, Ben will support through helicopter flights.

On Monday we begin language school with a Papuan teacher. Isaiah also has a Papuan teacher and will learn the language through play, song, and dance. Part of his schooling is to attend an hour long Indonesian children’s play group each morning. Our schooling is more formal with scheduled classes and mandatory afternoon practice out on our own in the community.

Already, life in Sentani is not without challenges. I am learning that everything takes a long time and even with plans agreed, the plans may change. I am learning the meaning of an Indonesian “blessed minute” and also “rubber time”. Allowing grace when things don’t go according to schedule.

Everything is new. I have so much to learn. I am eager to do it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Whose issues to expose - mine or his?

Perhaps you’ve seen them too. The “Reasons my son is crying” photo series floating around. Pictures of children tantruming for the most ridiculous reasons. The boy who can’t find the red balloon which is right behind him. Or the girl who got paint on her fingers while finger painting. Cheeks red with frustration, tears and snot streaming down little faces.

My first response was to laugh, no doubt the bloggers intent. Hey, I totally identify with that. I thought. After all, identifying with other adults who live in the totally insane and irrational world of parenting feeds my sanity. My daily survival depends on it.

But identifying with the Mom at the grocery store who is fighting mightily to keep her cool while her child tantrums about wanting soda, and posting photos of the tantrum on the internet are two very different things. Grocery store mom I meet in my actual life and I see both sides of the story. We give each other knowing and encouraging glances. I want to high five her. “You’re doing a great job!” I cheer with a smile. Sometimes she does the same for me.

There is a lot of talk on mommy blogs about being real and authentic when it comes to parenting. I’m good with that, but here’s the thing. While I can easily post pictures of my three year old’s tantrums for everyone to see and get a good laugh at, I’m totally safe. My own issues avoid exposure. My son can’t take a photo of me and post with a caption, “Here’s the time my mom lost it because I wouldn’t stop singing.”  (true story)

He can’t, but I can. I can write about how I’m hanging my heart on Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Hanging on this verse and ones like it because I’m stressed and when I’m stressed I speak sharp words. 

I can write authentically about the state of my own heart.