Okay. The title might be a slight exaggeration. In reality, we’re only planning to be gone for the next nine-ten years. But it feels like we are packing for the rest of our lives.For those of you who have never experienced this intimidating, sentimentally-trying, surprisingly-freeing experience, here are four questions that have served as a helpful grid through which to funnel every single item we own and which have made the process (somewhat) easier.
- Can You Live Without It? It’s the first question asked. People ask this whenever spring cleaning comes around or whenever the urge to purge or ‘de-clutter’ your lifestyle pops up, but this situation takes these things to another level. Basically, if you are not absolutely certain that you will need/use the item in question, you get rid of it. Space is limited–whether it’s on the plane, the shipping container, or our future house. Every bin we pack, we have to pay to get over there. If we’re packing it in this valuable space, it better be worth it.
- Does It Use Electricity? When the electricity used to power all of your appliances and computers is finite and dependent solely on solar panels, we have to think a bit harder about whether or not we can bring it. Spending electricity, in a lot of ways, is like spending money. What do we want to spend our limited supply of power on? A stand-mixer? A blender? An iPod?
- Will It Survive? Not every household item has what it takes to survive in the hot and humid climate of Papua New Guinea. Some guidelines we’ve heard over and over again: 1) the only wood that survives in Papua New Guinea grows in Papua New Guinea, and 2) if you bring anything less than stainless steel, it will rust. Plastic actually becomes a valuable commodity in this decision-making process. As we survey the contents of our lives, compressed into a dozen or so Costco bins, we have to ask, will this even survive? If not, we will have to leave it behind.
- Can You Live Without It for Six Months? Just before we move, we will pack a shipping container with bins and bins and more bins filled with things we’ll need eventually–an energy efficient fridge and freezer, pots and pans and towels, family photographs, a myriad of books. Things we hope one day will make our house a home in the tribe.The plan is for this shipping container to arrive four to six months after we get into the country. So, we look at a bin full of items and ask ourselves, “Is this something I can live without for six months?’ If the answer is yes, you pack it. If the answer is no–the way it is for, say, my contact supplies for the next few months or one very hardy pot or pan or spatula–then you ask yourself the next question: ‘Do we have enough room in our luggage to fly this over with us?’
Standing in that hot garage and asking yourself these questions, you suddenly realize: packing for the next ten years is not simple.In fact, nothing about this whole process has been simple.But then again, nothing worth doing ever is.It may not be simple and it may not be easy, but it is worth it. Letting go of much of what we have here to tell people the message of the Bible is worth it;to tell people that we are all sinners and deserving of judgment from God, but that God Himself, in his unfathomable love and grace, made a way for sinners to be reconciled to Him through His Son; through His substitution death and victorious resurrection.There is nothing you can do to earn God’s grace, nothing you can do to mitigate His wrath. There is nothing you can do to make up for what you’ve done. But He has. Once and for all, through Jesus. Salvation is a gift that obliterates any and all of our pride and do-gooding and casts the burden and glory of it upon He who gave it.That is not just good news. That is the best news.In light of that, all of these hurdles and decisions and sacrifices suddenly look very small.