August 1st, we returned to Mawarero from our first break. When we flew in on the helicopter from Madang and disembarked, our teammates the Canns hopped on and headed out for their first break (they return tomorrow).
Before we came to Papua New Guinea, we did training with our organization (Finisterre Vision) for cultural awareness and practical strategies for living and doing ministry in Papua New Guinea. Some of the things we learned about, we planned on implementing, but I didn’t completely understand why we were planning on it…figured it would make more sense once we got there!
One of the things we planned on implmenting as part of our long-term strategy for living in Papua New Guinea was to take a break out of the tribe every 6 months for two weeks.
Stateside, it’s hard to imagine what it will be like to move your family to a helicopter-access-only location in the middle of the jungles of PNG. My theory was that coming from a place where there are millions of people all around you and where you can drive anywhere you want to, that moving to a place where there are only around 300 people around you, and where there is no where to drive, if you want to go anywhere you have to hike — that would want to take a break because we’d get lonely or feel too isolated.
But this actually hasn’t been the case.
For our family, probably the biggest difficultly we’ve found living in the jungle for the last six months has also been one of the sweetest things about living here.
We live in a tribe where almost every house is within walking distance. Every day, we see our friends hanging out on our steps, or hanging out in front of our house or just walking by. We have conversations with people all the time, which is great because we’re learning their language, and we’re here to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Word to the people of Mawarero and the entire language group of Ndo.
What is difficult is that there are never any breaks from this. There isn’t really anywhere you can go within the tribe to rest. You also never know each day when people are going to come to your door—and it usually happens all throughout the day. Every day, our language helpers come. Every day, we face the tasks of learning the language, ministering to our families, cooking from scratch, cleaning, hanging up our laundry, washing the dishes, homeschooling, repairing and/or finishing household projects.
It sometimes feels like everything is pulling on us all the time. When we are inside the house working, we feel the pull to be outside the house among the people, learning their language and building relationships. When we come back inside, however, we are reminded that our walls are still not painted (and therefore speckled with mold), our floors still have cracks in them (therefore inviting insects of every shape and size), etc. We daily need wisdom and diligence and self-control on how we spend our time throughout the day.
In the US for most once you go home, not a lot of people come knocking on your door. When you go to your house, you are able to just be alone as a family. But not so much here.
So…when this break came, it was welcome! If for no other reason than to not have that hourly ministry knocking at our door. Now that we’re back, we feel so refreshed! We feel ready to go out and fight again. So, we’re thankful for the break. Even for our older kids, we started to see the benefit — as their school responsibilities increase, and as they are called to help us more around the house.
It is good to be back. It’s so good to see our friends again. These people with whom we have built houses with, and hiked through the jungles with, and just sat with in front of firepits in huts and with whom we have storied during the wee hours of the night. And here are some things we have learned from the whole experience!
The two week break is helpful. The fact that it’s so long is a benefit, because by the end we’re ready and wanting to come back.
We also learned that, while we’re thankful for breaks, we are also glad to be here, doing what we came to do. We’re glad to be here learning the language so that we might bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the Ndo area.
It’s been unusually rainy since we’ve returned. And there have been a few times where people from the village have gotten stuck on our porch while heading home as they wait for the heavy rain to pass. We’ve had some sweet times just sitting outside, watching the rain (one time all of us drinking hot cocoa together), and hanging out.
So, it’s good to be back. Yes, there is a family of mice that have since moved into our house in the time we were gone, and yes, we still have many household projects left.
But we long to bring our new neighbors and friends the truth of God’s Word! So we’re thankful for breaks, and it’s good to be back!