One of my fellow missionaries here in the Madang region happens to be pretty good at a few slight-of-hand “parlor tricks.” You know, the kind where you make a coin disappear and then reappear out of thin air?
Well, I’ve always thought those types of things were pretty cool, so the other day while we were both out in a nearby village visiting with a small cluster of guys in the shade, I said, “Hey Noe (He’s Hispanic. You pronounce his name like “Joey,” but with an “N.”), why don’t you show these guys one of your tricks?” (He had just finished telling the guys a few moderately lame riddles, so I thought this might help liven things up a little.)
It took a little prodding from the rest of the group, but he finally agreed to do a couple. He took a coin out of his bag, showed it to the group, did a few stretches to limber up, and then showed everyone that the coin had vanished from his hands. He continued talking for a little bit, but was then overcome with a coughing fit, which culminated with him hacking out his 20 Toa coin (though his hands had never gone anywhere near his mouth).
I hadn’t seen him do this one before, so I was fairly impressed – especially because I had been trying to watch carefully. When the coin launched out into the dirt, I let out a laugh of surprise…and I was the only one who did. I looked around and saw that the other 8 guys were all sitting rigid and silent, looking back and forth between Noe and the coin.
Seeing that it was a tough crowd, Noe picked up the coin and tried again. This time, he vanished the coin and proceeded to pull it out of one of the guys’ ears. Now the group was shifting awkwardly.
“Want me to pull it out of your ear next?” he asked a guy sitting near the front of the group. The young man slowly reached over and grasped the handle of his machete. “No thanks.” He said.
“Hmm.” I thought. “This isn’t going quite like I thought it would…”
And then it occurred to me: Even though we had told them over and over that what Noe was doing was just playing around, they weren’t believing us. Their worldview was too strong in this area for them to think outside of their culture’s predetermined boundaries. Noe wasn’t an amateur illusionist, he was a kukarai.
From what I’ve been able to figure out, a kukarai is what we in the West would probably refer to as a “witch doctor.” They are kind of a big deal around here. A kukarai claims to have great power in the spiritual realm and makes his living performing rituals to heal sickness, curse enemies, and bless gardens. One of the more common manifestations of a kukarai’s power is his ability to “pull” disease or sorcery from another person’s body without breaking the skin (often the disease will have the form of a rusted nail or a piece of bone, or something).
As far as these guys were concerned, my friend had just proven that he had direct access to the underworld, and all powers therein. (And THAT’S the reputation that we’re over here trying to get, right?) Great.
So, it was a bit of a bust on the “positive testimony” front, but it was a good experience for us to get an idea of just how entrenched our friends are in their current thinking, and how what’s “no big deal” to us can, in fact, be a VERY big deal to them.
[Don’t worry though, in the end, Noe was able to diffuse the tension by assuring the group that he “wasn’t going to eat any of them.”]
I have cool parents, so while we were growing up, my brothers and I were allowed to have, by most people’s standards, a fairly wide variety of pets. We always had the normal cat and dog combo going on like everyone else, but we were also able to play host to a partially domesticated chipmunk, rats, hamsters, fish, ferrets, and chickens (those last two didn’t always do so well together). All in all, I thought our collection was pretty cool. That is, until I moved to PNG and met the Lockwood boys!
Our neighbors here on the mission center have four boys, ranging from 3-11 years old. As a family, they have more or less opened their doors to the fauna of Papua New Guinea. In the short two months that we have lived next to them we have seen them acquire a kookaburra, a cuscus, a turtle, a rabbit, a fruit bat, and a baby salt water crocodile. And, just yesterday, I saw one of them walking around with some new, big baby bird that they had gotten from a neighbor (word has gotten out among the locals that there is a market for baby animals with this family)!
Given, the casualty rate is pretty high with most of the animals that they take in, so it’s not like their house is overflowing with animals all the time (though it often seems like it!). For example, the boys were telling me a few weeks ago about a pet cockatoo that they used to have that got eaten by one of their cats. Then they mentioned off-hand that this was the same cat that had jumped over the guard dog fence and gotten killed. Life just isn’t as cushy for pets over here as it is in America. (But the alternate fate of these animals is getting eaten by the people who bring them to the Lockwoods, so it’s still a better option for them.)
Andrew Lockwood, the nine year old, actually has a blog that he updates occasionally about his experiences with different animals here in PNG called http://bitscratchedstung.blogspot.com/. How cool is that?!
Right now, we’re moving around too much to think about getting a pet, and the boys are still a bit young, but we’re sure looking forward to letting them experience nature at least a little bit like our neighbors’ kids are!
There are several scary things that exist over here in PNG: death adders (aptly named), bird eating spiders (as big as dinner plates), cerebral malaria (malaria in your brain), sharks, crocodiles, fire ants…but none of those compare to what we just experienced.
That’s right. We just went through our first language evaluation.
We had steeled ourselves against the time that we would finally meet our language consultant, preparing ourselves mentally for our first encounter with this horrible creature, no doubt some inhuman mixture of Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Boogie Man. (Or, so we supposed, based on the level of dread we were feeling.) It turned out he was just a really nice NTM guy from the Island of New Ireland, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The test, as well, turned out not to be nearly as bad as we had thought it would be. Actually, I would go so far as to say that the whole thing was very encouraging! Before we started, our consultant explained that our evaluation was much more of a “course check” than a “test.”
We were asked to each say 10 sentences using nouns that we saw around us, translate into English stories that our language helpers told us in Tok Pisin, describe Fourth of July celebrations in the U.S. to our language helpers, and retell to our helpers a short drama that our consultant acted out (among a few other things). All in all, it was a mostly painless ordeal.
When all was said and done (well, I guess just said, really), he went over our strengths and weaknesses with us and gave some very helpful pointers on how we might improve our methods and grow our vocabulary.
He said that, discounting the time I told my helper that I ate my family’s stomach for lunch, we were both doing very well. I am now officially out of “Basic” level and have entered into the realm of “Progressing-low!” Rochelle, because she is a total brain, has been pegged at “Progressing-mid.” (And she got there with about 1/3 of the study time that I had!)
For those of you wondering what those rankings translate into: We both do well composing regular sentences, but we need to work on stringing those sentences together (and, obviously, on beefing up our vocabulary).
Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement as we’ve been working at this language! Please keep them coming!
Each week we try to take part in a few CEs (culture events), which can be anything from building a fire, working in a garden, visiting with a neighbor, or watching someone cook something. In this instance, Seth helped one of our friends dig out his well, since it had dried up. We try to chronicle each event with lots of pictures (like the one above).
After taking part in the CE, we try to get a recording of a national citizen describing the event. Then we transcribe the audio from that recording, using the PNG alphabet (English characters, but with phonetically based spelling and pronunciation). Here’s a sample from Seth’s well digging event:
“Namba wan taim ol wara bilong mipla long dring em bagarup. Nau miplela olgeta save go insait lo get lo Nu Traibs Mison lo banis. Nau mipela stap kisim wara lo dring. I go I kam I go I kam na em I no gutpela tumas lo mipela karim evipela samting I go I kam. Nau Mesan em tingting o Malai em alrait mi got sampela tim ol kam stap lo haus blo mi nau mipela amamas lo helpim yupela long clinim hol wara long yupela I dring. Alrait nau al yu kam sindaun painim toktok onetime mipela nau bungim tingting wantaim mi nau mi amamas nau mi makim wan glap go digim ol wara nau olrait mi na Jon, Tela mipela stat digim na Jeremi na BJ tu. Mipela digim digim na mipela bungim ol wara. Olraight nau Mesan em wantaim sampela man ol wokim haus bilong ol wara long karamapim ol wara. Mipela tok karamapim bilong ol wara. Haus bilong ol wara. Olrait nau mipela karim haus kam na lainim sampela brik lo arere nau wokim olsem baks na putim haus I go antap long brik. Olrait nau mipela karamapim ol wara. Nau yumi digim ken bilong em ol wara em drai taim san em kamap hat long tumas na em drai em. Olrait nau yumi digim ken nau yumi bungim ol wara nau yumi digim digim nau em naispela ol wara em bai kamap nau bihain em no ken pinis. Em bai stap oltaim oltaim. Em tasol.”
Then we sit with our headphones on and listen, listen, listen! (As we listen, we try to familiarize ourselves with the patterns of speech and intonation, as well as isolate the verbs, nouns, adjectives, time words, and whatever other “grammery” things we can find.)
And then we head out to find another CE to take part in! (Easy-peasy, eh?)
One of the questions that we kept hearing as we were raising our support was “What do they eat in Papua New Guinea?” Having never actually been to PNG before, we had to answer out of second-hand knowledge, and usually we would just say, “Sweet potatoes.”
Well, now that we’ve been able to be here for a couple of weeks, we can give you a more in depth response: The people here in PNG eat…sweet potatoes.
OK, so they do eat more than that, but honestly, from what we’ve been able to see, the range of food that the locals are eating is quite a bit smaller than the normal American palette would be used to.
Most meals consist of a mixture of a few vegetables from their garden (EVERYONE has a garden.) and maybe some rice. If things are going really well, then they might have a can of tuna to toss into the mix. Spices are rarely used, except for the occasional bouillon cube (spices cost money, and money isn’t exactly plentiful), and if meat is a part of the meal, then it’s a pretty special thing.
Coconuts are also a fairly staple food item, and we’ve discovered that there are two main types: kulau and dry coconut. Kulau are young coconuts (pictured above) that haven’t really developed a lot of meat yet. They are used as a sort of Gatorade (lots of good electrolytes in one of those suckers!), and contain about a liter of water apiece. They are especially good when you’re feeling hot and dehydrated!
Dry coconuts are more what you might think of as a “typical” coconut. Again, they are actually pretty nutritious. We’ve eaten a few as more of a snack, but we’re looking forward to experimenting more with them to see how we can use them in meals!
It has definitely been a bit of an adjustment trying to figure out our diet since we arrived. You can get most “American” foods over here, but you’ll often be paying through the nose, since they have all been imported mainly for the expatriate community. Tomato sauce, pasta, meat, dairy, eggs, and grains are all on the pricier side, so we’ve been trying to embrace a more simplistic menu. We’ve been having fun with it (and we’re certainly not starving!), but it has sometimes been tricky to come up with meals that fill the big 3 family qualifiers: incorporates local veggies, uses reasonably priced ingredients, and tastes good.
But, hey, they grow their coffee right here in country, and it’s awesome, so everything important has been taken care of, right?
We waited and waited and waited, and finally, it came: Departure day! July 30th had us at Albany International Airport at 9:30 AM with both sets of our parents and all of our luggage. (Do you have any idea how quickly you can max-out an international baggage limit when you’re moving your family overseas?!) All told, we had 230 lbs between the four of us, including carry-ons.
To help put that number in perspective, you can run through this little exercise: Imagine what you would like to bring with you as you move to your new home in another country. But be really frugal: only bare bones necessities and favorite items allowed. Now cut that number down by half. Now divide what’s left by the number of people in your family. Now have each person get rid of ¼ of another family member’s cherished possessions. Now blindly reach into two pieces of luggage and get rid of one more item from each. There, now you have a pretty good idea of what we brought with us.
Anyway, after a prayer with the parents/grandparents, and hugs and kisses all around, we finally got on our plane and flew to…. Chicago. But then, after Chicago, we were finally on our way to… Los Angeles. But THEN, after Los Angeles, we were FINALLY going to… Sydney. And, thankfully, Sydney was the last stop before we actually made it to Port Moresby, PAPUA NEW GUINEA! (And then we had one more quick flight to the Madang region of PNG, where we’re living now.) We figure it totaled out to around 60 hours of traveling, with 27 hours actually spent in the air.
Previous to coming here, I’d had several people tell me that one of the first things I’d notice when we got off the plane in PNG was the smell. They said it would be “different” than what I was used to. Well, as soon as we landed, I was accosted by a HORRIBLE stench.
“Holy cow, they were right! This place smells like poop!” I thought.
It was a short-lived relief when I figured out that the smell wasn’t coming from my new home, but in fact from the infant on my lap. That’s right, Tucker had diarrhea. And, yes, there was leakage.
But, beyond all the good-byes, and the exhaustion and jet lag, and the in-flight defecation, we are SO EXCITED to finally be here! Thank you, God, for bringing us to PNG!
OK, so, for the last two years I’ve often struggled to come up with viable content for this little blog. (You may have noticed. Thanks for not mentioning it.) Our lives were just too normal, you know? Most of what we did each day was the same stuff that everyone in our audience was doing as well, so it just sort of seemed bland and unoriginal to write about.
Now that we’re in Papua New Guinea (we moved to PNG last week, by the way), I’ve got a list of subjects that I’m just dying to tell everyone about! Everything is new and different and slightly weird (including me, apparently, since everyone keeps staring at me whenever we go out and mingle with the locals)!
Part of me just wants to babble uselessly about all the different things that we’ve experienced in our first few days here and mash everything into one super long, incoherent blog post right now. But then there’s another part of me (that part is named “Rochelle”) that says that, for the benefit of our readers, I should really try to organize my thoughts and spread things out over several posts. It was a toss-up between the two methods, but eventually I decided to go with the latter train of thought (mainly because my supper comes from the same source that the idea did).
With that in mind, I’ll try to play catch-up here with the next few posts and get us all on the same page by giving a more chronological exposition of our different experiences and observations over the last few days… (Starting with the next post)
I just finished reading Acts 13 this morning (which I would highly recommend to anyone), and I came away with a few thoughts:
Mainly, I was struck anew with the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. For as big a book as the Bible is, and for all its many subplots, when you boil it right down (as Paul does in Acts 13), there is a refreshingly easy-to-understand story: God reached into a world that had turned from Him and hated Him, raised up a nation to represent Himself among the other nations, promised to make a way for men to enjoy fellowship with Him once again, and sent Jesus to be the means through which that might be accomplished.
It’s not complicated. It’s not confusing. It’s just simple and beautiful. Ironically, it’s our desire to connect all the dots that often MAKES the message complicated and confusing, but the onus for that is on us, not God.
We’re the ones who muddy the waters by taking portions of the story out of context, cross-referencing them with other portions we’ve taken out of context, and then touting these beloved beliefs (or theologies) as being part-and-parcel with the main message.
[I should probably take a minute to clarify here that I’m not really talking about core, pillar-of-the-faith beliefs when I put the word “theologies” in italics. The world was created in six days. Jesus is the Son of God. He really did die, and He really did come back to life and ascend to heaven. Those are all pretty cut-and-dry issues. I was more of referencing things like the role of sign gifts, at what point in the timeline will the rapture happen, what is exactly meant by the term “God’s elect,” etc.]
I think we Christians have a tendency to put so much emphasis on secondary truths and speculations that we often obscure the main message, and the story of a sinful race being reconciled to a loving God ends up getting lost in the chatter. The MAIN event becomes AN event. And that’s not cool.
What I loved in Acts 13 was that Paul stayed on target. When they asked him to share in the synagogue, he laid it out perfectly: “Our nation being created? That was preparation. Our prophets speaking out? Yeah, that was preparation too. What was all that preparation for? Jesus, baby! It’s all about Jesus!”
Trying to figure out how the impeccability of Christ still allowed for legitimate temptation in the wilderness? Or trying to put together the nitty-gritty details of how the hypostatic union was even possible in Christ’s incarnation? Or trying to draw up that oh-so-perfect Revelation timeline? Those issues are well worth your time and study. But don’t put the cart before the horse.
Read Acts 13. Remember what it’s all about. And be encouraged!
So, I’ve been reading in Psalms in my morning Bible time this last week, and I’ve been kind of intrigued by the opening lines of a few of them. Not necessarily the Scripture, but more the little contextual prefaces that many of them have before the opening verse. You know, when they say something like, “A Psalm of David, when he found out that Saul was hunting him down like a dog…again.”
“Seth, the king is coming! He’s got a few hundred hardened warriors with him, and he says that when he finds you he’s going to put your head on a spike and leave the rest for wild animals to eat!”
“What?! Well, I’d better make sure to pack my guitar when we bug out, because after I find a new cave to live in, I want to be able to write a little ditty about how this is making me feel, so I can sing it to God.”
Yeah, that’s not how that would go down if I were in ol’ King Dave’s position. MAYBE I’d put some effort into a journal entry or something. Maybe. But even then, it’d be a short entry, and I’d be penning a lot more prose than poetry, that’s for sure! (I don’t tend to have much patience for rhyme schemes in times of high pressure.)
And then I got to thinking, maybe this is one of the things that set David apart as being a “man after God’s own heart.” Maybe God liked the fact that when an overwhelming situation presented itself, David’s reaction wasn’t to just deal with it, but instead take the time to go to God with it. Maybe that’s something that God puts a lot of stock in.
And, really, he took it a step further than that. He didn’t just go to God; he went to him thoughtfully. If you’ve ever read a Psalm, then you know that those babies weren’t the product of a 15 minute jam session here or there. David, and the other psalmists, took some serious time out of their days to put together poetry that was both meaningful and worshipful. Sure, there is some supplication thrown in, but it’s by no means the main thrust of the work. And even when they were asking for things, it was done in a tone of deep respect and admiration.
What would it be like if my days had a few more psalmist moments in them? How might my relationship with the Lord be different if, once in a while, I took more time in my prayers, and really made a point of formulating my thoughts into an in-depth expression of who God is, and how that reality influences the varying situations I find myself in?
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking the other day.
If you are one of the twelve people who faithfully follow our blog (thanks, Mom), then you may have noticed that there has been a definite lack of postings in the last few weeks. Now, before you go jumping the gun and assuming that this is probably due to procrastination and laziness on our part, please give us a chance to defend ourselves:
…Nope, I’ve got nothing.
I guess you’re right, it was mostly just procrastination.
But don’t worry, those days are over now! I won’t be neglecting this communication venue ever again, except for the most severe of circumstances! (Like, for instance, if I forget, or if it becomes inconvenient, or if for some reason I just don’t feel like writing anything.)
We understand that you may be feeling depressed and hopelessly out of touch as you think about what may have transpired in our lives over the course of the last three weeks that you know nothing about. And, indeed, three weeks DOES hold an abundance of possibilities! But perhaps we can assuage those overwhelming emotions with these comforting words: You haven’t missed much.
You see, we’re kind of in a little bit of a limbo state right now, with most of our efforts going into tying up loose ends here and there as we get ready to head over to PNG.
We’ve been sorting through our stuff to see what we’ll bring with us, building storage shelves for the stuff we’re leaving here, getting checked out by our doctors to make sure we’re good to go, sharing our ministry plans with a few churches, crunching our numbers to see if we can finally purchase our tickets, etc. It’s all been good, worthwhile stuff, just not the type of thing you write about, you know?
But then, as we thought about the eleven (it turns out that one of the twelve subscribers to our blog is actually us) of you who have signed up to get notifications when we post something new, we decided that hearing something from us is probably better than hearing nothing.
And so we wrote this. It’s not much, but it’s something. We hope you enjoyed it.