There are some things we own and use in the tribe that might surprise you. As simple as our life here in Menya is, especially compared to in the States, we consider some things invaluable. Many of you are familiar with the fact that we use solar electricity, have cell phones and computers, and live in a modern looking house. But lest you think we use an outhouse, bathe and wash dishes in the river each day or cook over an open fire…here’s a glimpse into the practical side of living in the jungle:
- Kitchen Aid
This makes my life in the kitchen so much easier and go so much faster. Dave bought it for me about 4 years ago when we were still living in the States. I used it every once in a while to make cookies. Here, I use is daily…sometimes 2 or 3 times a day.
Yes, we own a Vitamix. This was also a present from Dave a few years ago before we moved overseas…are you seeing a trend? What can I say? The man loves to buy me appliances. No complaints here. Although I wouldn’t necessarily say the Vitamix is a “must have” for us…and as silly as this may sound…the Lord has used this blender to bring some very simple encouragement to my soul. Cheesy, I know….but on rough days when it is so hot and humid and Caleb has been up 3 times in the night and the kids have been arguing all day and homeschooling went terrible and I smell disgusting and are just feeling like crap….sipping on a nice cold, blended coffee drink is a great way to relax and take a breather.
Some dear friends of ours purchased and sent over scooters for the kids for Christmas. This has been a lifesaver on several occasions. Sure, there’s no pavement for them to use them on outside, but on days or weeks when it just seems to rain and rain with no end in sight, inside scooter fun has become a must.
- Mosquito Nets
Need I say more? These nets, along with bug spray and malaria medicine are a must. Even with these things the bugs seem to love us, so we are just hoping and praying we won’t have to deal with malaria anytime soon.
Up until about 2 weeks ago we were using an Australian oven, which happened to be about 2/3rds the width of a normal American sized oven. We just recently were able to fly in our newly purchased American oven. There’s something very beautiful about being able to make pizza for the family with cookie sheets that actually fit in the oven and cook evenly. No more turning casserole dishes every 5 minutes in fear that dinner will burn on one side.
- 2 Bathrooms
I realize that many of you reading this back in the States may not even have 2 bathrooms…so having 2 bathrooms in the jungle might seem like a bit of an unnecessary luxury. Here’s the thing…and sorry for the TMI…but normally one of us is dealing with stomach issues…and by stomach issues I mean diarrhea. Oftentimes it’s more than one of us at a time who is running back and forth to the toilet. So…in a family where 4 out of the 5 are potty trained and frequently dealing with loose stool, the 2nd toilet has been a lifesaver. Also, cherry flavored Pepto Bismol is disgusting…fyi.
You guys are great at sending us love. Emails, cards, packages, text messages…we love hearing from you. The love encourages us and lifts our spirits.
Until next time….
I think, maybe a vital part of making new friends, especially in a different culture, is the ability to be humiliated and yet still laugh at yourself. And by “yourself” I mean “myself.”
Here are three separate situations I experienced in the last 2 days, all for the sake of relationship building:
1. The water from my washing machine just so happens to drain off my porch into a ditch. My friend Mari walks by and casually says, “Katie, yu pis pis, a?” Translation: Katie, are you peeing? I respond by saying something like, “Man, I have been so thirsty today. You know it.” In my head I’m thinking, “Well, at least she’s beginning to feel comfortable enough to ask me if I’m peeing gallons of water off my porch.”
2. My co-worker, Elizabeth and I are sitting outside with two ladies in the afternoon. I’m not exactly sure how this conversation turned out the way it did, but the 4 of us decided that Elizabeth would be called “bun meri” (translation: skinny girl) and I would be called “fatty fatty.” Normally, this might be perceived as offensive…especially when you (and by you, I mean me) are also compared to one overweight middle aged man who lives nearby…but our two new friends assured me that them calling me “fatty fatty” was a term of endearment. I’ll take their word for it.
Tomorrow I start the cucumber diet. (just kidding, mom)
3. I hurry outside to my porch when I see a friend sitting out in the grass nearby. We chat a little bit and then she says, “Wait, what’s your name?”
Friend: “Oh, kain olsem pussy (pidgin word for cat…REALLY, it is.) Translation: Oh, like a cat.
Me: “What? A cat?”
Then it dawns on me…she thinks my name is Kitty.
Me: “Uh…no…not kitty….uh, Katie…”
Me: Yes, Katie.”
Friend: “Olsem pussy.” Translation: Like cat
Me: “Uh, yep…that’s it, just like cat.”
Friend: “Oh, now whenever I forget your name I will think of a cat and then I will remember.”
Today I’m feeling thankful for the chance to build friendships with these Menya ladies…even if it means they think I pee off my porch, my name is Kitty or I’m a “fatty fatty.”
I used to think I was a pretty flexible person. My parents were hippies, my dad was a stereotypical surfer dude, and I prided myself in that, compared to most others, I could easily ‘go with the flow.”
Then I got married…
…And I began to realize just how inflexible I really was…set in my ways and in many aspects, unwilling to change. No matter. Still, compared to most others, I was a fairly easygoing person.
Then I had kids…
…And I began to realize a bit more how inflexible I really was…not wanting my schedule to be thrown off or tampered with, even by relationships with others. No worries. Still, compared to most others, I was mostly pretty relaxed and able to handle different things that were thrown my way.
Then I moved to Papua New Guinea…
…And I realized how much I prefer personal space. So much in fact, there would be days I absolutely refused to leave my house. Forget relationships. This is survival mode. It took me a good bit of time to tune my heart and my thinking to the cultural differences of the people here. I’ve since moved past those days (although they still creep up every once in a while). But compared to most others, I still considered myself a pretty flexible person.
Then I moved to Menya…
…And I can’t explain it, I really can’t. But life moves at a much slower pace. It’s more than just the lack of television and other entertainment options. Life is harder. It takes more effort and longer periods of time to physically survive, yet there are still only 24 hours in a day. And distractions, in which there are plenty, are a frequent part of life: people coming to the door to sell food, little faces peering through the windows while we’re trying to homeschool, the sound of screaming babies (including most frequently my own), people coming to the door asking for things, the list goes on. Most days I wake up with an agenda…a list of things I “need” to get done in order to gain optimum mental health. Most days that agenda is thrown out the window by 9am. Living in a remote tribal location has been a stretch for this
flexible, totally with it, relaxed, showers every day, never yells at her kids, prideful, task oriented girl.
The Lord has been so good and faithful to remind my selfish heart of why we are here. Lest I forget, it’s not to have a spotless looking toilet or wildly attractive hair, although both would be nice. Man, we’re here for relationships. We’re here to share truth and love with the Menya people.
I’m praying God will reveal more inflexibilities in my life. I’m praying I’ll be stretched and stretched and stretched some more until I feel like I can’t handle it. I’m praying for more opportunities to lean solely on Christ.
If YOU…ya, YOU….should happen to come visit me someday in Menya….and should you happen to notice my toilets are pretty disgusting or my hair is wildly UNattractive…hopefully you will also notice Christ’s love shining through me to my hubby, my kids, my coworkers and the Menya people.
Our partners, the Osborns, are gone this week as their daughter broke her arm falling off their loft ladder. Our other partners, the Chappells, will hopefully be returning soon, as they just had their 4th baby and are currently in the States.
That leaves us. The Walkers. Average ole language learners…manning the fort…exploring the Menya terrain…still tuning our ears to this language…looking after a very pitiful cat…preparing for a house renovation…showing “sorry” to the community that yet ANOTHER baby has died…building lego castles with the kiddos…making new friends…drinking hot chocolate on rainy afternoons…trying to remember when the baby last had a bath…waiting for there to be enough sun to do a load of laundry…working our garden…setting the hillside on fire…learning how to roll cigarettes…homeschooling…morning therapy for Eli…watching a marriage seminar…meeting with language helpers…dealing with conflict…dealing with a neighbor who very regularly wants us to give her money…feeling sad for a little boy whose mom is pretty sick…catching bugs…finding interesting rocks at the river…visiting a mom and her 2 day old newborn…teaching the kids how to do chores…cleaning up spills…leaving dishes for the next day because we have no water…researching new and interesting ways to eat pumpkin…rejoicing that the almost 9 month old chunker finally slept through the night…
…feeling the weight of being the only missionaries in the tribe and the urgency of what we came here to do: Preach the Gospel and make disciples.
There’s too much work. God is good. But we are praying for a speedy return into the tribe for the Osborns and Chappells.
Today I went out looking for someone to practice language with and got more than I bargained for. I found the house belonging to a guy named Roman whom I had met on the road a couple days ago. His dad has been sick and he was planning to go visit him at the Menyamya Haus Sik (hospital) so I asked if I could tag along. He agreed and after he took a bath in the river and had some lunch we started walking. The hospital is adjacent to the airstrip which is about a 45 minute walk from our house. On the way we came across 2 drunks. One of them was just happy to see me and the other wanted me to give him a battery for his solar electric system and compensation for a cut he claimed to have received while helping unload my stuff off a plane that came 11 days ago. I politely explained why I wouldn’t give him either of those things and we continued on.
The hospital is a group of buildings that include a dental clinic, family health services, administration, in-patient and out-patient wards and some others that I wasn’t able to identify.
At the hospital we found Romans’ dad laying outside on a cement pad using a couple of jackets under his head as a pillow. He was able to sit up and talk a little bit but it was obvious that his breathing was labored. Seeing this man apparently dying in front of me reminded me of the urgency of Gospel.
This is the in-patient ward that he has been sleeping in the past couple nights.
From the below sign the services provided seemed very cheap but, I guess you get what you pay for and I’m not sure why it costs so much to get a piece of paper. Patients are required to provide their own mattress, bedding, food and drink. Also, I didn’t see any doctors or nurses anywhere on the premises.
Katie and I met Kent and his wife-to-be, Kimie, on a Grace Baptist mission trip to the Czech Republic in 2007. Since then we have stayed in touch and always try to visit when we’re within driving distance. Kent and Kimie are a few years younger than us but have committed to partnering us financially on a monthly basis. They may even be our youngest financial partners. Several months ago Kent contacted us about coming to visit us in PNG and help with a building project. We knew we’d be moving into an existing house but wanted to make some changes and thought it would be a perfect opportunity for Kent to come. Things worked out great on his end but about a week or so before he was scheduled to come we found out that there would be no other volunteers coming from the NTM support centers here in PNG. Another building project scheduled at the same time was more urgent than ours and all the volunteers went to help with that. So Kent and I did some small projects around the house. We built a bookshelf for the kids’ room, wired lights in the bedrooms, prepped deck boards, and Kent even helped our partners install a couple solar panels on their roof. It was great to have him here to help us relax too. Almost every night we played games and talked. Having Kent here increased the number of adult American English speakers by 25%.
Kent was here for 10 days and for us it really seemed to fly by. We’re so glad that he was able to come. His last night here we asked him to write in our guest book and with his permission here’s what he had to say:
“I think that I’ll just share a little with you about my experience. You’ve definitely got a good thing going here. Coming in I was very interested about what I could look forward to being the “bush”and all. Plumbing, toilets, electricity, internet…who knew?! I didn’t, thats for sure. Sure I was writing to you guys on Facebook almost daily before my departure from the states, but hey, from awkwardly holding hands too long with locals, to the BO, the naked kids, and women breastfeeding it will be a long time before I’ll be able to forget my experience here with you. Take that as a compliment =) I may have not known where I was going when the airport customs and immigration asked me, but hey who’s not up for a good laugh when you travel? You know the SIL people laughed at me a a little when I told them of my location, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Being here with you guys leaves me humbled at the sacrifice you’ve made to follow your dreams of tribal church planter, even if most don’t understand what that entails (I didn’t…until now). It’s great to see you guys following the Lords will for your life, and thriving. I know there have been multiple setbacks along the way, but I truly believe that God has a plan for you guys and your family, despite not being able to understand it when living through the adversity you face. You guys have always been a great example for Kimie and me. You are patient and kind to each other and your kids, which can be a lesson to parents and spouses everywhere. Thank you for your hospitality and generosity in taking care of me. I know without you (obviously) I wouldn’t be able to be here and experience what God is doing in PNG through you and NTM. I can safely say that this sort of life isn’t for everyone (as I’ve shared with you, I’m not confident that kimie could handle it) and I can’t say I envy the “bush” lifestyle, but one thing I know for sure is that you guys are the perfect people to be here in PNG and we are so happy to have you in our lives, even the 6000+ miles apart that we are. We look forward to hear what God has in store for you here in Menyamya, and look even more forward to seeing your back stateside to hang out with you. Thank you!”
Send us any questions you have for Kent about his trip and he’ll answer them in a guest blog post.