Beginning Challenges of Cross-Cultural Ministry

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[Editor’s Note: A young couple with two young children (one 2 years old and one just 6 months old) began their first term as missionaries in East Africa in June of last year. After their first four months on the field, the wife wrote an article in their newsletter that speaks of the challenges she faced and why she continues to be willing to face them.]

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My Life as a Big Baby

People learn to bloom where they are planted. I grew up in America, so I learned most of the important skills for living there. I can boil spaghetti as well as the next person. I can drive in Dallas rush-hour traffic while eating a cheeseburger. I have learned how to write a good term paper, how to find a bargain on quality children’s clothing, and how to use the internet to expedite nearly every facet of my life.

But now I live in East Africa, and the three-year-old next door knows more about how to survive here than I do. I scorch the beans and let the milk boil over. I don’t know how to wash my clothes when the electricity goes out. I can’t drive myself to the grocery store.

I don’t know the names of the trees in my own yard, and I had no idea that coriander and cilantro come from the same plant. I’m reminded of the little farm girl in the movie version of Love Comes Softly, who asks her citified stepmother, “How’d you get to be so old without knowin’ how to do nothin’?”

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I speak like a toddler, with halts and mistakes and frustration at not being able to explain myself or ask a simple question. Many times I want to tell a story from my childhood or make a joke or just explain that the reason I’m cranky is because I miss my family. But like a child in the throes of the terrible twos, I don’t have the words to say what I mean, and I’m reduced to awkward silence in order to avoid bursting into culturally inappropriate tears.

It is a humbling experience to find myself in a world different from the one I have always known. I grew up in a charmed place where clean water flows from every faucet, public restrooms exist, we have entire retail chains devoted to pet supplies and baby care gadgets, and the amount of food that we throw away is more than enough to feed every hungry person in the world.

I have thrown away half a casserole before just because I had so many other things to eat that it lost its appeal before I had a chance to eat it. That thought actually brings tears to my eyes now. I have been padded and protected from the realities of life. I have learned to bloom in a greenhouse, but I know nothing about how to sink my roots deep to find water, push my way up through the weeds, and stretch my leaves high for my share of sunlight.

(And lest you feel sorry for me in my exotic plight, I confess that even here I am still sheltered from the hardships of life. I live in relative luxury, and I stand in awe of the strength and grace of the people around me.)

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But Christ did the same for me. He left his blissful home and the perfectly comfortable relationship with the Father that he had known for all of eternity. He came to live in a sweaty, thirsty, unsafe place. His new friends didn’t “get” him, no one appreciated what he was giving up, and the demands placed on him were overwhelming. He was willing to look awkward, to be misunderstood and even victimized in order to reach his long-term goal.

We aspire to have a small piece in that same work. Whether or not we succeed in our translation endeavors, I hope our willingness to be overgrown babies in this culture will show our neighbors that we are here because the love of Christ – both his love for us and his love for them – compels us.

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This story reminds us that we who have grown up in highly developed countries are rich beyond comparison to most of the rest of the world.  But our greatest treasure is not some material object or privileged status in the world.  No, our greatest treasure is the knowledge and the faith we hold that Jesus crossed the greatest cultural barrier by leaving His place in Heaven and coming to live among mankind.

This is a treasure that is available to every man, woman and child on the earth, because the love of God is no respecter of person, He loves every person on earth equally.  But to get this message of hope and love to people, some of us may have to go like this young couple and cross geographical and linguistic boundaries to share this message.

It’s not easy to live and work cross-culturally.  It can be downright frustrating and often times humiliating as was shown in the story above.  And yet it is all worth it.  When we do find the right words, in a language that the people do understand, so many times their faces light up to know that God has not forgotten them.  Knowing that Jesus came to die for them and grant them God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life is life steams of living water bursting forth in the middle of a great desert.  What a privilege and an honor it is to serve people in this way as an ambassador of God.

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Vehicle Challenges In Papua New Guinea

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In an ideal day, you get up in the morning after a refreshing night of sleep.  In a relaxed but efficient way, you enjoy a nice hot breakfast with juice, and coffee for those who drink it.  Then you probably get into your car and drive yourself to work along well paved roads.  Your sense of peace and purpose may be challenges by rush hour traffic and rude drivers, and your immediate concern may simply be, “Will I get that parking space I want when I get to the office.”

It would be nice if life were that easy for all of us.  Certainly this idyllic life is probably not the norm for most people, seeing as we always seem to be rushing too much to get somewhere to do something.  And of course there are many normal but stressful aspects to daily living that all of us must deal with in life.  For those of us who work in overseas mission ministries, an average working day often carries a much higher level of stress and challenges.

Above is a picture taken from inside the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) hangar in Madang, Papua New Guinea.  One of our missionaries there who works in the area of Logistics shared the story below about the day that she was to meet an incoming flight that brought some other missionaries to town, and send out a missionary and some important cargo to one of our bush allocations.  I was one of the missionaries coming in that day and didn’t know at first why we waited over an hour for our colleague to show up.  Read her story…

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Branch Vehicle Struggles

By Bethaney Butler

After a few sputters, the engine died and there I sat in PBT’s Toyota Hi-Ace, in the middle of a humongous pothole, while smoke filled the interior of the van and raindrops pelted the outside.  “Just another day in paradise,” I thought.

I was only a few hundred feet from my destination.  I had a van full of cargo that needed to get on the plane, which had already landed.  I had passengers who arrived on the flight and were awaiting pickup. Plane days generally boil down to one word in my mind: chaos.

The commotion had begun earlier that day.  I received a short notice call from MAF letting me know that the plane would be there shortly, so I needed to make my way to the airport. I had planned on loading all the cargo into the back of the Toyota Hilux, PBT’s most reliable vehicle.  Just before I was to start loading it began to rain. I quickly switched plans, taking our most unreliable vehicle, but the only one that could get all of the cargo there dry.

I eventually managed to make it to the airport but only after two other cars came to my aid—one to transport the cargo and then another to tow the van. Living in Papua New Guinea, there are already a number of challenges that we face in our days, having unreliable vehicles only adds to the frustration.  The PNG Branch is in need of some new vehicles.  Vehicles that are trustworthy and reliable. Vehicles that make those challenging days, just a tad easier.

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[Editor’s Note: another PBT colleagues of ours also has written briefly about how bad our vehicle situation is in our PNG Branch.  The picture below makes it look like the Hi Ace is a great vehicle, but read what my friend has to say about it.]

Right now we are at an exciting time as new team members are joining our branch. We have one family with two young children and one single female coming as translators this coming January. God is answering our prayer for more harvest workers! Like your vehicle is important to you, it is doubly important to us as overseas missionaries.

One area of high concern is security and trustworthiness. With many single females on our team, it is an extreme concern to them to have a secure and trusty vehicle. Driving past dark in a vehicle that you can’t trust is a very stressful situation for anyone in a foreign developing country. The vehicle featured was a recent branch owned vehicle that had transmission issues, battery drainage, and mold on the seats and ceiling.

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In light of all this, I thought it would be appropriate to raise the following question with all of those who read my devotional articles on this blog site:

Would you consider giving to the replacement of one of our vehicles?

If you would like to donate, you can do so online or by check.

Online:

https://dlq4.donatelinq.net/qv10/default.aspx?MerchantID=PBTI
Click: Give Now button
Select category: Within Our Reach Campaign
Select sub category: PNG Vehicle

Give by check:

PBT Finance Office
PO Box 380820
Duncanville, TX 75138-0820

Note: PNG Project—Vehicle Replacement Fund

For more information contact: finance@pioneerbible.org.pg

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This is the first time that I have made any kind of financial appeal on this site.  But I feel this one is very timely and appropriate.  We are trying our very best to do the work that God has called us to do over in Papua New Guinea.  But without reliable vehicles, our work quite literally grinds to a halt.

If God does lead you to help us out, would you mind replying to this article in the response area below and let me know about it?  Your comment will not be posted to be seen by anyone else.  But it would be such a great encouragement to me if I were to hear back from some of you.  May God bless you abundantly through Jesus our Lord.