Heading Overseas To Be Missionaries – Pt. 3

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Our First Week in France – Pt. 2

This will be the final article of three which looks at what happens when a family moves to a new country for the first time and needs to learn quickly how to acculturate, to understand and be comfortable in a cross-cultural environment.  One of my fellow colleagues from Pioneer Bible Translators did this with her husband and children in 2010 when they moved to France to learn French in preparation of being missionaries in West Africa.

My friend gave me permission to take excerpts from her journal that she kept for the first couple of weeks once they had arrived in France.  I found it very interesting that some of the cultural stresses that they faced while adjusting into a modern western-based culture are not extremely different from when we need to adjust to the cultural challenges we find in developing countries of the world.

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Let’s look now at some more areas of life that they had to face and overcome in their new location:

Food (Always the first challenge when you find yourself in a new environment.)

Day 1: “The kids are now (impatiently) waiting till 7pm.  That’s when dinner time is.  They have breakfast in the morning.  The kids go to school at 8am (well, ours won’t-they’ll restart their homeschooling next week).  They have lunch from noon till 2pm.  At 5ish comes the gouter (snack) usually some juice and bread with Nutella or Peanut Butter.  Then dinner at 8pm.  Since us American types would positively starve waiting that long, we’ve compromised at 7pm…at least for tonight.

Day 2: “Unfortunately we discovered that the eggs from the grocery store apparently come from free-range chickens because Sophia got grossed out after finding a blood spot in one helping with breakfast.  We’ll see if she eats breakfast this morning or not.

Day 3: “These were no Pizza Hut cardboard pizza’s but homemade dough rolled out very thin and baked right there in a very hot oven (in less than 15 minutes!) pizza’s!!   It was nice to have something that reminded of home.  And we felt proud that were dining at 8pm…the decent dinner hour in France!

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Language

[Note: Nothing is more mentally and emotionally challenging than landing in an environment where you cannot speak the language of the people around you.  Thankfully, this family had some experience learning French by living in Quebec, Canada for a while before going to France.]

Day 1: “Murrielle spoke English to me at the store and boy did heads turn!  We are glad to be in an area where English is rare.

Day 2: “I think it was the Pastor who called, and I think he wanted to come over, and I think I told him we were going shopping, and I think he was ok with that!  If I am brave (read “willing to be humiliated again today”), I will call him after dinner time (8:45pm) and ask him if he’d like to come over for a visit tomorrow.   I hope he’ll stick to the script I have in my brain.”

Day 5: “I think he was not impressed with our French and is wondering how we’ll survive in Africa but that’s ok.  We actually are feeling rather good about our communicating ability in the community at large and have no qualms about Africa where French is everyone’s second language anyway.

Later on Day 5: “There was a different librarian.  She wanted to show Sophia the books for 10 year olds but I explained that Sophia didn’t read French and I needed younger books as well.  I was looking for a basic (think 1st or 2nd grade) history of France but couldn’t find one.  I did find an older one and will try to wade through that.  When I read my library books, I try to write down every word I have to look up.  I began reading an easy general book on France.

[Note: What an encouragement to others.  The secret to learning a new language is to get out among the people and just keep trying to speak and learn new words as you go along.]

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Telecommunication (i.e. “the Internet”)

Day 2: “Perhaps we will finally get to McDonald’s where there is wifi (pronounced wee-fee :0).

Day 4: “The man who is helping us get settled into our home here is supposed to come today and help us get insurance on the car.  That way we can get to McDonald’s for the weefee :0)

Later on Day 4: “We likely won’t get internet at home so will try to get on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I’ll be sad not to keep up with all my Facebook friends’ lives but will email and post my notes to keep everyone in the loop.  And it will aid my French not to have it at home!

Day 5: “They went out to try and buy a “cle” that you can insert into a computer to make it hook up to the internet anywhere (thus making our computer our cell phone using Skype), but were told that while we may be able to buy the “cle”, we wouldn’t be able to use an American credit card to renew the hours.  So we were stymied again on getting internet at home.

Day 7: “We went to the neighbors across and down the street.  They had said we could use their land line to access email today.  After we were through, they offered a cup of coffee and we were able to talk some.

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From this article, and Part 1 last week, we can see that moving to live in a place where the language and culture is foreign to what you know from back home can be very challenging.  But look at how much progress this family made in just one week.  When we believe that there will always be people to help and trust in God to give us the strength and courage, we can all do what we thought was impossible.

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Good Questions Lead To Spiritual Answers

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John 6:25 – 40

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

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35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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The last words of the final verse of our previous Bible study ended with the crowds going “to Capernaum to search for Jesus.”  That sounds great, doesn’t it?  Literally hundreds of people were going to great lengths to cross or walk around the Sea of Galilee because they were eager to find Jesus.  And yet we find out in this passage above that they were not spiritually motivated to find Him.

A dialogue ensues with the people first asking, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  Actually, I think they were much more interested in knowing “how” He got there (remember that Jesus walked on top of the water to cross over).  And they may have implicitly been asking “why” he had left the other side of the lake to come here.  I mean, wasn’t Jesus at the peak of His ministry when He miraculously fed the multitudes?

    

But Jesus saw through that question and knew that the people were much more interested in the miracle than they were interested in knowing the One who performed the miracle.  Jesus then challenged the crowd with an answer that basically tells us that “working for bread” (i.e. the necessities of earthly things) pales in importance to the “spiritual bread” that is available and is equated with doing the works that God would be pleased with.

The people hear how Jesus tied this idea of “spiritual bread” which grants eternal life to this concept of doing “the works of God”.   And so their next question then (in wanting “bread which leads to eternal life”) is, “What works must we do?”  (This is an age-old question actually.  Many people believe that if we “do the right things” then we will be rewarded by God with eternal life.)

    

Jesus then answered as clearly and as bluntly as He can.  What God wants us to do more than anything else, is to put our faith in Jesus, the One whom God sent to earth to be the Saviour of the world.  The people still get stuck on the miracle of physical bread though, which their greatest prophet Moses gave them from heaven.  Jesus corrects this faulty thought to say that ultimately it is God who provides all things, both physically and spiritually.

Once more Jesus cuts straight to the heart of the matter and declares boldly, “I am the bread of life!”  In that statement, Jesus claims many things: 1) He, like the bread from heaven, have been sent by God; 2) all who want spiritual sustenance and eternal life must come to Jesus to get it; and 3) only by “eating” and “drinking” of Him (i.e. be fully dependent upon and immersed into a relationship with Him) can a person hope to gain eternal life.

    

And then Jesus openly declares the reason for Him being sent from heaven to earth, namely to reach out to those who desire to pursue this relationship with God.  And for those that do come by faith to Him, Jesus says he will not lose hold of them but by the power and authority of God Himself will raise these kinds of people back from the dead and grant them the gift of eternal life with God in heaven.

Friend, are you still outside of a relationship with Jesus and God the Father?  Consider what questions you have and turn to Jesus for some answers.  He will give them to you.  Are you ready to hear those answers and to follow after Him?  I hope you are, and I hope you do.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Living A Missionary Life

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Who Am I?  Part 19

As you can see, this is the 19th article in this series called “Who Am I?” It has been an interesting exercise for me to summarize the most important events or moments in my life, and I hope that you have been enjoying this journey along with me. Many of these articles dealt with single moments or events that shaped or changed my life in a dramatic way.

This article will be quite different in that I want to try to summarize the five years that I spent as a Bible translator living in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. In some ways, this is almost an impossible task. There are so many interesting stories that I could tell you about these years that I will probably need to set up an entirely new series of articles to run throughout 2012.

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What I will try to do then, is to give you a large overview of these years, as well as my general impressions of the time that we spent as a family in our home in the jungle. One of the first things that people would often ask us is “What was the climate like there? Do you have seasons over there like we do back home?”

And my answer would be, “Sure, we had seasons: there was Wet and Wetter!” Actually, it was not too bad in our area. It would receive about an average rainfall of 250 inches per year. There are some areas of PNG that can have 350 to 400 inches per year. The good news, is that we were not living within the “swampy” region. We lived at an elevation of about 200 feet, at around 7° south of the equator, in a low valley surrounded by distant mountain ranges.

The other good news was that there occasionally was a breeze to cool us off of the perpetual, year-round temperature of 90 to 100°F. The bad news was that the breeze was just the rushing front air that signaled the oncoming torrential downpour. If you were outside at the time, you had to decide if it was worth trying to run home to try to beat the rain. And if you were inside the house, your job was to run around to each room and unroll the plastic tarps and secure them tightly in an attempt to keep the torrential rains out of your house.

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Another thing that people often asked us about, was what the food there was like. One of my favorite sayings was, “Kick any tree, and a fruit will fall out.” We were able to enjoy such things as papayas, mangos, bananas of at least seven varieties, pomegranates, coconuts, watermelons, cucumbers, as well as lemons and lemonade from the four lemon trees in front of our house. And of course, all of us had to at least try eating a grub worm once. But most of our food and supplies would be flown into us on the little Cessna plane that would come into our village every 2 to 3 weeks.

The people though, were subsistent farmers who grew gardens and literally lived off the land and ate anything that they could find that was edible. Each year, they would go to a new section of the jungle and they would have to chop down all the trees, burn them, and then clear the land before they could plant their new gardens. Jungle soil is actually not very fertile, so they would have to slash and burn a new garden area every year.

It would take about 4 to 6 months before the gardens would produce their green vegetables and staples such as yams, taro, sweet potatoes, etc. They would be able to eat food from the gardens for about half a year. After that, they would simply forage for anything they could find in the jungle, as well as eat the starchy substance that they could scrape and squeeze out of the center of a sago palm tree.

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The final most obvious question that people would ask us was, “What did you do while you were there?” And the answer was, we did many things. We studied the culture, learned the language, built relationships with people, raised our elementary age children there, worshiped in the local church with the people, held singing and devotional evenings at our house, helped the people with some of their physical needs and medical needs as we were able to, and much, much more.

All of these activities were important, and we enjoyed living our lives with and among the people in our village. But none of these were the primary reason for us leaving the comforts of North America life and coming to live in the tropical jungles of PNG. First and foremost, our desire was to bring God’s Word to the people living there. And the means by which we would do this would be through the process of doing Bible translation.

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And so, while still doing all of these other activities, my primary focus was to translate the Scriptures into the language of the people. Bible translation is a very slow and methodical process, and often takes many years to be able to produce final written copies of some portions of the Bible. It is with great joy then, that I can tell you that by the end of our five-year period, we had completed the translation of the Gospel of Mark and it is now published and available to the people among whom we lived.

So this should give you an overview and a taste of what living a missionary life was like for us. I have many, many more stories about our time in PNG, and these will provide the material for me to be able to write many interesting articles next year. So stay tuned, there are lots of good stories ahead.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

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The answer is definitely CHOCOLATE. What’s funny is that it was many years after we were married before this fact became known to the family.

So here’s how it happened. After Jill came home from shopping and we were putting the frozen foods away, I decided to ask the question that had been on my mind for a while.

“Why do we always buy Neapolitan ice cream?” I said.

And Jill said, “Because it’s your favorite ice cream.”

Now i wondered how she could come to this conclusion. Hadn’t anyone ever noticed that when they had picked up the ice cream bucket that all the chocolate had been carefully carved out? So all that was left was a mixture of strawberry and vanilla ice cream with huge craters around them where I had dug to find the chocolate.

“So tell me how you came to this conclusion?” I asked.

“Well, whenever I visited you at your parent’s home before we got married, all I ever found in the freezer was Neapolitan ice cream. So I figured that was your favorite ice cream,” she replied.

So finally the whole story was out. It was because my father controlled the “sweets” department in our family that we always had Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer. And after being married for almost 10 years, I finally let my family know that I eat chocolate ice cream, and that is what Jill now buys for me.

Oh, and by the way, if you had checked the ice cream bucket at my house when I was young, you would have also seen huge craters carved out of it, and that the chocolate ice cream was always missing.

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