Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Creativity Across Countries

Remember back in December when I first began returning from the Zombie-Land of Gluten and I finally woke up enough to experience 2.7 minutes of bouncy?

One of the major signs that I was starting to feel better was when I finally picked up my pastels and began to paint some of the beautiful people I've encountered in Papua New Guinea. At the time, I had only completed two paintings--but by the time I left the US a month ago, I had actually finished four. Hooray! Gluten-poisoning is becoming a thing of the past, and my long-dormant creative side is continuing to emerge with more and more strength. Who knew that such a tiny little protein could wreak such havoc in my body?

I'm excited to see how I can incorporate the creative arts more in my life during this next term. So far, since I've only been in PNG for 2.5 weeks, my creativity is being utilized in learning how to cook favourite recipes gluten-free, singing the Hallelujah Chorus with an Easter choir, and tackling the large pile of mending in my closet! In the meantime, here are all four paintings gathered in one place.

In Mama's Dress--Dedua language, Papua New Guinea (soft pastel on suedeboard, 2014, private collection)
Amamas Na Paitim Han--Adzera language, Papua New Guinea (soft pastel on suedeboard, 2014, private collection)

On His Shoulders--Gadsup language, Papua New Guinea (soft pastel on suedeboard, 2014, available)
First Books--Adzera language, Papua New Guinea (soft pastel on suedeboard, 2014, available)

(Curious to know the process of creating a painting? Visit my art website to learn more about how an image comes to life!)

What creative projects have you been working on recently?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Arriving Home

One of the countries was Australia, where I met up with Hanna
  • 13,000 miles. 
  • 80 hours of Wilderness First Responder course time. 
  • 47 degree temperature change (Fahrenheit)
  • 32 hours crushed into airplane seats. 
  • 21 days of dragging around my life packed into a suitcase.
  • 15 hours of time zone change.
  • 13.5 hours waiting in airports.
  • 8 airports to run through (plus one more airstrip). 
  • 5 living situations. 
  • 4 countries. 
  • 2 languages....but 7 variations thereof!
  • 3 customs declarations, currency changes, and in-flight movies.
  • 1 tired but happy traveler.
After a long and adventurous journey (but not so adventurous, thankfully, such that everything remained on-time, all my luggage arrived, and I never accidentally was poisoned with gluten!), I am delighted to announce that I’m back in Papua New Guinea (PNG)! I arrived on Friday, April 4, and I’ve been busy settling myself back in at Ukarumpa, our linguistic centre.

This entails everything from figuring out what I can eat in my pantry, finding my gum boots (mud boots) so I can stay dry during our daily downpours (it’s rainy season), running the many necessary “welcome back” errands (like getting my Post Office key and finding my work permit card and making trips to the store), diving back into daily use of Tok Pisin (hooray! it all is still there), visiting the Pony Club :) as well as starting to meet with my many friends, co-workers, and directors to catch up on the past seven months and plan for the years to come.

Aren't PNG mountains crazy!?
“Welcome home” one of my friends grinned as she greeted me with a hug.

Home. Ever since arriving in PNG back in 2011, I’ve been a bit afraid of that word. I’ve avoided using it in my writing and my speaking. How am I supposed to define it? I’ve wondered. And, perhaps more concerning—will others understand my definition? Will they get offended?

Did I fly from home...or did I just arrive home? Do I walk home from our centre’s store or do I call home on skype? When I’m home, do I drive on the right side or the left? Do I pick the place that has my family? My friends? My work? The place where I have most of my possessions? The place where I grew up? The place I live the longest? The place I’m an official, legal resident? On my way to the US, I spent at least 20 minutes with 4 customs officials trying to explain the concept of official residency while living abroad.

This is too confusing, I decided. And so I got rid of the word from my vocabulary.

In the US, home is traditionally an honor bestowed upon one location a time; to give the title to two places feels like a betrayal. We say “I grew up here, but I call that place home,” and we hang pink, flowered cross-stitches proclaiming “home is where your heart is,” never wondering, what if your heart is split in pieces?
My Ukarumpa house is hidden behind that tree

On my first night back, I drank tea and laughed over rice paper wraps with friends in the house I’ve shared with my roommates, and the familiarity, the rightness, poured over me, much like it did when I stepped back into my parent’s house this past August. I was home.

And I realized, I wasn’t afraid of the word anymore. Because before, I had no home.

And now? Now I have two.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Letters to a New Missionary: Why Not?

Dear New Missionary,

image courtesy of www.thedieline.com
“Why....why Papua New Guinea?” You glanced at me, then ducked back behind your cup of coffee, studying the Starbucks logo with the intensity of an art critic. And I could hear the real question drumming beneath your interlaced fingers—how did you know where to go?

Paul fell asleep and a Macedonian man beckoned him longingly. Peter saw a vision and was told to go to Cornelius. An angel came to Joseph and gave travel instructions for Egypt. How did you know to go to Papua New Guinea over all the others?

I didn’t.

When Wycliffe first asked me where in the world I wanted to go, I had no clue. My call into Bible translation was clear enough, but the country? I shrugged. “I’ll go somewhere high need,” I told them. “And rural. I’d rather be rural.”

 “Catherine,” my recruiter’s skype image blurred, then reformed, “that’s pretty much all of Africa, Asia or the Pacific!” I stared back, blankly, not comprehending. “You’ll need to narrow it down. And,” she paused, “we’ll need to know in the next four weeks or so.”

The world carved down to one country in four weeks? I shivered, then began the monumental task of consulting every person I had ever known to spend any length of time overseas. I had the same thought as you—perhaps I would find a clue in one of their stories to help me know. And so I talked and emailed and read and prayed and prayed—with always this nagging little thought that perhaps...perhaps it was no good. At the time, I was also struggling through one of the darkest seasons of my life, and as I fought against the depression, I wondered how I would ever be able to hear the Lord’s voice when so many other things had seemed to fall apart.

But, oddly enough, Papua New Guinea (PNG) kept reappearing on the list. You’d fit well there, they told me. I was surprised. I knew about the country, of course—my mentors had served there, another close friend was passionate about it, but it had never before caught at my heart. Sure I could go—but why?

I skyped with another friend who had chosen to go to southeast Asia. “Why did you go there?” I asked. His voice caught in the static, then cleared. “It was a fit with my gifts, and they had a need. It wasn’t a matter of why—it was a matter of why not.”

Why not? The words seemed to dance with freedom—a release from the lightning bolts, the handwriting on the wall. Permission to trust. I took a deep breath, underlined Psalm 16:11, “You will make known to me the path of life. In your presence, there is fullness of joy,” and I nodded.

Why not?

I looked down at my own cup, only a few swallows of the apple cider remained. “The passion for PNG did come, of course, not long after. And now, I can look back and see how marvelous His choice fits with my gifts and needs at this time. I love it there. But, more than anything, I appreciate the way the Lord did it—taking me in one of my darkest times and guiding me precisely through that labyrinth. If He could do it then and in that way,” I shrugged, “how can I not trust Him at other times?”

You nodded, crumpling the napkin absently as the businessmen at the table next to us shook hands over a successful transaction. “Thanks for sharing with me.”

“It was my pleasure—and perhaps, one day we'll be sharing stories on the mission field. Maybe even in Papua New Guinea!”

You grinned, “Why not?”