Thursday, April 28, 2016

Adventures Await!

The other night, I dreamed that I was on an airplane over the Pacific and I couldn't figure out what time it was in my destination time zone. Horror of horrors—I couldn’t figure out how to properly adjust my sleep cycle!

I leave Papua New Guinea (PNG) for my home assignment in the US in just a few short days. The departure seems both surreal (can I REALLY trust that there are doctors and ambulances and 24-hour pharmacies available, and I don’t have to bring all my medicines?) and amazingly concrete (all the boxes and bags scattered around my room might have something to do with that.)

It’s exciting when it dawns on me that I don’t have to double-pack everything into ziplocs and dry bags (no dinghy rides for us!), or when I discover that my family’s cell phone numbers are the same as they were a few years ago (ours seem to change every few months or year here in PNG). I’ve gathered up my currencies for four countries and voiced my disgust at the inhospitable US money... (Why we can’t be like enlightened countries that use different color, logical size progression (corresponding to monetary value), distinguishable coins, clear artistic designs, large numbers, and waterproof materials, I have no idea.)
Then there’s the great weight versus volume challenge as I creatively pack my bags so that I not only meet weight restrictions, but also so the many different Customs agents can examine what they need to without ripping the whole thing to shreds AND so that I still have my clothes and necessities if my checked bags are lost over the Pacific (all the while trying to figure out the least number of clothes to bring that are appropriate for four countries, five cultures, seven flights, eight climates, and ten days of travel!).

Sometimes I think the packing and preparation for departure is just as adventurous as the travel itself! While part of me would like to share something deep and profound about the transition, my mind is rather filled with printing itineraries, rechecking lodging, taking care of horses and assisting in last-minute equine surgery, dealing with work permits and visas, doing bucket-loads of laundry, and a whole mountain of last minute tasks. So instead, I’ll just say, see you on the other side!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

5 Stages of Home(less) Assignment

Deb Berruti, a global worker in Niger writes about the 5 Stages of Home(less) Assignment, an entertaining look at what it's like to return to our home countries and the emotions that follow us. She suggests we start with denial, then anger, followed by bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

When I first read this article, I laughed aloud and thought "no way! I haven't gone through all of that..." and then reality set in. Hehehe. Actually, it's far more true than I want to admit! In fact, I remember all too clearly from my last home assignment both the hilarious (such as the euphoria when I flew back the first time and was handed grapes as part of my in-flight meal and the soft seats and the air conditioning and the clean bathrooms!!) and the shameful (striking cruelly against others' choices of technology use, muttering judgmental thoughts while sitting in church, plowing through periods of depression and burnout).

In fact, I would argue that the 5 stages aren't necessarily a linear progression. They are probably more like this:

As I've been getting ready to return to the US for the second time, I've been trying to reflect on the ups and downs of last time...and maybe, attempt not to make the same mistakes as I did before (so I can make new ones this time...or if I do decide to repeat history, then maybe I can do a slightly better job of dealing with them!).

So I've been asking myself, what are the topics that push my buttons? What am I particularly sensitized to due to the life and sin patterns of the culture that I live in currently compared to the challenges of the culture to which I'm heading? How is it that I can live displaying the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of these various stages of transition? (Obviously I can only do it by the grace of God!) How can I accept these emotions and processing as "normal" but do it in a healthy way that doesn't cause me to damage those friends and family who are walking with me through this?

There are plenty of resources, but no easy answers! I'm grateful for the mercy and grace extended to me as a fellow human sinner, and for the support of many who have gone before! Thank you for walking with me through all these different stages!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pausing in Grey

image from
I hear the rain first. The curtain falls over the mountain, a distant roar, and our German Shepherd clatters underneath the house in panic. I have seconds to slam the window louvers shut before the wave reaches shore, crashing over the house, surf pounding on the metal roof until I can’t see the trees in the yard or hear my own voice.

And suddenly, I’m underwater, deaf and blind, my house an island, just me and my dog, castaways.

It’s only a matter of weeks before I leave Papua New Guinea. Flights have been purchased, schedules are being set, my jobs are being handed off, and I’m in the middle of that peculiar process where I sort through every single one of my belongings, getting rid of quite a few and recording what’s left (Buy more deodorant. Check...don’t buy hair ties. Check...) while still maintaining translation and relationships here. My worlds are divided by Excel spreadsheets and suitcases and languages, and I leap back and forth frantically, like some global hopscotch.
But for a moment, the rain shades the world in grays, like an old faded photograph, and I find myself thrust into the blurriness. Please, don’t make me choose! Let me stay in gray—where I can live in paradox, holding onto both leaving and arriving, staying and going, goodbyes and hellos, grief and joy swirled together. Let me stay in this moment where there is no choosing—where I can merely pause in the middle of the ache that is stitched into the seams of this life I’ve chosen. I stare out the window into the blank wall of rain that obscures all details of the valley; I could be anywhere and everywhere. The tumble out of the wardrobe and back into the other life is not for the faint of heart.

In German, they have the word sehnsucht—that indescribable feeling of longing for a home.

Image from
I long for the home that is an eternity of belonging—when those joyous aches are finally able to consume me in their bitter gloriousness, until I’m born out of them, renewed. When the golden light of evening and the swell of an orchestra and the needles of the fir tree inked against the infinity of  sky, all meet together like flavors that trickle down your throat and become you. I long for the day when physicality will become finally whole, and then, somehow, it won’t matter at all. Because I won’t have to choose between here and there; when we walk through walls like they don’t exist, we’ll still lick the last of fish off our fingers, burned on Galilean sands.

The rain stops as suddenly as it starts, and I am tossed back into a world where here and there require 15 hour flights and crackly skype calls and visa applications—where there are chronic diseases and terrible disasters and perverted justice and the need for Bible translation in the first place.

The sun fractures golden across a thousand droplets. I feel sehnsucht.

And He whispers, “Yes, for I have gone ahead to prepare a place for you.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Gospel According to Leviticus

Some days I like to imagine, what if the books of the Bible got together for a good old fashioned barbecue? Acts would be running around, fetching all the firewood (or is charcoal better? Judges wants to consider all the options) while Romans is shouting directions that only 1 and 2 Timothy are actually paying attention to. Joshua and Mark have got 3-foot flames coming out the grill, while Ezekiel and Ruth are finishing up preparing the barley salad and other sides. Manic-depressive Psalms can’t decide if he wants a hot dog or a burger, while Ezra makes sure Corinthians are staying on track with the drinks.

photo credit:
But Leviticus? Well, I’ve always imagined him over there, still reading the instructions on how to properly use the hamburger flipper while everyone else is happily chowing down.

Leviticus isn’t exactly  the evangelical church’s go-to book. How many pastors do you know announce their next 12-week series will be hiking its way through the Levitical law? Or how many men’s Bible studies decide that their focus this quarter will be on the various rules surrounding removing mold from clothing and identifying infectious skin diseases?
But, after spending six months with the Kamano-Kafe translation team dissecting the book verse by verse and phrase by phrase and spending more time than I thought possible discussing the lobe of the liver (or the legs of a man cow-pig...don’t forget to read that story!), I’ve come to see that Leviticus is much like these pictures of sand...although important, rather blah from a distance…

...but full of great beauty up close.

photo credit:
photo credit:

Enter a holy and righteous God who loves and desperately wants a relationship with His people. But the chasm is so deep, that it’s only through blood and perfect unblemished sacrifice of His Son Jesus that His people are cleansed, redeemed from the darkness, and can walk intimately with Him in obedience and faith, to receive the abundance of His blessing that stretches beyond the future.

That’s the Gospel...and that’s Leviticus.

Paratext--one of the computer programs we use while translating!
Because Papua New Guinean (PNG) culture and ancient Israelite culture share so many similarities—land-based societies filled with social taboos, animal sacrifices, blood vendettas, sorcery, loose alliances, death rituals, and more—often my Kamano-Kafe colleagues were much quicker to see the beauty and importance of the various laws than I did.

For example, while for many Westerners the laws poking into every corner of daily life seem overkill and intrusive, in ancient Israel and Papua New Guinea, there’s no separation of the spiritual and the mundane, and God’s interest in methods of cooking and hunting is completely logical. Similarly, people and land are intertwined, tied together deeper than blood. The laws of land distribution and ownership, boundary stones, and arguments between clans are everyday issues for PNG and ancient Israel (but not so much for Westerners whose great grandparents were immigrants and who happily move across a continent for jobs or spouses or weather preferences).

Or consider the roles of rest and trust when your survival is dependent on the food you produce with your labor—your daily trudge to the distant gardens. And yet, the entire book of Leviticus is punctuated  by rest—of Sabbath days and festivals with commandments to stop and pause, including an entire year where garden work is prohibited (and the food will be provided by the Lord Himself). After 8 months of severe drought, trust has a new meaning.

And we all acknowledge that those verses about God’s care for the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner give us warm fuzzies, but have you actually considered how merciful a law like “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” is? In PNG, if a man destroys a garden, the victim will probably come kill his pig. Then the original man will retaliate, injuring a person...and then the second party strikes back, killing a man. The destruction bubbles upward no end in sight in ever-escalating payback. But this law arrests the cycle, crying to this point and no more!

Mercy. Holiness. Redemption. Sacrifice. Love.

The Gospel according to Leviticus.