Being Interface this last week and a half has been great. Interface is a 6 week program where young people come over to get a taste of missions and we were last minute included as staff following another delay to our Kovol schedule due to helicopter issues.
It’s great fun to get to know the students and refreshing and amusing to see PNG through their fresh new eyes. It helps you to see how far we’ve come personally to be able to function in a totally different culture and language effectively. After outings to the village students are asked for their observations and impressions and we’ve been impressed by how perceptive they are. We don’t notice some of those things anymore.
One example is that they noticed that sellers at the market seem quite blase about their money being left out, and also that when change is needed they go to other sellers for change they’re missing. The students got to wondering what the relationship between the sellers was, why were there more women than men? We don’t notice that sort of thing anymore and have good guesses for not just what’s going on but why it’s going on.
We spent a day on a deserted tropical island as a beach day. The students had had a week and a half of morning to evening classes and language sessions – it was time for a break. On the way a quintessential PNG experience came up. When we go out we end up being a big group of 30-40 people. To get to the island we had hired 4 local boatmen to take us in their fiberglass boats. Seemed a simple operation, jump in the boat and off to the beach, and I hopped into a boat as the sole staff member with a group of students.
We got on our way but we all started to notice that the other 3 boats were heading around Kranket island and we were heading straight for the middle of it. As we pull closer to the island all eyes turn to me “Where are we going?”, “Why aren’t we following the other boats?”.
It made me laugh to myself because I myself had no idea whatsoever, and they were looking to me as the guy who lives here and knows what’s going on!
The boat crew hadn’t said anything and we as staff were expecting a simple direct trip to the island.
I had a list of possible options in my head and thought the most likely was that we needed to get fuel. I asked our boat crew and sure enough that’s what was going on. What a lesson about life in PNG for our students! You think one thing is going to happen, you’ve used your culture and language skills to line something up – but then something totally unexpected happens and you go back to being a bemused observer, just sitting and waiting for things to play out.
Getting an announcement that we’re just stopping for fuel and then we’ll be on our way isn’t deemed neccesarry 🙂
Surprise opportunities to serve
Not only is the PNG culture constantly surprising even those of us who live here the fluid, logistically challenging work of our mission keeps bringing up ‘askims’ (favors). A missionary family is due to arrive back in PNG next week after the birth of a baby in the US. They shot those of us at Madang a quick email asking us to help them get the car road worthy so when they return they can head straight to the tribe.
The plan was to pump up the tires, take it to town to get a new safety sticker and otherwise get the paperwork sorted to get it on the road for next week.
Sounds like the perfect job for a group of students come to see what missions is all about; and so with a bucket, some rags and a bit of disinfectant spray we got to work.
The mould came of easier than expected. We’ve had some mould put up a stiff fight, but this car cave mould just needed wiping off with soapy water.
Unfortunately we can’t seem to find the registration papers so we can get the new safety sticker and insurance…
A second very PNG experience: being asked to do
We’ve got another week and a half to help at Interface. Steve is getting to teach a number of the chronological Bible lessons. Students are taken quickly through the whole course in a dozen or so hours of class time. For some (many?) students this is the first time going through the Bible chronologically and as teachers we inject PNG relevant illustrations and in a small way give a flavour of what our Bible teaching is like in the tribe. Alongside the chronological teaching there are topical studies on things like ‘Decision making and the will of God’. Alongside that are the crash courses in phonetics, culture and language learning methods, Bible translation and ministering cross culturally. The students say it’s like drinking from a fire hose!
The best part about Interface though is being able to go out and immediately apply language learning principles, to straight away have a go at writing the Tok Pisin you’re hearing in phonetics and connecting with PNG nationals. I know my time as a student in 2010 made me aware that there was far more to missions than I had thought and made me excited to get back to PNG as soon as possible.
It’s the same for some of the students this year who have caught the bug and want to come back as full time missionaries and it’s a delight to be able to give back to a program that was a real blessing to me.