Sometimes talking to people in America, I realize how hard it is to understand what life is like here unless you have visited. I thought this blog post might be a help to many of you who pray or give.
Ways Our Lives are Different
- Eating is different. First of all, it is very expensive to buy groceries here. Second, there are no quick ways to prepare healthy food for our families. We can’t order out and get something healthy (good sandwiches, sushi, nice salads). There are fruits and vegetables, meat and grains here, but preparing them takes a while. Basically, I am just saying that it is time-consuming to cook from scratch! I remember the times when I could run to Costco and have frozen berries, bags of pre-cut-pre-washed-bug-free spinach, pre-made guacamole, and healthy dressing or whatever all at my fingertips for easy and healthy meals and snacks. We eat well here – we eat meat every day, vegetables and fruit at most meals, but it takes time.
- Electricity is not consistent. When the electricity goes out (which can be daily for a little while, or once in a week) the first thing I think of is the kids if it is nap time or night. Jude gets very hot without a fan, so I will bring in a small rechargeable one and then fan Oliver with a handheld one. The second thing I think about is the fridge. We never know if the power will be out for 20 minutes or a few hours, so I begin to think about what we might eat at our next meal, trying not to open the fridge so the rest of our food doesn’t spoil.
- We live with less appliances, which means we are on our feet more. Whether it seems marginal or not, it does actually take full hours out of our days to wash all forks by hand and hang up/take down laundry off a clothes line. These are things that we are happy to do, and aren’t huge sacrifices, but they DO creep into time we might spend differently.
- We don’t go out at night. Basically, whether driving or walking, it is not safe for us to be out after 5pm. For the most part, we feel safe here in Madang, but at night there are sometimes drunk men, fights, etc… outside our gate and by the beach here. In town, this is when stores are more likely to be robbed. And side note – though the Lehmans live only about a 10 minute walk from our home, it is farther than some might think. For instance, it isn’t easy for Cameron’s mom, who is visiting now, to go over and see Lorie because Diane is a visitor – not knowing the language and being a new face are two reasons she might be more likely to be robbed.
- We depend on each other more. We were sent here on a mission with just two other families – to see a tribe in the Finisterres learn about Jesus in their own language and develop into an indigenous church. It is a long work and life here requires more of us than it did in the states. We actually DO have a lady that comes to help us clean during the week for an hour a day, but because of several reasons, she doesn’t help cook or babysit. A side-note on this: As some of you know, Cameron Dodd – my coworker – has severe arthritis in her ankle. Because we live in a land of extra standing (hanging up clothes, washing dishes by hand, and cooking from scratch), she has found it difficult to do as much as she did in the states. So this is an opportunity for us to come alongside her and help! (This is also why her mom has come to visit and help during a couple of the house building trips while Matt is gone.)
- We depend on the Bible more. The longer I live in another country, away from my family, my church, and friends, the more I learn that God is sufficient for all things. He has brought me here, walked with me in each season, and taught me many things. And because we now live near just a few other believers we are not as spiritually fed from the outside as we once were. We rely on God’s Word – if we don’t spend time reading it each day, we have little hope of growth.
Ways Our Lives are the Same
I wanted to spend the bulk of this post on how our lives are different here, since that would be of most interest and most informational, but there are a couple ways in which our lives are the same!
- We still spend much of our times, as women, with our kids. This is similar to our lives in America – homeschool, games, activities, naps, meals, etc… In some ways, I could keep our same daily schedule if we were in America tomorrow. Our kid’s lives look similar in many ways right now.
- We still try to do special things as a family. Though eating out isn’t quite the same selection, there are a couple decent places. There are also ice cream stands, a pool, and a nicer beach nearby.
- And, Zach and I still have dates. Usually, we do a home date night, but sometimes we go out for lunch or coffee while the boys spend time with the Dodds or Lehmans.
Let me end by saying that I am SO thankful that I get to live here and be a part of what God is doing in reaching the Ndo people. I did not write this post at all to complain or focus only on the bad parts of life. Many sweet and generous people have offered to help us in different ways and I realized that some of the suggestions came from a lack of knowledge about life here in PNG. May God be praised that we love life here even as we lay those lives down for a bigger purpose – I hope that any of you who are praying or giving also come alongside me with gratitude for the privilege it is to be used by our Lord!
Here is a bonus picture for anyone who read (or scrolled!) all the way to the bottom of this long post. We can call it a little illustration of one difference in life here: men and women both wear purses, called bilums. So here Oliver is practicing wearing his bilum.
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