Craig and Sara Noyes
A few weeks ago, while in the Jungle, I was helping some missionaries build their houses. On one memorable day, I was screwing freshly milled decking boards down when I became aware of the crowd of guys who had gathered around the porch watching me work. I turned to them and asked if any wanted to try using the drill. The nervous laugh moved through the little crowed as they all looked at each other wondering if the other guy might do it. Finally, one young man stepped forward and apprehensively took the drill from my hand. Then turning towards the screw he stared at it with obvious confusion and just pointed the drill at it. My eyes got a little big and I thought, “Ok, I think these guys need a different starting point.” We then began with how to hold the drill and how to use the trigger and went from there. Before too long several more wanted to try and they were quickly drilling away.
That evening I was lying in my hammock reflecting on that experience and this thought kept running through my head; “Oh, how I must learn to know nothing well!”
Let me explain. In the very beginning as we are building the houses we are the experts. In most cases they have never used a drill, never been part of building a house like ours, never thought about putting a toilet inside a house! However, pretty quick the roles will change. The houses will be completed and the teacher becomes the student. We will go from being experienced, full-grown, competent adults to people who don’t know how to walk on a mountain trail, how to ask for food, how to start a fire or virtually anything that your average 6-year old can do in the tribe with no problem! I’m not exaggerating, as I’ve visited tribes I’ve had older ladies hold my hand on a trail because it looks like I’ll fall down at any moment. We will know virtually nothing and they must teach us the very basics of life and how the preverbal “trigger-on-a-drill” works. The first time I try to start a fire the way they do, I’m sure I’ll look just like that guy pointing the drill at the screw with the blank and confused look.
The thing is, we had better learn to know nothing as well as we can. We must embrace the position of a learner and not resent it. You see, we’re not just learning culture and language in these early years, we’re showing them, modeling for them, how to start with zero understanding of something and learn with humility. In Tok Pisin, we’d say we have to show them how to “sit down well” (gutpela sindaun).
Why is that so important? Because once again, the tables will turn. The day will come when, God helping us, we’ll know how to talk, how to walk. We’ll know how and why they do what they do, what their hopes and dreams are, how they see the world and what stands in their way of understanding the Gospel. Then the day will come that we’ll stand up in front of them and say, all these years we’ve learned from you. We’ve stumbled and cried and been pretty pathetic so we can know your language. We promised we’d learn your language so we could share God’s talk with you and next week, that starts. Then we’ll start in Genesis and lay the framework for a totally new worldview. The most fundamental pieces of how they see the world and understand reality will be challenged. Their basic understanding of their identity will be brought into tension with what God says about who they are. For those who believe, they will then be challenged with what it means to truly love, to shower grace on their enemies instead of death, to deny themselves and honor others instead of self-honor and on and on. How will they know how to put off what they’ve always known about life and start to embrace something so foreign? What will be their example?
They will look to our lives and all the years that we knew nothing. Did we fight the position of a learner? Did we constantly try to show off what we did know about life? Did we accept teaching or did we avoid that which was difficult? Did we seek out wisdom and knowledge from them or did we stay away from things in which we were certain to fail in many times before we got it right?
Our lives must serve as models of what it looks like to know nothing well. They will look and think about our lives. We will have modeled what a disciple looks like or we will have modeled what a man who is right in his own eyes looks like.
So pray for us. We’ve still got some months before we even figure out what tribe we’ll be going to, but start praying now that we will learn to know nothing well.
In other news, our co-workers have all arrived in the country! Hurray! They are learning Tok Pisin. I am facilitating their language and culture learning as well as managing the office and logistics for our organization and all of us are prepping things for surveys and house building later in the year.
Very soon I’ll be sending out info on work teams and house building.
Thank you for all your prayers and support. Life is hard work no matter where you live. Thanks for the time energy and resources you give of that busy life to see this work go forward. Let’s keep reaching out for the unreached!
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