The Joys of Waiting.

Wait may seem like such a simple word but context is everything.  Being told to wait at Starbucks might be frustrating but it probably isn’t life altering.  However, in the course of preparing for ministry or other life changes, the word wait is fully loaded.  I have many friends who have been told to wait or forced to wait when preparing to leave for overseas work.  This in-between time is usually filled with frustrations and unexpected joys.  I know this first hand because I too was told to wait when preparing for Papua New Guinea and currently, as I prepare for the next step, I find myself once again in a place of waiting.  This post is written with prayers and empathy for all those who have ever been told to wait.

In September 2007 I wrote a newsletter talking about having been told to wait and what I had been learning through the process.  Here is an excerpt from that letter: Everything seemed to be in order and I was ready to move forward, raising support and finalizing plans to be on the field in January 2008…Then they recommended that I postpone my field work for an entire year…I was told, “This is not ‘no’, this is wait.”…During this time I contemplated many options but no other direction seemed even remotely satisfying.  Through silence, prayer, good counsel, and a myriad of Christian literature, I began to see glimpses of something outside of myself…Ever since I graduated high school my life has been in warp speed… I have never taken the time to stop and listen to the One who ultimately created the universe that I enjoy.  Being told to wait was difficult to accept, but it has forced me to take the time and capitalize on an opportunity to closely examine myself and my motivations…The past two months have been frustratingly wonderful.  I am now even more confident that I have a heart and passion for working  in PNG.  My excitement has been renewed and I am ready to actively wait…Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked “How much of life is lost in waiting?”  In response I say: although there is much to be lost, there is more to be gained and good things are worth the wait.  I am on my journey with a better idea of where I am and a willing spirit to go where I am called.

As I read this letter, I see a hope and an innocence in myself.  I am so thankful that my plans were put on hold so that God’s plans could take over.   I had no idea what was before me in PNG and I remember many tears and frustrated days because I was “ready”.  But looking back at my first 6 months in PNG, I was so far from ready.  Even as it was, I struggled through the first three months of training and without the amazing support of others probably wouldn’t have made it through my first assignment that failed miserably.  And as it turned out, arriving when I did made my first two years fit perfectly with the STEP training course.  It also allowed me time over Branch Conference to still serve while sitting behind the scenes and healing from the failed working relationship.  I can see each piece of the puzzle now that fit because it was placed there with a purpose in God’s perfect timing.

I like to think of this world as God’s orchestra.  He is both composer and conductor.  He’s already written the entire piece, history from the beginning to the end, and yet he still stands before us, directing us as we play.  Each of us has our own instrument, a part of the whole.  Sometimes we wait while others play, sometimes we play melody, sometimes harmony, sometimes we have a solo and all together it makes something beautiful.  We can’t always hear everything because of where we sit but he can and we have to trust his ear and his direction.  This metaphor may not be appealing to a lot of people because it shows us giving up a huge amount of control.  But I am under no allusion that I can control everything.  Who would I rather have making decisions?  The One who knows everything, past, present and future?  Or my mortal, shortsighted self?

For me, giving up that control is what makes the waiting bearable.  If I trust only in my own wisdom and knowledge, I can never be sure about the decisions I make.  However, there is great freedom in saying that I can trust that He knows the future, He knows me and wants what’s best for me.  As His creation, I can rest in His goodness and who He is, even when I can’t see past myself.

In my letter from 2007 I declare at the end that I am ready to actively wait.  I am very pleased with my 23 year old self who recognized that there is a difference between just letting things happen to you and actively pursuing a path while waiting on God’s timing.  I still love the idea that waiting doesn’t have to be passive.  At this point, I am waiting on God for wisdom and direction but I am actively waiting.  Each conversation I have, each presentation I do, each place I stay, each day I spend reading, each trip I take, is all part of the journey.

Psalm 27 is a beautiful reminder of the emotional ups and downs, and the frustrations and joys of the Christian life.  David is in a dangerous place, surrounded by enemies and yet he is asking for wisdom and seeking God’s face.  He finds comfort in the Lord’s presence and in the act of worshiping Him.  But even David knows the power in waiting as he declares, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

For all my friends who have ever been told to wait, seek refuge with the One who has already written the end of the story.  Open your eyes so you can see the unexpected joys and blessings that come with obedience and being in a place you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself.  Look back at His past faithfulness and rejoice in what He has already done.  Know that some days will be frustrating but channel that emotion into worship.  When it doesn’t make sense, trust in the character of God because He is perfect and unchanging.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Wait for the Lord!

 

Exhausted

With so many good things happening, it is hard to keep up.  The course is great but I spend 7 hours a day at the computer room/literacy office just for class time, not including the extra prep time and meetings, set-up and clean-up.  Then at home I am constantly fiddling with our course schedule and planning for my teaching lessons which include things like making a final test over this weekend.  And in addition to the course, my two Onobasulu colleagues are here.  I want to take advantage of having their undivided attention so while there isn’t time during the course; we have work meetings on the weekend.

Onobasulu work also continues with more than just meetings because we are still working on transferring the various files and data from my computer to theirs.  This means I am the supply line for their work during computer lab times so that we can better keep track of the most up-to-date versions of documents.  And I’m typing up and cleaning up their curriculum work that they produce during the work times.  I also have little projects that I am trying to work on and ask them about now so I can print final copies and have it ready when we go out to the village.  Some things are just easier to ask in person rather then over the radio.

Then I’ve been trying to sort through the papers from the Edolo and Kaluli curriculum workshop that happened while I was in the village but that still involves quite a bit of typing.  I haven’t had time but it needs to happen sooner rather then later because I want to allow time for the expat advisors for those groups to make comments and suggestions before we go out to the village.  In addition there is also the funding paperwork and questions I have since my proposal changed midcourse do to unforeseen complications with the original plan for the Curriculum Translation Workshop.

If that isn’t enough, the store currently has had some greater-than-normal trouble keeping certain things in stock.  So we (Beverly and I) are already planning and doing some village shopping an extra month ahead of time.  Of course this doesn’t just involve going to the store but also making detailed lists to follow so that we know what we’ve bought, what we still need and how to keep within our weight limits for the flights too.  The flights are another beast entirely so I won’t go into that.

The course doesn’t end until Thursday of next week but on Tuesday my new housemate in coming in from POC.  I am very excited to have someone else living with me but this is also extra work trying to clean things up and make space for her.  I had used the extra room as a packing stage with my things for the village and an office too for my printer and such.  However, I figured she would probably want/need her own room and closet so there has been clean-out and consolidation going on here as well.

I’m sure there are probably other things I’m forgetting that I am suppose to be doing now but maybe I have enough going on.  Look for my May newsletter next week:-)  However, don’t feel too sorry for me because when my head gets completely full and cottony, I do take the time to just lay on the couch and watch an episode or two of Castle, or curl up in bed with a Lois McMaster Bujold book from the Miles Vorkosigan series.  You have to be able to escape somehow and a crime fighting book writer or the Barrayaran space world are just the ticket.

Feeding on Faithfulness

“Trust in Jehovah, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness.”  Psalm 37:3 ASV

 

Simon Savaiko knows what it means to feed on God’s faithfulness.  It is this constant grazing, meditating and remembering that has kept him working in literacy and translation for longer then I’ve been alive.  Starting in the late 70s Simon began working in literacy for his own language group, the Barai in Oro Province.  Then after a few years he joined the translation team to help work on the Barai New Testament.  And finally went back to literacy in the mid 90s where he has continued to work in literacy training ever since.  Although Simon’s heart and passion is for his own language group, he serves many others and assists with training and support throughout PNG.

I have been blessed to work with Simon at the STEP course in 2008 and 2009 and now he is part of the STEP in-service.  He also attended STEP as a student in one of the earliest intakes.  And now has great wisdom and insight for these guys because he has done exactly what we are asking them to do.  He has worked through all sorts of challenges, bringing literacy and education into his area.  Today Simon shared some of the things that worked and some of the things that didn’t work.  We expats can talk until we are blue in the face but it doesn’t ring true because no matter how long we work in PNG, we are still outsiders.  Simon is one of them.  And despite all the trials and hardships, he has remained faithful.  His testimony speaks to all of us and he would be the first to tell you that he didn’t do it on his own.  It is because he meditates, grazes, feeds on God’s faithfulness.

The Unknown- Jello

In STEP we have a learning principle that states, “Teach from the known to the unknown.”  This is one thing that we try to drill into the participant’s heads because it is important when teaching to start with something the students know before moving onto something completely new.  Adults and some other audiences can sometimes handle a bit more unknown but as a general rule it stands.

Today we went straight to the unknown in the form of jello jigglers.  Jeffery (in the background) likes to tell me about his first experience eating jello when he thought his teeth were going to fall out and laughs as he describes how it felt in his mouth.  Hauwo and Jeffery have both tasted jello but I figured most of the other guys hadn’t.

There were lots of different reactions.  Some of the guys were afraid of it.  Others compared it to sago which has a jelly-like consistency when prepared a certain way.  Still others slurped it down happily and asked for bigger pieces.  It was definitely something new for them but a fun all around experience.  Do you remember the first time you ate jello?

Literacy Program Consulting and Computer Repair

For those of you who didn’t know, a couple months ago I stupidly stepped on my computer cracking the screen.  It wasn’t too bad at first but the blackness kept growing from a spider web to a bamboo tree and finally to a large black bat.  This blackness splashed across the screen made it rather difficult to work and watching movies became very inconvenient.

But thanks to a mix of great people, my screen is now back to normal.  Thank you to those who provided the funds to buy and ship the right part from the US and to the amazing CTS (computer technical services) people who ordered the part and then replaced the screen in just a couple hours today.  These guys are amazing technicians.  I am truly blessed.

Meanwhile back in the classroom, we had a morning with literacy consultants.  I invited the other literacy consultants who are currently in Ukarumpa and we split the guys into groups and gave them extra personal attention.  This was a good learning experience for all of us.  I enjoyed interacting with the guys and being able to focus more directly on their needs and wants.  It was also great to come back together and talk through the collective wisdom since all of the consultants have such varied experiences.

Some of the consultants also took the time to look through our literacy archives and find materials for the guys as well as go on mini field trips to book distribution (another archiving center in Ukarumpa) and the Scripture Use office where there are more resources available.  It was a productive day and another step forward as we try to give the participants resources and direction that will benefit them even after they leave Ukarumpa.

Curriculum, Cycles and Computers

My job these past couple of days has been to help these 19 participants analyze their own literacy programs and get themselves to a point where we can actually help them move forward with adding to their curriculums and producing materials. This is challenging because they are all in such different places.

One of the challenges is working with the various educational systems that exist here in PNG.  There is community school, primary school, tok ples prep schools, elementary schools and I’m sure others that I have forgotten.  These are all remnants of old systems mixed with the new system.  Because PNG is so diverse, it has been difficult to change from one system to another so each change brings about more factions that continue working with what they have when they can’t easily change to align themselves with the newest government policy.

We spent a long time discussing STEP’s way of producing curriculum as compared to the new Elementary reform way.  I made sure to emphasize the similarities, especially the superficial ones and try to explain how to deal with the differences in a reasonable way.  This is not to go against the system but instead to equip these men to adapt the materials they do have instead of just throwing everything out each time a change happens.

I think the biggest challenge these men face is the lack of materials.  They can’t just buy a book ready-made off the shelf.  Each book, set of flashcards, and chart in their language has to be made by someone who speaks their language.  But this isn’t always easy and so we reviewed the Writing/Editing cycle as well as the Book Production cycle.  The cycles are not perfect but the visual helps to reinforce that this is a continual process.  To get the best product you don’t just edit once.  Hauwo and Jeffery are editing stories that have already been edited many times but they are still finding mistakes.  This is especially true because the spelling systems in many of these languages are still evolving and will probably continue to change.

We really do want these men to develop their computer skills and be able to benefit from technology but part of that is being able to type well.  This afternoon we spent a long time with a computer typing tutor.  As we were discussing the proper method of typing, I had to laugh because I am not the world’s best typer.  But I’m not horrible because I learned to type on IM (instant messenger).  In high school IM was a typical means of communication and you had to type relatively fast to keep up with the conversation.  Computer history makes me laugh too.  Some of these guys are typing for the first time on a little Netbook with a Windows 7 operating system and the first computer I remember was a huge tan box with a green screen.  I’m thankful for the advances in technology that make courses like this a reality.