Meanwhile in Australia…

Every once in awhile I take a look through the Australian news.  I’m sure this practice will become more common as we get closer to moving but for now I just scan the headlines every few weeks.  Today an article caught my attention and as I read through it, I couldn’t help but think back on the training we received last week coupled with other cross-cultural experiences.

Aboriginal Input

The headline Australian PM knocks back Indigenous constitution plan was interesting in and of itself.  But reading the article it became more apparent that there were certain cultural norms and expectations at work.  And these cultural differences could easily be what is holding the Australian government and the Aboriginal leaders back from coming to an agreeable decision for both sides.

The article is regarding changes to the Australian constitution that would recognize Indigenous Australians and remove some race-based provisions. It cites the following as the proposed changes:

  • Recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Acknowledging the continuing relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with their traditional lands and waters
  • Respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Repealing the two so-called “race provisions”:

  • section 25 that recognises that the states can disqualify people on the basis of their race from voting
  • section 51(26) that allows laws to be made based upon a person’s race.

Reading through this article multiple times, on the surface it seems like both sides have valid points but I think that somehow their cultural values and worldview are coloring their vision and making it more difficult to see the point the other side is trying to make.  The Aboriginal community wants to have their own talks and come to a consensus separately regarding the constitutional changes and amendments.  The amendments directly impact their lives.  However, the Prime Minister has “anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with the notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us'”.  Not being Aboriginal, I actually relate to the PMs point more but I really wonder what cultural norms are behind the Aboriginal wishes and if they could just be allowed their own process, if that wouldn’t make the final decision easier and more unifying in the long run.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how long it will take for an agreement to be reached.

Note: I’m not an Australian expert.  I’m not an Aboriginal expert.  I’m not a political expert or even well read in this particular political instance.  I’m simply commenting on what I see as glaring cultural and historical differences that are keeping these two sides at odds with each other.

Flashback to 2011- Life in Walagu

teachers

4 years ago today, I was in Walagu (the main Onobasulu village in PNG) fighting with the sun for power and trying to get curriculum work done with the Onobasulu despite many setbacks and crazy things happening in the village around us.  My co-worker Beverly and I were joined by a student named Jenny who was completely surprised at the wide variety of tasks we needed to do on a daily basis that had little or nothing to do with the translation or literacy work.  It makes sense that we would help the people we were serving and working with in a wide variety of areas but working as an electrician and a nurse were not on my resume.  But sometimes you just have to make it work.

batteries

In this post from June 29th, I wrote about learning the difference between “bulk and float voltage” as well as connecting batteries with solar panels.  Taking care of big batteries and connecting solar panels is not a normal task in my life now but it was just a part of village life in PNG.  Who knows, maybe this will come in handy again some day:-)

sores

In the post, I also wrote about all the medical issues we were dealing with (ear infections, terrible boils and sores as well as a broken arm).  At this point we didn’t realize that Beverly would eventually set the broken with directions I was getting from an emergency phone call/radio session with a doctor in Ukarumpa.  Despite all the health care issues in the US, nothing compares to the problems that arise when people lack basic things like soap and access to the most basic medical care.  Seriously, how do you keep a little boy, who lives and plays in the dirt, clean when his bathtub is a river with muddy banks!?

bridge

Although I don’t miss the wet feet, odd infections and strange stresses of life in PNG.  I do miss the people and the part of my job description that read “play with small children every chance you get”.  The pictures in this post were taken from a July 30th post that happened once we got back to Ukarumpa.  Since we were using HF radio to send emails in the village, posting to the blog with pictures was practically impossible.  But I was thankful for the power we did have to send text only blog updates via email.

lizjoy

Even though I’m now back in the US, the Onobasulu people are still living and working in their communities in PNG.  Please continue to pray for the Onobasulu people.  Pray for health, community unity and successful, continued work on Bible Translation, literacy and education.

meli

Continued Prayers for Nepal

Nepal

When media responds extensively to events in our world, we often feel overloaded by information.  It’s easy to get caught up in the initial tragedy and grief.  (This response can be genuine but unfortunately it isn’t always.)  Sometimes the coverage is so intense that from our comfortable lives we can get bored or annoyed hearing the same or similar stories over and over again.  But then as the coverage fades, it’s easy to forget the people who are still rebuilding their lives and sometimes still suffering.

NepalSupplies

Let’s remember to keep praying for the people in Nepal who are still recovering and rebuilding from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that happened on April 25th.  This graphic (which was current as of June 11th) shows that most people have received relief supplies.  From my friends who live and work in Nepal, the news is that relief is still ongoing but at least some normal pre-earthquake work has resumed.  However, please keep praying because monsoon season will be a challenge for people who still don’t have permanent shelter and access to normal supplies, food and otherwise.  Your prayers make a difference in Nepal.

A Conversation About Suicide

While in Australia we became aware of the high suicide rate among farmers as well as others in the area in and around Brookton where we hope to be moving in the next couple of years.  While in a public restroom Ryan saw this sign and it broke his heart.

P1020847

“Before it all gets too much…Talk to a Mate!”  The sad reality is that suicide is a major problem (not just in Western Australia but all over the world) and often people who are suicidal don’t know who or where to turn.  Unfortunately, friends and family aren’t always equipped to recognize and/or respond when they see the signs of suicide.

Today, the church we attend had a seminar on suicide response, prevention and the gospels place in the conversation.  Ryan and I are thankful that the gospel has a message of hope, even in the most hopeless places, which is often where people find themselves when considering suicide.  We realize there is still a lot for us to learn but we want to be thoughtful in our preparation and capitalize on opportunities, like attending this seminar, in order to help equip us for the realities we will be facing in Australia.

There is a good chance that even if you have never considered suicide, you probably know someone who has tried or know someone who has died by suicide.  If not, statistically speaking most people will be impacted by suicide in their lifetime.  There are many resources available now thanks to technology, Virtual Hope Box and MY3 are two apps that can help.  They both provide information and resources for those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide but they can also be helpful for family and friends who are looking for ways to help and respond.  More information is also available at: suicideispreventable.org and of course there is still a place for an old fashioned phone conversation.  1-800-273-TALK is the US national suicide prevention hotline.

Although we wish a phone number and website could solve this problem, we recognize that it’s not that simple.  It takes courage to ask a friend how they’re truly feeling, to hear the cries (however subtle) for help, not ignore or dismiss them and to respond thoughtfully and to take the necessary measures to get good professional help. Ryan and I are continuing to learn and respond well to the reality of suicide.  For us the conversation isn’t over but just beginning.

Approved For Atlanta- Certain Uncertainty

We’re heading to Atlanta in July!  One step closer to Australia and yet still so much that has to happen.  But instead of dwelling on the distant future, let’s just look forward to next month.  The last week in July, Ryan and I will be in Atlanta.  We’re thankful to everyone who has given to our ministry fund and those who continue to give because this means that the entire cost of our trip, tickets, etc, are already covered.  The purpose of this trip is to attend REV (REV is short for Readiness Evaluation and it is a week long course that tests to see how ready we are to live and work overseas).  I’ve been through REV in 2012 but this time will still be a challenge.  They’ve changed things a bit, I’m now married to Ryan and it’s been a couple years.

Although I can’t go into any real details about the course, you can read the poem I wrote: A Long Week in Atlanta, after the course.  It was an intense week but it was worth it.  I hope that Ryan and I both have a positive experience this year.  One of my favorite things from this poem is the line about certain uncertainty.  I feel like this is definitely a theme for our lives.

Outcasts United

But if you must have some details, I can recommend this book: Outcasts United.  This was passed on to us as pre-REV reading and I read it after I attended REV the first time.  We will be crossing into this world during our week in Atlanta and this book is an amazing look into a part of the United States that many people don’t even know exists.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  This is a big hurdle that we have to clear before Australia but every step has its purpose and like I’ve said before, I’m thankful to have Ryan by my side and to be doing this together. 🙂

The History of Religion- Books and Beliefs (Part Two)

In May I posted Part One of The History of Religion- Books and Beliefs so now here is Part Two.  Originally I had intended it to be just one entry but as History of Religion- Books and Beliefs (Part One) got longer, I realized that it would be best to split up the reviews by books.  I read these two books Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms and Eternity in their Hearts almost simultaneously.  And I think they are more interesting when viewed together but they can also stand on their own.

EternityintheirHearts

I borrowed this book from a friend after our conversation about culture and the gospel.  I had read one of Don Richardson’s books before but Eternity in their Hearts gives a broader look across many different cultures.  Even before I read this book, as a Christian I believe that God has woven himself into the fabric of this world.  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NIV  I believe the Bible is true.  I believe the Christian faith is reasoned and reasonable and can stand up to scrutiny.

So with this in mind, I was not surprised as I read through Eternity in their Hearts and heard the stories of past and current cultures that have evidence of the one true God and the Christian gospel in their culture despite never having been previously expressed to the Bible or Christian proselytizing.

In the Part One post I had a couple quotes where people claimed that their religion was the oldest or their scripture was the most accurate.  It was these quotes and others similar that hung in my mind as I considered the information in Eternity in their Hearts.  It made my mind work as I considered truth and what truth actually means.  This of course is a bigger question and discussion but this short Youtube video Truth Refocused does a great job of presenting why truth can’t really be relative and to each his own.

I can’t do justice to this book by summarizing the stories, if you’re interested, you will have to read them on your own.  But I can tell you that stories of cultures that cross continents Greek in Europe, Inca in America, Mbaka in Africa and the Chinese in Asia are thought provoking.  And that’s just Chapter 1 which tells about cultures and people who have knowledge about a “Vague God”.  These cultures all have a name for or a belief in a supreme God that has been passed down often with stories that parallel Biblical stories with amazing accuracy.  “The Chinese call him Shang Ti- the Lord in Heaven….In Korea he is known as Hananim- The Great One…Belief in Shang Ti/Hananim predates confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism by an unknown number of centuries.”

Chapter 2 continues to dig deeper and focuses on an area in and around Burma where multiple people groups had hymns were waiting for the “Lost Book”.  All of these groups were waiting for a sacred book and some even had detailed hymns and Biblical stories that were also passed down and continued to whet the people’s appetite for more knowledge that they believed would be found in the “Lost Book”.  “Karen prophets actually taught their people hymns passed down from generation to generation by verbal communication alone…Karen hymns to Y’wa reveal how astonishingly clear the concept of the one true God can be in a folk religion!”

I could continue because this book keeps going through Papua New Guinea and many other places.  It explores many people who had glimpses and even more of the gospel before ever having the Bible or hearing the Gospel, causing them either to look expectantly towards a time when they would hear the truth more fully or in some cases this knowledge just proved to be a platform for understanding the gospel in their culture and context.  It is definitely worth reading but I have a couple warnings. You will need to ignore the heavy use of the exclamation point (which I get because it’s an exciting topic but not enough to merit all the exclamation points used).  Also when the author moved away from his story telling strength, his theories and arguments, while still compelling, can get dense and difficult to wade through.

But despite those warnings, Eternity in their Hearts is an interesting and thought provoking read.  If you like history, religion and culture, this book combines them all.

Konai Bible Dedication

One more New Testament is complete.  One more language group has the word of God in their hands.  One more Bible is definitely worth celebrating.

I once landed at the airstrip that serves this language group on my way back to Ukarumpa from the village.  I don’t remember exactly what the couple Soren and Britten Arsjo had requested but it was a small package and it was important.  They payed for the plane to go out of its way into Western Province and my co-worker and I were along for the ride.  The hot, dense air from this lower area hit us as the doors of the small plane opened.  We stepped outside for a few minutes while they opened the package and confirmed it’s contents.  Then we flew away and left them to continue their work.

Konai New Testaments

Over Easter weekend, the fruit of that work was finally seen in hand.  The Konai dedicated their New Testament.  This picture is thanks to Brian Frey who attended the dedication.  You can read more about it as well as see more pictures and video on their blog: Following the Freys.  Two things stuck out from reading about this dedication.

One: The Konai have a similar Christian story to the Onobasulu.  Both were evangelized, not by westerners or other foreigners but instead by another PNG tribe.  I love that when the gospel took hold of hearts in PNG, the people didn’t just keep it for themselves but spread the good news to other neighboring people groups.

Two: This is Soren and Britten’s SECOND New Testament translation.  One is already a lifetime of work.  If you’re interested in more of the story of how they came to translate a second New Testament check out the Frey’s blog.

There is still a lot of work Bible translation work to be done in PNG but let’s celebrate another huge milestone.  The Konai have the word of God in their language!