Recently I had the privilege to step outside of our current world. I entered a world where I never imagined myself going. With three flights I was submerged into a land with new unique people groups, with war torn pasts and a language that I could not decipher, and eyes that begged me to learn more. This land was rich with food that made my mouth water and with a heart beat that enticed me to listen closer lest I miss something. Yet I was left in want. I could only utter hello and thank you. As I flew home to Papua my eyes filled with tears at what I really want to share with you today. That is the feeling of belonging, in part, to another world where you were really only just a guest. Papua.
The last three or four years out of seven have granted me the most incredible feeling every time our plane returns to this distant land called home. From the moment our plane begins to descend onto our tropical runway, with gorgeous Lake Sentani in view, a sense of familiarity washes over me. As I make my way down the stairs into the open tropical heat I know: where to go. How to get home. Where to buy our food. How to get money out of the ATM. Friends are waiting for me and I can’t wait to connect with them. I can converse with everyone around me. While I be far from fluent we can chat about where we are going and where we have been. The weather. Our children. Where we live now and where we once lived. The prices of items in the market and much more. Who has died and who is sick. It is the most empowering feeling to have conquered, in part, a culture where you were once completely lost. And more than winning and losing, LOVING.
We have only just tasted of the vast diversity of culture here in Papua. To think I live in a land where the hospital right behind my home is viewed as a place to go die, not to live. To know that less than an hour flight away, women are squatting in the jungle and giving birth on their own. To have witnessed tribes where meat and greens are cooked by the whole tribe on huge hot rocks covered with tall grasses and then served community style on banana leaves. To have witnessed first hand men wearing only gourds and completely unashamed because this has been the way it has always been. Snapshots and glimpses that have forever changed and shaped my world view. Along with my husband and my four boys.
Many would comment on our sacrifice and our loss. I only care to reflect on our gain. I, my Darron, my Aubrey, Andrew, Jacob and Nathaniel would ALL do it again. What a gift to have been given this opportunity to not only be guests, but to then belong. To hear tribal men welcome my spouse into their village with the traditional, “Wah, wah wah and their dancing, because of their deep love and respect for him. To have looked fellow expatriates deep into their faces and received their thanks because I was able to be a vessel to help save their life. To have watched my children grapple with the pain of transition and to come out of it the other side stronger and broader and enriched beyond anything else I could have handed them in words or gifts. Thank you, Papua.
So I bid you to look outside your everyday circle and existence. To ask God for a calling beyond your comfort zone. It might be down the road or around the corner from your home. It might be to a far and distant land. It could possibly be the hardest thing you will ever do. It may even cause pain and loss and there are no guarantees. Except one. One guarantee: that God has promised that He will work ALL things for good. So no matter your sacrifice, the reward is sure. Go my friend. Go and live and give.