Sometimes I want to write about life here but I try to think what I would say and come up with nothing. I don’t know how to write about just a “part” of the many arenas we find ourselves in without feeling like I need to explain the whole background and culture so others could come close to understanding.
There is Church, which includes several bible studies a week in members homes – mixed with both “Papuan” people (Ones who originated from this land, darker skin, curlier hair, – see, I am already explaining things!) and “Pendatangs” (Indonesians who have migrated to Papua from other regions of Indonesia, usually lighter skin and straighter hair). Then there is the Bible teaching at a community a short walk away from our house twice a week. These people are another category altogether! They are from the Ketengban tribe who originate in the mountains of central/eastern Papua and have moved into the city for various reasons. They are “tribal” people. Some have only recently moved from interior to town, some don’t know a lot of Indonesian language, and culturally they are very different from most of the ones we know at Church. Then add in the “lake people”, friends who live on Lake Sentani. These would be original Papuan people (dark skin, curly hair), but culturally they are SO different from say, the Ketengban Tribe people. Imagine interacting with just these 4 groups of people (There are more but I will stop there) on a weekly basis and trying to understand each ones culture and way of thinking in order to have a meaningful relationship? It’s… interesting to say the least!
By the grace of God I have made close friends in every one of these sub groups. This really is God’s work in me since I am naturally an introvert. Even in America where we all speak English, I am satisfied with a few close friends and am not an outgoing, “get to know everyone” type person! Now plop me in a country where you HAVE to go out and awkwardly initiate friendships with people you know almost nothing about in order to learn language and culture and it’s like an introverts worst nightmare. Amazingly God has answered my prayers for close friends in both Java and here in Papua. It did take me stepping out, initiating things and being faithful to visit, contact and invest in those relationships but I have been so blessed by the results.
As I think about my closest friend that I left behind in Java, who does not know the Lord, it breaks my heart. It gets messy once you know someone. It gets personal when you have a close friend. I think about her and where she is headed for eternity and all I can do is pray. We had to move. We had to leave before I knew this language to an extent where I felt I could really share truth with her. Yeah, we text and chat on FB and sometimes talk on the phone, but its not the same as If I was there with her, able to answer her questions, able to see what she is struggling through.
As we come to another move in the next year, I have these feelings of sadness mixed with indifference knowing I will be leaving another group of people I have worked to get to know. I have purposed to be involved in this Church here, even when there is no AC or fans and no childcare for Noah. Even though family bible study starts at Noah’s bedtime and I only hear half the lesson because I am entertaining him. I have decided I will reach out and ask to join in on things that would honestly be a lot easier to avoid. These endeavors have not returned void. I don’t regret them, but I feel a sadness that once again we will leave this place that we have worked to fit into, worked to love, and start all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to move and be involved in the ministry we have chosen, but it still hurts.
I look back and wonder if God used me here. I mean, that is my goal right? To some how make an impact for the Lord here. I DO see how God has worked in MY life, but has He used me to work in anyone else’s life? I am “done” with language study now, and up until now my “job” has been to learn it. I needed these people to teach me, to practice with me, and they did. But now what? I feel like the tables have turned and now that I am “done” with language I feel like I need to be doing something in return. I don’t need them for language study anymore (although there is still so much to learn) but I still need them. I need them because God uses them to challenge and change me. He uses them to show me how much I still don’t know. How much HE is already doing here through His body, the Church, with or without me.
I need to remind myself that while I want to be used by God to make a difference in other people’s understanding of Christ, Christ is just as concerned about MY growth as He is with theirs! Could it be that God brought me half way around the world to just change me?