Life in Sogomi

Since our last update, we have been busy settling back into our house just outside the mountain town of Goroka, located in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Villages surround us on all sides, and our neighbors are Papua New Guineans. Sogomi is the name of the group of villages where we live.
Our mission during our first year in PNG is to learn as much about language and culture as possible, which will be extremely valuable for our long term success in the country. Our current location affords us many opportunities for language and culture learning. Since we are living in the world of Papua New Guineans and not on an American compound, stepping out our front door offers a multitude of cultural experiences. It’s been a real pleasure to watch how the nationals live life their own way, with very little influence from Westerners. We’ve observed the dynamics of marriage and parenting, church structure and worship styles, sicknesses and celebrations, growing and cooking food, conflict and peace making, as well as a host of other every day activities. It’s been wonderful to be a part of many of these activities with our neighbors and to watch our children regularly play with the village children who live around us.
Within the next couple of weeks, Olivia and Everett will begin attending the village school once a week in order to increase their Tok Pisin language skills and to help with culture acquisition, as well as to make more friends in our neighboring villages. They are excited but apprehensive about the prospect of being so fully immersed in the culture without Mom or Dad around, but we are confident that they will be much better off in the long run by enduring this small amount of discomfort. 
Sam has been voluntarily spending every other weekend with a group of Christian youth from the surrounding villages. They usually hike to a village on Friday and spend the weekend working on a project, such as repairing a bush house, clearing a garden, or cleaning up around the village. Sam sleeps in a bush house, eats PNG food, and participates in plenty of cultural activities during these outings. Basically, he lives the same way the other teenagers in the group live all the time. Sam usually comes home on Sunday afternoon exhausted but very happy about his experiences and excited about the opportunity to get to know more people his age.
 

Sam with all of the youth and youth leaders at Baganose

In June, Jeremy helped teach a three day training session on the book of Titus for some local PNG pastors. This was the first real teaching he had done in our new language, and he put many hours into preparing for the task. He and our teammate also translated a great deal of the training material into Tok Pisin so that the pastors who are literate can read and study on their own. Jeremy would be the first to tell you that his efforts were nothing compared to the joy and appreciation the pastors expressed for these study materials. We pray that God will continue to strengthen and encourage these pastors as they struggle through lack of education and training to bring the Word of God to their churches, and as they seek to live out the gospel in their villages.
Olivia helping put together notebooks for the pastors

Each notebook included background info on Crete, Paul, Titus, and issues raised in the book of Titus

Small group work
Left to right(back row): Donald, Jeremy, Wati, James, Albert, Moses, Una, Alex, Paul, Thomas
Left to right(middle row): Denni, John, Samson, Isaac, Mark, Gilbert, DK, Jemine
Left to right(front row): Paul, Abel
Working in Papua New Guinea means we face many challenges. One of the difficulties of church planting in PNG is the terrain. We know of multiple unreached villages tucked away on mountain sides or in valleys far from where we live, but getting to these villages is extremely difficult. In some countries, you can walk down the street and meet a hundred people who may not have heard of Jesus. Christians certainly need to take the gospel to these people, and many are laying down their lives for that type of ministry. However, in PNG we are specifically trying to reach the ones who have been forgotten, who have no hope of ever hearing the gospel because the journey is just too difficult. We pray that God will straighten the paths, strengthen our bodies, supply every need, and prepare our hearts for the difficult work which lies ahead. We also pray that God will begin working in the lives of these unreached people so that they will be receptive to the gospel when it is finally brought to them. 
On Wednesday, July 23rd, Jeremy and Sam will be going on an eight day bush trip with our teammate, five PNG pastors, and three strong Papua New Guinean young men. They will be hiking into an area made up of twelve villages which are completely unreached as far as we know. There are no churches at all, but we know of one cargo cult in the area. The goal of this expedition is to find out more about the villages and determine if we could work there. Right now we know very little about the area; we don’t even know which language they speak. There are at least six different languages within a ten mile radius of this group of villages, but most of the people can probably speak the trade language Tok Pisin. We hope that this trip provides much more knowledge so that we can begin making plans for the future. (For information on cargo cults read hereYali and Black Jesus are two prominent examples of cargo cults in PNG.)
We feel that our time living here in Sogomi, a mostly reached area, will prove to be beneficial as we minister in unreached villages in the bush. The more we can learn about issues faced by Papua New Guineans, the better we will be able to minister to them. Despite all of our training, it would be quite presumptuous of us to think that we can just parachute into the jungle and know how the gospel applies to the challenges these tribal people encounter. In the six months since we arrived in PNG, we’ve already faced syncretism and polygamy up close, issues we hadn’t considered nearly enough in our former context. This time spent learning from national Christians is a vital part of our future in this country (click here to read about one experience with syncretism during our time in a coastal village and here to read Jeremy’s post about polygamy).
We are thankful for those of you who spend time in prayer for our family. You will never know how much your prayers mean to us. 
Prayer Requests
  • Our water situation is not great where we live. There is no “city” water; all of our water for bathing, washing, and drinking comes from rain. During dry season, our water tanks stay very low, despite our best efforts to conserve. Though we haven’t run out of water yet this dry season, we have come very close. We’re considering a few options to remedy this water problem, one of which is to have a well built on our property. This would be an expensive undertaking, but a well wouldn’t only be for us; many people around us would benefit from having access to clean water. Please pray that we will have wisdom as we seek to make decisions regarding water.
  • Please pray for our entire family as we continue to transition to this new life. You would think that being in the country for six months would mean that we have things figured out. We don’t. It seems every day we are faced with something new that we have no idea how to handle. God knows what he’s doing, so we’re trusting him despite the difficulties of living in such a non-Western culture.  
  • Pray for the bush trip that Jeremy and Sam will be taking on Wednesday. Pray for strength, health, and good conversations with the villagers. Also, pray for Olivia, Everett, and me (Kandy) as we stay back. This will be the first time we have been left alone since we’ve been in PNG. Pray that any anxiety I experience will be minimal, and that for all of my needs I will lean on Christ’s strength instead of my own.  
  • Pray for our relationships with our neighbors as we try to learn their ways and understand why they do things the way they do. Pray that we will have patience with ourselves and them, and that we will always seek to glorify God through our conversations with them and each other. 
  • Pray for more missionaries to come join us. We have more work to do than is possible with only two families. Pray that God will work in hearts and provide the means for many more missionaries to come work with us in PNG. 

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