5 Things that have changed the way I think…and live.
1. Sustainable Pace.
It’s the way Nathan (the MAF bush pilot) views his work, which includes 250 active airstrips over rugged terrain the size of Texas. He is conscientious of the cost of fuel for every flight, how many flights he needs to make a day, how many tribes are waiting for him to come as he is responsible to bring in food, supplies, medicine and transport people. The overwhelm of all this could wipe him out in a day.
However, he flies at what he calls a “sustainable pace.” In order to preserve resources (him personally, as well as the mission’s) and have longevity, his goal is NOT to maximize every moment to efficiency. Wait. What?
I am quite excellent at being efficient. You should see how I can stretch my budget the last five days of the month, vacuum my house while multitasking ten other things, plan a trip for maximum wow-factor, relax with the family on a movie night while catching up on everything during commercial breaks.
Sustainable pace. The minute I heard those two words, it was like my soul took a deep breath and said “Thank you, Nathan. I’ve been trying to tell her that for years.” My idolization of efficiency came crashing down during that first flight into the Interior.
2. Risk Management.
I took dozens of personality tests during graduate school. Can’t really remember how I answered or even scored on any of them, but I do remember one particular question and my response to it. I was asked, “Are you willing to take risks?” I immediately answered, proudly mind you, “Yes! As long as there’s a guarantee I’ll be okay.” I didn’t even hear what I actually said until the laughter around me woke me up to my answer. So, actually I guess, no, I don’t think of myself as a risk taker.
Come to realize, yet again, via Nathan’s pilot wisdom, the question isn’t about taking risks or not. Truth is, life is all about risks. Living anything worthy is very risky. The question is, how well do I manage risk? Ah. I can get with that. There is little I can control. I can focus on what is out of my control (i.e. risk), or I can focus on how I will manage the uncontrollable. After my second life lesson at an altitude of 7000 feet, I am happy to report, I am not a risk taker. I am a risk manager.
3. Relationships trump context.
NO WAY would I have ever bet I would have stepped foot in the country of Cambodia in my lifetime. But I did. Why? Because of my growing relationship with three missionary girls over the last three years that I now consider dear friends. When we invest in meaningful relationships, we will do things we never thought we could or even wanted to. That’s how it’s supposed to be when it’s real. The courage comes. The strength renews. The joy of connection creates craving.
4. Poverty Tourism- Not a fan, yet… am I guilty?
Poverty tourism is when, for example, a person may satisfy the desire for a “vacation” and justify it by visiting a third world location, most notably under the guise of a “short term mission trip.” (Not only does the person get to get-away, the trip is often paid for by “raising support.”) Or, it may happen when a person intentionally visits a third world location solely to see poverty firsthand, yet with no conviction to contributing to make a difference while there or once back home. Yet, their social media is riddled with emotionally moving images of those impoverished. Regardless, it’s shallow, manipulative, exploitive, wrong. (Note-there are many who do have right motives for such trips. I’m responding to the ones that don’t. )
Did I partake in poverty tourism on my trip? I confess, a part of me wanted to go on this trip because I LOVE to travel and it involved lots of it. I confess, although my role was clearly defined that I would contribute by teaching and counseling, I was overwhelmed at times by what I saw, smelled, and heard. As I mentioned in previous lists, I couldn’t process what I was exposed to as fast as it was happening. My first instinct was to snap a pic. And, like a kid with a new-found discovery that wants to show the world, I was eager to share what I was experiencing. Each day was so different and breath-taking. Especially while in Cambodia, I found myself pulled out of what I wanted to focus on because of the shocking surroundings. This was my first third world experience and it made an impact.
Were my motives and actions pure? Yes and no. I’m deeply sorry and I am learning. As much as my learning curve grew, it has not stopped since being back. I still am calling myself to action and hoping to inspire you to too.
Here’s your chance! Go to AIM’s website and donate! What if you found out your contribution literally helped keep their doors open to rescue one more child and without it, the doors would close?
Or go to www.MAF.org and give so highly trained bush pilots can keeping reaching tribes in the remote ends of the earth.
Or consider partnering with Joey and me in our call to deeply care for ministry leaders and their spouses who are giving their lives to do the hard work in hard places by donating online to our non-profit: 10|10 Ministries. (During my trip, I met three leaders from three different organizations who would like to have 10|10 come and put on a retreat for their staff!)
5. The future can not be grasped.
We learned that among the tribal people there is no concept of the future. If you think about it, why would there be? No schedules or calendars, the sun rises and sets at the same time every day (close to the equator). I wonder if they even realize what day of the week or month or year it is? (They definitely aren’t counting down the days to the release of the next iPhone.)
When asked about doing something in the future, their response is “tomorrow.” Tomorrow could mean three weeks from now, in a few hours, never, or literally tomorrow. Crazy huh? Freeing though, too. There is NO tyranny of the urgent, no rushing, no panicking. No deadlines. Could you imagine? No need for a day planner, you Franklin Covey fans. As much as we are bound by the developed world’s rules of time management, this is helping me chill out a little bit. Worry less. Be more flexible. With that, said, I’ll blog again “tomorrow…”
20 Things I’ll Never Forget
- Walking outside onto the observation deck at the Tokyo airport at 2 a.m. with the balmy breeze. (This was the third airport of six that I’d be in before arriving at our first, official destination.)
- Waking at 4:30 in the morning in pitch darkness to the sound of the Muslim call to prayer blaring across the seaside town of Nabire over dozens of loud speakers.
- Being asked to have my picture taken with locals because some had never seen a white woman with blonde hair before.
- Swimming in the warm Pacific Ocean.
- Looking out the MAF plane, seeing tribal people coming out from all over the jungle, lining up and down the grass runway as they heard Nathan flying over, preparing for our landing.
- Watching a toddler hold her machete in one hand seated on top of her mother’s shoulders while picking the lice out of her mom’s hair with her other hand.
- Every minute of our 24 hour stay in Dem Land, hiking through tribe’s abundant gardens with giggling children following us with their faces decorated with picked flower petals, each with their machetes, breaking bread together in Dillion and Angie’s home, the sound of pouring rain on the tin roof all through the night.
- Hearing Dillion pray, thanking God that He parted the clouds in time for Nathan to safely land so that we could visit them and they could receive much needed supplies. (The cloud cover was too thick for a safe touch down just minutes before we made our approach as you can see in the picture under #5.)
- Spending four hours sorting and filling large gift bags with coffee, chocolate, salty snacks, and self-care products to surprise each of the women at the retreat in Joyce and Nancy’s hotel room, then watching the giddiness of the women as they opened their bags. It was like Christmas morning.
- My “counseling office,” a traditional Indonesian hut at the resort where we hosted the missionary women’s retreat and the tender tears that came from deep, vulnerable places.
- Sitting pool side watching a few retreat women brush off eager infestations of ants that continued to compete for their side order of french fries (because they treasured their potato goodness too much to let it go to waste) all the while comparing insect and rodent stories that come with living in the Interior.
- Hearing Lois’s contagious laugh carry all the way from the pool up to my hotel room, with the windows closed no less.
- Twenty-three of us, strangers just four days earlier, standing in a circle the last night of the retreat singing Amazing Grace acapella with tears of awe in our eyes.
- Driving through the chaotic streets of Cambodia, passing overloaded motos, tuk-tuks, make-shift cars, luxury SUVs, bicycles, cows, chickens, and dogs all in one intersection.
- Walking through S-21 and the pit in my stomach. (Google it if you don’t know.)
- The smell of unrefrigerated raw chickens and fish for sale in the open air market mixed with the sweet-spoiled smell of garbage on the streets with flies buzzing overhead.
- Singing worship songs with the AIM school staff in both Khmer and English, squeezing over 40 of us in a room size meant for 20.
- Seeing rescued 10-14 year old girls making “3 Strands” bracelets giggling and smiling knowing just months earlier they were living in terror as sex slaves. This, right after walking through the first child brothel that was raided just 13 years ago , located across the street. (It has since been bought and redeemed and now used as a foster home for little children.)
- Savoring meaningful conversation and food over a delicious three course dinner at a swanky restaurant with Kim, Becki, Rachel, Gregory, and Heidi on my last night in Cambodia.
- The thrill of traveling from Papua to Jakarta to Malaysia to Cambodia to South Korea to home, all on my own.
- There are tribal women that will nurse a piglet before their own child because the meat of the pig is considered of more value.
- In Cambodia, a girl my daughter’s age (11) can be sold for as little as $2.50 a round, up to ten rounds a night.
- The proper way to peal a banana is the non-stem side. (The stem side is the bottom of a banana.) So much easier to peel.
- There’s a tribe in Papua that has been waiting 30 years for missionaries to come. The problem? Not enough missionaries.
- A family of four in Cambodia will live in a one room apartment for $40 a month for the rest of their life and not expect the world owes them anything more.
- On average, one western pedophile will travel halfway around the world per week looking for a child brothel in Svay Pak. (The first child’s brothel was raided just 13 years ago.)
- AIM (Agape International Mission) is doing some of the most monumental, transformative work in anti-trafficking. Everyone needs to go on their website (agapewebsite.org), learn, and then give money to them so they can keep fighting for the freedom of women and children. Like now. Then, go rent “The Pink Room” (an award winning documentary) and sacrifice an hour of your life to learn more about what’s going on in our 21st century world. (At least watch the 2 minute trailer.)
- Missionaries that work in the Interior willingly commit 10-15 years of living among the tribe, knowing it will take time to build relationships, learn language, translate the Bible, etc.. Translation: there’s no such thing as instant gratification people. God works in decades and He’s good with that. So, we can all just mellow out a little about our unfinished to-do lists from yesterday (eh uh, Robyn).
- Most girls get sold into sex trafficking by their parents to help pay off their gambling debts.
- Missionaries women are just like you and me. They liking wearing cute clothes from Old Navy and brands like Roxy. They try hard to schedule date nights with their hubbies (even if it’s just a walk on the airstrip with a homemade smoothie.) They watch Netflix, do Pinterest, have oodles of bottles of nail polish. At times they feel insecure about themselves, their marriages hit rocky places, they deal with depression, anxiety, and eating too much. They question God, spend too much time on social media, struggle with jealousy, and stress about money. They second guess their parenting, plan vacations, and splurge on lattes if they happen to stumble upon a Starbucks.
This vehicle, typical of Cambodia, depicts my mind perfectly. O. V. E. R. L. O. A. D. E. D.
Eight weeks ago I left for an extraordinary trip. Been home for six. I am still at a loss of words for everything I want to share. Clearly, I wasn’t able to post like I thought I would during the trip. Not because I wasn’t able to, but there was so much living to do in the moment, I felt like my heart and my mind were swollen with imploding thoughts and feelings while my body experienced an onslaught of new scents, sights, dialects, and tastes. Multiple times a day I caught myself thinking “I can’t process this at the pace I’m experiencing it,” especially during my time in Cambodia. Thus, it’s taken me this long to even attempt to blog.
Here’s what I’ve decided. So much has rocked my thinking and subsequent way of living because of what I experienced. Every day was filled with countless stories, but you and I don’t have the patience to have them told here. So, I’m going to summarize the biggies in four lists: 15 things I learned about myself, 10 things I want you to know, 5 things that have changed the way I live, and 10 things I’ll never forget. I’ll break up the post over a couple days as an act of kindness for those who prefer posts in smaller doses. I’ll share a bunch of pictures to bring some context to it all along the way too.
15 Things I Learned about Myself
- I expected to feel more connected to God than I did.
- I was more comfortable, adaptive, excited, adventurous, and even extroverted than I expected to be.
- I am wired to travel, even (especially?) by myself. Dish me up a long flight with an even longer layover? Sure, I’ll have another. Don’t know the language, how to cross the street without getting run over, what to eat, where to sleep, how to pack a suitcase under 40 lbs while stuffing the 25 lb. excess into my already full backpack and carry it to look like it weighs a mere 7 lbs. through airport security? No problem. I’ll figure it out.
- I felt more alive than I have in years! Although my days were full, I never felt taxed. The times of my working felt effortless.
- I felt a deep sense of connection and pride with my Fuller roots. The world is small and large all at the same time.
- I found myself envious of the interior missionary women’s unhurried, non-panicked, flexible way they do everyday life. We’re talking every meal and every physical structure made from scratch.
- I connected with certain parts of their way of living. Simple. Introvert friendly. Faith and family intertwined naturally, daily. Minimal distractions of the outside world. Space. Time. Deep conversations. More questions than answers. Utter reliance on God’s provision for safety, health, work success, etc.
- I have a weak stomach but a strong temper against evil in this world.
- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE counseling, teaching, and serving those doing hard-core work for Jesus.
- I can take off and land 18 times in 13 days in six countries (mostly on unpaved runways on sides of mountains) and not get tired or anxious about any of it.
- I can sleep with sugar ants crawling over me throughout the night and be okay with that too.
- I have no real purpose, contentment or joy if I’m not living for something bigger and greater than myself. If I ever get confused about what I’m supposed to be doing in life, one thing is OBVIOUS: Fight evil. Protect good. (There goes John 10:10 again.)
- I don’t do so well transitioning from big experiences back to the mundane. I cry a lot.
- I could do it all over again tomorrow.
- I have so much to learn.
I thought it helpful to think of my trip in segments, each carrying a different feel and need, and to keep track of the diverse experiences. If inclined, please pray for health, safety, unity, and deep connection among our team of six, for God to use us in meaningful ways, for our faith to exceed our fears, for God to speak freshly and intimately into our lives. Pray for the missionary women to experience all of this as well. Pray for Joey, Clayton, and Maddy’s care. Pray for provision as this trip is voluntary and I will be missing three weeks worth of work. (Read below for more specifics.)
1. Friday, August 14th- Monday, August 17th: Travel
Depart Phoenix. Travel to Seattle, Tokyo, Jakarta, Timika, Nabire, arriving Monday morning. Roughly 28 hours of flying and 24 hours of lay overs across five flights, over 52 hours of travel. Prayer for safety, rest, make all flights, smooth transitions.
2. Monday, August 17-Wednesday, August 19th: Nabire, Indonesia
Stay with Nathan and Becky, missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship. (Nathan is a pilot, making contact with remote tribes possible.) Complete final preparations for the retreat. Recover from jet lag. Tour MAF and their village. Pray for sweet time with Nathan and Becky, that we would bring them encouragement. Pray for healthy adjustment as we acclimate to a new culture and for the completion of details for the retreat.
3. Wednesday, August 19th-Thursday, August 20th: The Interior
Nathan will fly us in two teams of three to two separate remote villages in the jungle. We will shadow the missionaries that are currently living among the tribes, building relationships and creating language to teach them about the grace of Jesus. The only way to reach these tribes is by plane. Once dropped off, there is no leaving until Nathan returns the next day. Pray for safety, peace, courage, that there would be a great connection with the missionaries and tribal people, and that this would be a time of uncanny experience of God’s love and power.
4. Thursday, August 20-Monday, August 24: The retreat in Timika, Indonesia
Nathan will spend the day flying us and close to twenty missionary women from the interior to TImika where the retreat will take place. The location for the next four nights is a resort, formerly a Sheraton. Here, the women will be treated to many modern luxuries (air conditioning, pool, modern bathrooms, etc.) and receive personalized goody bags filled with requested foods, lotions, hair supplies, worship cd’s, journals, and much more. As a team, we will provide the ladies haircuts, manicures, pedicures, teach them basic wound care and stitching for them to better care for the tribes, counseling, coaching, Biblical teaching, debriefing, and encouragement. I will be teaching a morning and evening session, along with counseling and coaching. Pray for a deep time of refreshment, renewal, rest, and connection among the women and specifically that our team’s capacity will be sustained, that we will be able to work in our giftings, abundantly and with excellence. Pray for God to move tenderly and deeply within all of us.
5. Monday, August 24-Tuesday, August 25: Travel
I will break off from the team and travel to Svay Pak, Cambodia. Here, I will stay with three missionary women (the Grace and Peace Gals) with whom I have been working with for the last three years via Skype. The travel will require three flights over a 24 hour period. Pray for safe travels (I will be spending the night alone in the airport with a seven hour layover in Malaysia). Also, pray that my flights will not be canceled and that they will depart and arrive on time.
6. Tuesday, August 25-Thursday, August 27: Svay Pak, Cambodia
I will spend two days in the town of Svay Pak, touring AIMS (Agape International Missions) which provides safe havens (schools, kid’s clubs, etc.) for children who are highly susceptible to sex-trade and other forms of atrocious abuse. I will stay with my friends, taking time to debrief, encourage, and connect. Pray for healthy adjustment to the different culture, rejuvenation, meaningful impact for the short time I’m there, evidence of God’s working and redeeming power.
7. Thursday, August 27: Travel home!
I will be heading home and arriving home all in the same day (thanks to time zones)! It will take three flights with two layovers, making it about a 32 hour trip home. Pray for health and safety as I will be traveling alone, and for glitch-free flights. Pray for a smooth transition back (I will be taking a week to recover and regroup before seeing clients.)
A week from now I will be traveling across the globe, crossing from the northern to southern hemisphere. It will take five flights, and over 52 hours to reach our destination. Our team gets to sleep in these pods inside Tokyo’s airport to soften our 13+ hour layover, the first of many.
We’ll stay with Becky and Nathan who work with Mission Aviation Fellowship, supplying medical and food supplies to the tribes and missionaries living in the interior. They are the only source of transportation in and out of the interior. Their housing compound and airport are circled in red in the pic below. (nathanandbecky.org)
A few days later, Nathan will fly us into the interior where we will spend a night in the jungles of Indonesia, shadowing missionaries who pour out their lives to tribes so remote, there is no written language. Here’s a pic of a typical landing strip.
Twenty-four hours later, Nathan is scheduled to pick us up and fly us to Timika, where we’ll be checking into this resort. Our team of six will host close to twenty missionary women. They will be treated to luxuries we have easy access to: haircuts, manicures, chocolate, massage, air conditioning. I’ll be teaching in the morning and evening sessions and offering counseling in-between.
Four days later, I’ll break off from the team and travel to Svay Pak, Cambodia. I’ll be encourgaging three missionaries I work with that dedicate their lives to saving children from the sex trade. They helped build a school to provide a safe place for children to be during the day. (graceandpeacegals.blogspot.com)
As these few pics convey, I’ll be bouncing from extremely contrasting environments. Sensory overload. I anticipate a mix of adrenaline, anxiety, and adventure with a touch of jet lag, like that dizzy sensation I get after riding the tea cups at Disneyland on an empty stomach. One part, “I gotta sit down.” One part, “Let’s do that again!” More than anything, I know this trip will be a life-changer.
My mind is slowly catching up to the calendar and I’ve officially entered “pack mode,” careful not to pack more than 44 lbs. in the suitcase yet filling my faith a ton-fold. Many of you have asked about my itinerary and have shared you’d being praying for me and my family. I thought it helpful to spell out the trip here, for both our sakes, as the preparations are on full force. I’ll post the details tomorrow!
Still learning the skills of blogging. I linked the wrong video on my last post. Here’s what I intended to share.
Our team will be staying with Nathan and Becky for the first few days, then off to the interior before we fly to Tamika to host the retreat. We’ll be serving twenty or so missionary ladies, many of them young moms! Bringing a hair stylist, nail artist, nurse, and a few others to lavish on these women. I’ll be offering counseling, coaching and be the morning and evening speaker. Hoping to bring them refreshment and deep rest for a few days from their missionary life in the interior mountains of Indonesia.