Expect the Unexpected

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Our earliest experiences in Papua New Guinea remind us how difficult it must be for refugees and new immigrants coming to Canada.  Communicating in a new language and/or living in a new context requires a great deal of adjustment and above all patience.  Almost every person we have met, has been helpful, patient and understanding.  Unfortunately, we forget that we can also be impatient with our own selves as we stumble awkwardly with words and often cannot express exactly what we are thinking.  It can be difficult for an onlooker to separate our personal frustration with language from an outward expression of impatience towards others.  Thank God that He gave all of us Grace.

One person who has been very helpful in our language studies is our daytime security guard James.  He is happy to talk and is exceptionally patient as we work our way in Tok Pisin.  He does not speak English. Many words in Tok Pisin are similar to English so he is quick to figure out what we try to say but certainly there are times when we look at each other in complete bewilderment followed by some good laughter.  Friendships develop over time and James invited us to visit his village about 20 minutes bus-ride outside of Mt. Hagen. The invitation was to help celebrate a new Seventh Day Adventist church that was opening in the community.  Puntbug is small village where coffee is IMGP9848grown among and between gardens and homes.  The coffee is the main cash-crop providing some income.  Some people will work in Mt. Hagen if they can find a job that will have an income high enough to pay for the round-trip busfare of 1 Kina (50cents) each way.  When we arrived we discovered that we were not only invited but that we were to be among 20 others including members of the Provincial Government, Church bishops and local head-men or leaders.  To make it even more of a surprize, we were to give speeches without an interpreter available!

Soon after we arrived, we were herded, along with the other “V.I.P.’s” to a waiting area about 200 meters from the Grandstand.  Some uniformed soldiers with musical instruments lined up on each side of our group and the marching music began.  The sound of the bagpipes had the two of us in fits as we never expected to hear those sounds in Papua New Guinea.  The marching band was actually quite good and marched with all the seriousness of a military tattoo.  I later inquired if this was a police or military unit and was told that it was the Western Highlands Seventh Day Adventist Marching Band!

A few hours later after many speeches and Judith’s personal testimony that she read to the crowd in Tok Pisin (because she had it in her Bible that she was carrying she was able to read a prepared “speech”), the church was opened with many voices singing in harmony.

IMGP0166Even though we could barely speak the language, the people were friendly and gracious.  It was a challenging day full of big surprises and many “firsts” for our time in PNG.  We praise the Lord that he has connected us to supportive friends and placed us in a country so full of gracious and friendly people who we are able to serve through MAF’s vital aviation ministry.  We look forward to our next “first”; our bush orientation where we must live out in a remote village, on our own for one week.

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What is the Bride Price?

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Dispela Meri I Hamas Mani? Tok Pisin. How much is this lady?

Story and photos by Michael & Judith Dupuis

Learning the customs and culture of a new place can be quite rewarding but somewhat overwhelming at times. The day after our arrival in Mt. Hagen, we started our lessons in Tok Pisin and soon after, we went to a village in the Southern Highlands to attend a worship service with an MAF ministry team. Up to now, our encounters with PNG culture have been a bit like drinking from a fire hose.

When a large crowd began to gather just outside our house in Mt. Hagen, we found ourselves at the fountain again. Our previous experience in East Africa has helped us to adjust here in PNG, but processing all of the new culture has been challenging. Fortunately, the Highland people are very patient, friendly and understanding.

It was in Africa that we first encountered a custom strange to most westerners. It is the buying a wife, which is also known as paying the Bride Price. The concept of a “dowry” is not unknown in the western world, but it is rarely practiced among those of European decent. Marriage customs vary widely around the world and in some places it is the woman’s parents, who must pay a dowry to the husband’s family. But in East Africa as well as here in Papua New Guinea, the bride’s family receive the payment.

In Papua New Guinea, just like in East Africa, a son will take on the responsibility of caring for his elderly parents. Saying that a person is buying a wife is not quite accurate. It is not a woman who is being purchased, but rather it is a type of compensation to secure the long-term security of her parents and extended family. Because the wife will usually live with her new husband, the bride’s family will no longer have her help in her family’s daily life. The money presented by the bride groom and his family is understood as a compensation for the family’s personal loss of their daughter. The money goes to the bride’s family and will filter through the community in various ways. The decision as to the acceptable price is more of a community decision, following traditional norms and criteria too complicated for an outsider to fathom. Similarly, it is usually the community that decides who will get married in the first place, and it is not always based on a mutual attraction. Arranged marriages are more common in village settings.

In the West, individual rights and privileges are honoured above all. In PNG, it is the community that is paramount, and so it is rare that an individual will go against the wishes of the community and still be allowed to remain within that community. As western culture permeates this culture through economic growth and development, movies and television, it is taking a toll on communities. More and more individuals are driven to the big cities where they often live a more singular lifestyle. But many are having a difficult time being apart from the supporting network of their home community, which is why Port Moresby, the capitol city of PNG, is one of the most crime-ridden places on earth. Drugs, alcohol and pokies (gambling) provide an alternative community membership. Despite the obvious downside, criminal gangs and communal despondency is still more attractive to many than living apart.

We are Canadians working with MAF in Mt. Hagen, in the central highlands. Mt Hagen is not a big city. It would rank only as a town in Canada. In landmass, it is about the same as a town with around 6000-8000 inhabitants. It would not be big enough for a Walmart but big enough to have most of the shops and stores to support the local and regional population. Nevertheless, a city the size of Mt. Hagen still draws workers from some of the surrounding provinces. The community where we are living has a good number of people from neighboring Enga Province.

When we awoke to the sound of buses and other vehicles outside our compound gate, it was a sign that a large group was about to mass in the small undeveloped strip of land out front. After several hours, many locals as well as travelers from Enga Province had arrived for a Bride Price negotiation.

As we walked out among the crowd, several people came up to us and explained what was happening, and we were invited to watch and even participate if we wished. The scene was a bit chaotic to our eyes, with a number of pigs staked out in the middle of the field surrounded by about 150 onlookers. With the help of an Engan man who could speak a little English as well as Tok Pisin, we learned who some of the speakers were. A number of people were giving what seemed like very eloquent speeches in the local tribal language. Many people were nodding their heads in agreement, while others, like ourselves, did not understand the tribal language, presumably because they too had joined in to watch and were not part of the Engan community.

In the center, right next to the livestock, were three colourfully adorned women. The one in the middle was the bride, with two supporting “sisters”. Each time a person gave a speech, all three would run over and hug the person then return to their previous spot in the middle of the ceremonies. We learned that the men and women giving the speeches were agreeing to support the married couple and to contribute some money towards the Bride Price.

By the end of the first day, there was disappointment in the air. Only 4000 Kina (approx. CDN$2000) cash had been raised. Added to the cash amount were 17 pigs and one goat. All together, the livestock was worth about 40,000 Kina or CDN$20,000.

Judith had been taking many photos during the day, and everyone was happy to see their pictures, even if only for the moment captured in time. When the negotiations slowed, Judith was inspired to make a contribution to the Bride Price. After asking about the appropriate amount that would be customary for a stranger to contribute, she made a small donation. Although the amount was not large, it was appreciated by all, and we were both made to feel a part of the community.

Soon after this, the speeches started again. One interpreter told me that the bride’s father had complained in a speech that if even strangers could contribute, then the amount that the family was seeking was fair. Now we were concerned that we might have had an intrusive influence on the proceedings, but we were assured that our participation was welcomed by all and that the father’s tactics were well understood and every bit a normal part of the negotiations. Some times later the talks stalled, and it was clear that the bride’s family was not satisfied with the offering. The father of the bride stated that another meeting would be necessary and that everyone should return later in the week after searching for more money.

After a few days, the crowd returned, along with truck loads of pigs and the goat. Within a few hours, the negotiations were concluded, with the final results being 8,160 Kina (CDN4100$) plus 19 pigs plus and one goat. Everyone was happy as Judith took some family photos of the two families. They all went home pleased with the results, and the two of us learned a great deal about the people from Enga Province and their customs regarding a Bride Price.

Our first Walkabout in PNG

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Pastor Kambowa preaches in Ialibu

It has been a while since we have posted to our blog.  It is not because we have been too busy…more that we have been engaged every day learning a new language.  Although Tok Pisin in a form of Pidgin English and according to many, very easy to learn, we have not found it to be that way.  Moreover, our English writing skills seem to be a more than a bit challenged lately.  We have been told that this will pass.

Next week we start the first round of flight training to get certified in-country.  We are excited to be onto this more familiar stage of country orientation.  Meanwhile, we did have an opportunity to go out with a team of MAF national staff members who are involved in outreach work in smaller communities near Mt. Hagen where we are currently based.  We traveled with the team for our first work outside of the housing compound since we arrived.  Here is our report:

A Journey to Ialibu (say Yaliboo)

In early September we received an invitation from a member of the MAF staff to join with a ministry team that would be traveling to a village in the Southern Highlands.
Judith and I had only been in Papua New Guinea for a couple of weeks and were in the middle of our Tok Pisin studies so we were both excited about getting out for a visit but we did have some concern over our lack of proficiency in Tok Pisin. Nevertheless we accepted the invitation. A few days before we were to travel, Kambowa asked IMGP9203if we would be willing to give our personal testimonies as part of the day’s activities at the church. We both agreed and we prepared a brief testimony and tried to translate into Tok Pisin without help from our teacher, Nicki Duncalfe, who was unavailable before we going upcountry.
Early Sunday morning we started our journey along with the other members of the team. When the last of the team was aboard, Pastor Albert asked the Lord for a blessing for the work of the ministry team and for safe travels. The road trip was very scenic and both of us were overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes. We noticed small gatherings of people alongside the road socializing and gathering in small groups to enjoy the Lord’s Day. We were greeted with smiles and hand waving as we drove by.
During the drive, Judith asked Kambowa if he could check her translation work. She intended to present her entire testimony in Tok Pisin as well as read two pieces of scripture. The passages from the Gospel of John have been important to her coming to Christian walk with the Lord. As the two of them worked through the text, it became very obvious that Kambowa was excited. He explained that the sermon he had prepared was about the same scripture.
IMGP9250When we arrived at the village we had a brief time for tea, hosted by Mr. David Sodi. Soon after we were walking to the church. Our group of ten or twelve quickly increased to about 30 as children from the nearby Sunday school joined us and then lead us to the church. As we entered, we were immediately immersed in the joyful sound of singing in the local language or Tok Ples.  The two of us “white-skins” joined in as best we could. We were not able to understand the words but the joy and energy of the worship was inspiring. A few of the songs were in Tok Pisin with a songbook provided and one was in English. During worship, the church numbers swelled to near capacity and soon it was time for the local Pastor to introduce our group and the guest Pastor, Kambowa.
Kambowa called the MAF team to the front of the church and one by one we told our names, our duties within MAF and our origins. We were greeted warmly by the congregation. A few of the women cheered when they learned that Judith is a pilot. Shortly afterward, a short video was shown. It was an excellent presentation on the history, the work and the ministry of MAF in PNG as well as around the world. After the video, it was time for the two of us to give our testimonies.

Click to see photos of Ialibu

Click to see photos of Ialibu

Michael was first, telling his testimony in English and Tok Pisin while a local pastor translated his story into the Tok Ples. Judith followed, reading her testimony in Tok Pisin and reading from the Buk Baibel. During the testimonies, members of the congregation called out praises of Hallelujah and Amen as the stories resonated with their own experiences or when the Holy Spirit touched them. Some could be seen crying and there was often some pleasant laughter as the congregation patiently listened to each of us stumbling through a new language.
Pastor Kambowa’s message followed through with the theme of God’s word reaching out, transforming, shaping and directing our lives. It was a message of hope that strongly demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word while at the same time reflecting the ministry of MAF. Pastor Albert also used his powerful voice to reinforce the message and to give a rousing prayer that came through, loud and clear to us despite our limited knowledge of Tok Pisin.
After the service, many men and women came to great us. We were surprised at how many went beyond a simple handshake and smile. We were hugged and thanked by both men and women who were looking deeply into our eyes in a knowing and familiar way that expressed gratitude beyond words for sharing our stories. More than that, we were like true brothers and sisters. It was clear that were being accepted as more than a visiting group of church workers.

Judith receives a gift of a Bilum (string bag) from Emanuel

Judith receives a gift of a Bilum (string bag) from Emanuel

During the drive back to Mt. Hagen, we reflected on the events of the day. We had started off with the expectation of getting to know some of the MAF staff members and to learn a little about their outreach ministry. We thought that we would get to see some village living and to experience a worship service in another language. We believed that this cultural knowledge would be useful to our service as pilots. The Lord had a different plan. He showed us that He is alive in the hearts of His ministry workers that have been faithfully reaching out to small communities, sharing the Good News. We saw how the Holy Spirit can bring a message from different parts of the world and deliver it directly to the hearts of those who were meant to hear that the need for Salvation is universal, regardless of age, race, wealth or country of origin. He showed us that we have many brothers and sisters in Christ and that there are more ready for the Harvest.
We are thankful to the team for inviting us and giving us the blessing and the privilege of being part of the worship in Ialibu.

From Whirlwind to Down Under

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Tree Tops Lodge in Cairns. It is a lodge co-managed by MAF and Wycliffe Bible Translators catering to missionaries. Orientation and some early flight standardization classes are held in the facilities before heading to Mareeba airport about 45 minutes away.

The past few months have seemed to pass so quickly.  From our journey out west to Alberta, then back to Newfoundland and now in Australia, we have had little time to reflect on where we are, where we have been or where we are going.  It could be easy to imagine ourselves caught in a whirlwind; being spun around and unable to get our bearings.  Even as we walk about on this unfamiliar land, the sun is of little use to guide our direction because it seems to be going the wrong direction as it rises on the right and sets on the left rather than the other way ’round. I can imagine that the Israelites felt much the same when they left Egypt and entered a strange land that they only knew from stories.  Even though they had long-wanted to go to the place that the Lord had planned for them, they too must have experienced the feelings of displacement and uncertainty mixed with the excitement and anticipation of living and working in a new environment.  It is also likely that the people of Israel were also disoriented by their surroundings making navigation difficult.  They were settlers, not explorers. These people were eager to get back to what they knew how to do…they just had to get to the place they were appointed to do it.  They did not get lost along the way. God provided for them a whirl-wind.  This one was not the type to get caught up in but one to follow by day and another, a beacon, to follow by night.  Thankfully, we too have a beacon in Christ Jesus.  He leads us to the place appointed for us and provides for us leaders, co-worker and instructors to shepherd and prepare us for the place we will soon arrive.  When we do arrive, it will be at the right time and we will be ready to do what He has prepared us to do. We are so thankful to our supporters who have been so encouraging as we have been transitioning through the various phases of ministry partnership and resettlement. May the Lord continue to keep you and bless you.

What’s next for Dupuis

Standardization Ground School-Cairns, AU   Michael and Judith

Flight Standards Training and Qualification-Mareeba, AU   Judith

Air Law examination-Port Moresby, PNG  Michael and Judith

PNG Orientation-MT. Hagen, PNG  Michael and Judith (includes lessons in Tok Pisen language)

Line Flight Training and Licensing PNG  Michael and Judith

We will be very active in training and preparations for the next few weeks before we will be ready for PNG.  Our Visa’s have been applied for and we are waiting for approval.

Photo evidence of Wild Cessna captured in South Sudan

Not long ago, I posted a photo on FaceBook of MAF’s Cessna Grand Caravan after parking at the airstrip in Arilo, South Sudan.  The photo is somewhat confusing because the aircraft appears to have landed intact in the midst some very colorful trees.  In reality, the airstrip is at the base of the nearby hills and is on open ground and is safe when dry. The photo was taken from a walking path to the village and the point-and-shoot camera was at maximum zoom.

Shortly after posting, I received a comment from a friend, Leighton Jones of Calgary, AB.  Reading his message, I almost fell from my chair in laughter so I am sharing it here for all to enjoy.

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A wild Cessna roams the savanna in search of a mate. Usually reclusive, these beasts of burden are occasionally spotted around dirt strips, operating on a steady diet of contaminated fuel, vacuum pumps and oil stolen from the operator’s 1974 Land Rover.

Identification of the young can be tricky at first; however as they transition to maturity, unique markings will develop around leaking wing-tank drain ports. Marking of territory is accomplished before each migration by leaving a small amount of flammable liquid directly under the nose. This may spread to a wider area if windy.

Exceptionally loyal, wild Cessnas and their mates are highly visible at dinner parties, often regaling their audiences of adventures and exploits long past their polite invitation has expired.

Global population of Cessnas is in excess of 100,000 and it is not considered endangered. ~ Leighton Jones

Thank you Leighton.  Fortunately MAF’s fleet of Cessna Caravan’s are not suffering like the Cessnas you have encountered!

The schedule for the short 30 minute flight from Juba to Arilo had us on the ground for most of the day before the return flight in the late afternoon. Judith and I were invited to visit the church and lodgings for the Bible translators while the group of pastors and translators met with team members working in Arilo.  It was an amazing place full of joyful people. Although hard to describe with words, the feeling was captured in melody by Julie Andrews when she sang “the hills are alive with the sound of music”  A better and more robust description can be found in Isaiah 55:12

The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

As we walked 1 km from the airstrip to the the village we could hear a flute playing; its sound carrying far as it rebounded from the surrounding hills.  Some trees were blooming and the contrasting colours were vivid and alive. It was as if the trees were applauding the music; leaves resonating in harmony with the sound of the flute. We eventually met the young boy playing a four-hole, homemade flute made from a scrap of plastic pipe.  The Lord blessed us on that day with a special memory that will live forever in our hearts.

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JourneyLog Reflections – Garissa-The Murder of Pastor Abdiweli

February 2013, Kenya: Fellow MAF pilot Adrian Rose and I flew two separate aircraft from Nairobi to Garissa. We were garissa airport, kenyatransporting an American group that would be touring a number of projects supported by their church.  Although it is possible to drive from Nairobi to Garissa, the one hour flight could take more than 20 punishing hours along the road that also leads to Dadaab, home to more than 400,000 Somali refugees. The vast sandy and semi-arid landscape is interrupted by the Tana River,  bringing precious, life-giving, water from the highlands of Mt. Kenya. A predominant landmark for aerial navigation, the river runs next to the town of Garissa.

At the time, Nairobi-based pilots would fly regular shuttles to Dadaab when not on rotation in South Sudan.  Although I had flown many times to nearby Dadaab this was the first time landing in Garissa.  Prior to departure, we had checked weather and security alerts.  The Somali-based terror group Al-Shabab is responsible for piracy along the Horn of Africa as well as a number of kidnappings and killings in Mombassa and along the Kenya coastline.  Only months earlier, worshipers were killed in a church in Garissa in an effort to fuel support for a separate Islamic state from Kenya.  Garissa had been calm.  We were not expecting any trouble that would interfere with our special plans. Rather than waiting by the aircraft for the group to return, Adrian and I had been invited to go along on the road trip with the group.  As a MAF pilot, I always appreciate any opportunity to understand the daily lives of the people we serve.

When the convoy of vehicles arrived at the airport we were directed to the smallest. It was already occupied by three friendly Kenyans.  Clutching our cameras and extra bottles of water, we squeezed in and IMG_0142headed away leaving the two aircraft under the careful watch of airport security.  Garissa is a typical Kenyan town; curious people and bustling markets added to the odd mix of livestock, pedestrians and motor vehicles creates pure pandemonium. Our 5 vehicle convoy proceeded very slowly through the check stop at the edge of town.  It would be an understatement to say it was uncomfortable for the five of us crammed into a vehicle with only two windows that would open.  It became worse as the tarmac ended and we were choking on the dust raised by our convoy.   We stopped randomly along the way to the project sites to speak with local villagers about their needs.  As usual, the children were joyful and people were very welcoming and curious. Especially those of us with cameras.

classroom in Mulanjo

An improvised classroom seen along the road

Bore-hole drilling sites were the first of several projects we were expecting to visit. Before the boreholes (water wells) were drilled, women had to walk up to 7km every day to get water, then carry it back to their camp or village.  Unobstructed access to water is essential to the safety and security of the women who are often assaulted on these sojourns.  The new boreholes also reduce the tension between the farmers and herdsmen who have been killing each other over access to water. Many more boreholes are needed before the tension is overcome. The Tana River provides seasonal vegetation and water for livestock and farming for the entire region. Without water, livestock cannot survive and cattle often eat or trample crops while gaining access to the river.  The new water resources have helped stabilize nomadic herders to the extent that some children can attend school on a seasonal basis.  The lack of education and opportunity in the region is one of the reasons that Al Shabaab is visiting the small mosques and communities scattered throughout the region looking for fighters.

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One of many small mosques in Garissa county

Our first scheduled stop was to get permission from local elders to tour the area.  I noticed that there was some serious discussion among a couple of visiting group members. With cellular phones pressed to their ears it was not hard to notice grim expressions of concern. I asked what was happening and was told that a pastor, well known to them had been shot in Garissa around the time that we had landed.  The reports were not clear as to what had happened or the condition of this pastor so we gathered to pray. Cellular telephone coverage in the area was good so a decision was made to continue to another project before heading back to the airport.  When we reached the project it was announced that Pastor Ahmed Abdiweli had been shot to death. He was martyred for Christ. Another man was shot but had survived is wounds. This time we prayed for the injured man and for the family of Pastor Abdiweli.

We were still a good distance from the airport when I asked the driver if he knew Pastor Adbiweli.  He explained to me that Abdiweli was a convert from Islam and that he had been marked for death. Al-Shabab openly opposes Christianity, enforcing a strict form of Shariah law that calls for the execution of Muslims who leave Islam. Proponents of Sharia are also known to assassinate those who convert Muslims away from Islam.  The driver also explained that he and two others riding with us were also pastors, having converted from Islam.  As he continued with his story, Adrian and I glanced at each other in a moment of horror as we simultaneously realized that we were traveling in a vehicle that might just as well had large bull’s-eyes painted on each door and signs saying shoot here!  We were traveling in a vehicle with three of Al Shabaab’s most wanted.  Making matters worse, we were traveling in a conspicuous convoy with only one way back to the airport.  I said a silent prayer.  The confidence of the pastor and his faithful dependence on the Lord was comforting as we covered the distance to the airport.  At the end of the day as I was preparing to leave the MAF hangar in Nairobi. As I brushed the reddish dust out of my hair, I looked over at my mailbox and saw a note.  All that it said was “We prayed for you today.”  I thank God for the prayers of the MAF staff;  faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.  I thank our ministry partners who pray for us. Without their support, we could not enable the courageous work of people and organizations like the pastors and their team in Garissa.

Epilogue.  The day following the events in this story, MAF pilot Adrian Rose flew back to Garissa to transport the body of Pastor Abdiweli to Nairobi.  As a convert, he was refused burial in the community that he served for many years.

 Note: Due to the sensitive subject matter and to protect the projects, people and pastors involved,  information has been modified and names have been omitted.

For more information on the work of the Church among Somali people in Kenya and Somalia visit Somalis for Jesus.

Gaining Perspective

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Returning from working in East Africa has been difficult in ways that we would never have imagined.  From our perspective,  South Sudan is a place that can bring plenty of discomfort to someone born and raised in Canadian society where we take many of our (western) ways for granted.  Our first experience with local customs was standing at the visa and immigration window at the Juba airport where are least four South Sudanese nationals were pushing in front of us and had their arms and passports shoved through the same window we were standing. The very concept of lining up in turn, is not generally respected as we came to learn on several occasions.  Poverty, corruption by police and government workers, corrupt business practices, child marriage, and lack of worker safety are a few of the things that we had seen or experienced.  We had been prepared for this, in part by the Perspectives Course instructors and through an intensive cross-cultural training program with Mission Aviation Fellowship. (thankfully MAF does not participate in corrupt practices!)

Photo courtesy of Africageographic

Photo courtesy of Africageographic

We quickly gained a perspective on the horrible roads and insane driving habits that cause outrageous scenes of carnage nearly everywhere we traveled; some seemed almost as horrid as the aftermath of civil war in South Sudan.  There is no amount of study or forewarning that can fully prepare for it. It was sad to hear nearly weekly stories from national staff who lost family members to traffic accidents. I remember when my mother used to say to me when I was a badly misbehaving child: “When your father gets home, you’re going to be in big trouble!”.  I often wondered if mothers in Juba and Nairobi would say the same but substitute: “If your father gets home…” Over time we developed a perspective that driving was one of the most telling symptoms for the troubles in the region. People behaved on the road much like they did in every other way. If you have had the opportunity to watch the TV show Don’t Drive Here, you may notice that nearly every malady that I have described is prevalent in the cities that are featured on that show.  Lack of care and concern for a neighbour can be seen in driving habits.

The simple fact is that self-centered desire, greed, me-first, my-right, my-time or any other mine-style thinking exists in every IMG_6309society to some degree or another.  From our new perspective, it seems like places where the Gospel has not been heard or practiced, it is the norm.  Christ Jesus taught us that the greatest of laws was to love God and to love others (Read Matthew 22:34-40).  Sounds simple and without going into the amazing depth and breadth of the Gospel and the redemption that it offers, it is really that simple.  In societies that have taken hold of the Gospel, even those who may have grasped the learning but deny the teacher, it is easy to see that care, concern and respect for others is a significant aspect of daily life.  Whether it be through charity, paying taxes, yielding in traffic or simply standing up so another can take your seat on a bus, thinking about and doing for the welfare of others can be preached, learned and practised regardless of the cultural context.  When a society is transformed by the Gospel of Christ even driving styles change.  When a society begins to forget the Gospel, it soon becomes apparent and once again, driving styles will reflect change seen in some cities even within the same country.  Of course, driving is not the be all and end all in the measure of a society and not all societies drive; that is not the point: transformation is! While working in East Africa, we saw individuals as well as whole communities transformed as they began to love their neighbours as themselves and act in ways that affirmed their new beliefs.

A very good tool for preparing to work in a cross-cultural context is the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.  It is a 12-16 week course that was developed by the US Center for World Mission. We studied at the William Carey College at UBC and
barebumboykorrkenyadid the whole thing in 10 days. This course is not just for someone going overseas.  It explains the concept of missions and missional-thinking that can be understood and embraced by almost anyone.  It clearly helps to give a perspective on missions and to open ministry to gain new perspectives. If you are thinking of serving in mission or for those who wish to develop and encourage mission programs, the course will have plenty to offer. The Perspectives course is recommended for the volunteer worker at a street mission, a person seeking to know more about God and their purpose, to a church pastor or an experienced cross-cultural missionary or anyone willing to make themselves available in His service.

For the past month we have been sorting through the boxes that we had in storage for the past four years.  The scripture passage:  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19) has a new meaning as we saw mold, mildew, rust and rot had taken a toll on our worldly belongings. At least some books were saved and stumbling on the Perspectives books and study material again has been a blessing.  It has given us a reminder and a whole new perspective that even our own Canadian culture is foreign. (Of course you will have to take the course to learn why!)

IMG_6209Our reflection on Perspectives has helped us to revive as well as helping us to rejoice at the  joys and blessings that we have experienced in our time in Kenya and South Sudan. One could say that we have gained a new perspective as we are looking forward to serving our Lord through MAF’s aviation ministry in Papua New Guinea. There are few roads in the highlands near Mt Hagen where we anticipate being posted. Nevertheless, we can hardly wait to get the perspective on traffic there!