Not bad. Not better. Different.
By God’s grace and mercy, we have been in Minnesota since Thursday morning! Yesterday, we had the privilege of fellowshipping with our sending church family. We also got to rub shoulders with family as our niece, Makenna, had her graduation open house. I have SO many thoughts and they are SUCH a garbled mess! Transitional stress has hit me this trip in an intense way that I don’t recall experiencing quite like this before.
What do I mean? In Papua New Guinea our church doesn’t have power or a means to amplify volume during singing time. We sing with just our voices from a song book of Pidgin hymns. When worship started at church yesterday, one of my children leaned over and asked, “Why is there so much NOISE? Why aren’t they just singing?” Our church here in the USA has a band and a song leader and a worship team. With all the instruments and amplification, my kiddo was on auditory overload. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t better. It was different.
At the dinner table, Brian had the wisdom to ask our kiddos what do they notice about life here in the USA so far? One of our kiddos commented on how clean things here seem. In PNG, littering is a way of life. There were observations about people’s smiles being white. In PNG, many of the unsaved nationals are addicted to a street drug called beetle nut that turns their mouths, gums and teeth a reddish color. Another comment was made about how fast we travel on the roads. In PNG, driving conditions are beyond challenging. Roads are not well maintained and what would be considered a ‘mild’ pot hole in PNG would be deemed undrivable here in the USA due to its size, depth and potential damage to your vehicle. We could go on with numerous examples so far that the kids have noticed, stop lights, endless water supply, fire hydrants, escalators, no fences or gates, no security people at doors, longer sunlight hours, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car, etc…
While none of those things are inherently bad or better, they are different. Gunner found a monarch butterfly here and he marveled at this “new” species of butterfly that he doesn’t recall seeing before. We chose not to disclose the information that in Minnesota they are commonplace. We went out to eat at Perkins before church yesterday. There were SO many different things! Automatic flushing toilets, a multi-paged menu, crayons and an activity page that were given, unending syrup, cups with juice in them that could go home with us in the car, tips left on the table, waiting to be seated…..SO. MANY. THINGS. NOT bad. NOT better. DIFFERENT.
It's a struggle to navigate some of those things for ME, but it is entirely more difficult to try to communicate through the differences with our children. Will you please pray for us? We need God’s grace and wisdom to help steer our children through the differences. Disparity is real, folks. It is not bad. It is not better. BUT, it is SO different to try and capture the whys, the hows, the reasons behind the differences and help our kiddos understand the cultural gaps.
One final example of different….our kiddos asked us what language Sunday School would be taught in. I assured them they would be able to understand because it would be in English. They were flabbergasted. How could that be, AND how would all the kids be able to understand if there was no one speaking Pidgin were real questions in my children’s minds.
I’m so grateful that our good God has the WHOLE WORLD in HIS hands. While it is a challenging gap to understand and process for me in my finite mind, it is a designed reality by Our Creator that doesn’t shake Him. It doesn’t change who He is whether we are worshipping in the States or in PNG. God, help us. Help us learn and look around and see your presence alive and well in this culture as much as we do in PNG because You ARE here! You do NOT change! Your truths are timeless and relevant NO MATTER our circumstances! Help us find YOU in this new ‘normal’!