While in the Kuman Tribe of Papua New Guinea, my wife Deb had lots of time to reflect on missions and the Christian life. Here’s a look back at some of her thoughts during that year.
Moving into Kuman and getting adjusted to life in a very foreign culture has been really hard. I won’t sugar-coat it or tell you that every day is a super fun adventure, or that I never struggle to trust God or walk in joy. Culture stress is real, and we’re in the thick of it now as we begin building relationships with the people who have never heard the truth all around us.
For me, the hardest part has been accepting the way the people here view me and talk about me as a white woman.
White women are lazy, white women are weak, white women sit in their houses and do nothing…. and white women have money. Here we have people trying to sell us things, asking us for money, stealing anything we’ve inadvertently left out, attempting to break into our storage. It just feels like we’re being used. It feels like anyone who wants to be my friend, wants to be my friend so that they can get something from me, or so that they can make others in the village jealous that they are good friends with “the white lady.” People even use me to get their children to behave when I’m around, “Don’t cry, the white lady will be angry!” That one bums me out because they are teaching their children to be afraid of us, and one day I hope to be able to minister to the children here. Yes, I’ve felt used, and I haven’t liked it.
But today God used my dear Kuman friend to challenge and encourage me. She has been a believer for many years and has helped to translate the New Testament. She studies God’s Word, and it takes root in her life. Lately she has been helping with the translation of Luke, and today, as we were talking, she said this:
“This is one sin that I have been guilty of many times: I see someone with something that they have stolen from me, and I am angry, and I go and I take it back.”
Honestly, that didn’t sound wrong to me at all. I mean, it was hers, and they stole it… she has the right to take it back. I sat there a minute trying to think of what to say (using my second language), and she went on to say, “But I see in God’s Word that He says ‘If someone wants to take something from you, let him have it.'” Wow! here I’ve been feeling so down about being used in my relationships here, thinking about my rights, my emotional needs, forgetting that this is exactly what we are all called to. The verse she was referring to is Luke 6:29, one which we are all familiar with, but may not have actually taken root in our hearts and lives:
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
If I am going to have joy here, it cannot be because I am finding emotional fulfillment and mutual respect in all my relationships, it cannot be because I feel that I am looked up to as someone who is hard-working and capable. I need to remember why I am here.
Christ is my reason, Christ is my identity, Christ is my fulfillment, and He loves me. Resting in Him I have all I need. When I allow His love to be my sense of worth, to fill every need in me, I am free to love others without thinking of myself. Just think of how He loved me… I didn’t acknowledge Him for who He was or somehow show Him love before He gave Himself for me freely. He didn’t seek to stay where He was only adored and worshipped — and comfortable. No — He came to where we are, in our sinfulness. He was used and abused, endured every kind of pain imaginable, all for love. And now His love is ever available to me, to love people whether they love me back or not; to love people who steal from me or talk bad about me; to love people who have destroyed others’ lives, just as Jesus loved and died for even those who tortured, beat and killed Him. And this is the love they need to see, so that they will be drawn to the One who is Love Himself, Jesus.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.