One of the benefits of joining a team who’ve already been in the village for years, is that we are seeing fruit of the ministry here much faster than we would if we came from the beginning. The Canns have been living in working in Mawerero from 2017. They completed their CLA phase (Culture and Language Acquisition) just after our arrival here. At that point, Cassidy was already hard at work preparing for the Literacy Program. She joyfully put in hours and hours of work, and the end product was astounding. Amelia and I were amazed as we watched her teach – we were encouraged to press on in our own language learning so that we can also communicate clearly with our friends. We were also encouraged to keep growing in our love for our friends in the village. And above all, to love our Lord and serve Him faithfully. We were included as ‘teachers’ in the celebration of the first literacy class graduation, even though we only assisted Cassidy in small ways, like marking homework books and helping students during reading times. In the end, all the glory belongs to the Lord, but today I want to thank Him for my friend Cassidy. She faithfully carries this part of the work here in Mawerero.
The very first Do Literacy Class had 15 graduates. They completed their basic Literacy class in January 2020. Since then, they have been meeting weekly for Post Literacy reading practice. At first, Ryan and Elna were tasked with the Post Literacy program. This included development of Do reading books, and meeting weekly for reading class. In July, Amelia shifted her focus (she’s almost done with her CLA) and is now heading up Post Literacy. Elna still helps her, but Ryan is focussing completely on CLA.
Our plan is that Literacy will be taken over and run independently by local teachers. To this end, Cassidy identified men in the first class who might become teachers. She did teacher training with them, and gave them opportunities to lead parts of the class. So when the second group started Literacy, Maikepe was ready! He taught a big part of the second literacy class. The eight students graduated on 15 August and joined the Post Literacy class last Saturday. Maikepe has proven himself to be a faithful teacher, and he is excited to start a third class soon.
God chose to reveal himself to humanity in the Word. If we want to know God, we need to read the Word. This is why we are so excited about the growing number of Do people who will be able to read the Bible in their own heart language.
Most of you probably know that I believe that Papua New Guinea is the most beautiful place on earth. Our break in Madang strengthened this belief! Here are some of the highlights:
Rest – We were all in need of a break after six months of village living and working. It was such a blessing to slow down, play more, think less, read more, bake less…
The season – We lived in Madang during rainy season, from November 2018 to March 2019. It was H-O-T! Returning for break now, during dry season, we found it much cooler. I doubt the average temperature is really very different, but the humidity was much lower and we felt less drained and hot than in rainy season.
Snorkelling – There is nothing quite like exploring coral reef – we saw parrot fish, clown fish, needle fish, big schools of fish, a teeny octopus, bright blue fish, almost transparent fish… So so many things live in the water. We serve a very creative Creator!
Restaurants – Usually, having pizza involves a lot of cleaning and chopping veggies, grating cheese, making the pizza base and then cleaning up the mess I make in the process… During break, I could simply place an order and enjoy my meal! Nobody even had to do the dishes. Bliss!
Fellowship – We got to spend time with Finisterre Vision’s ‘Team Two’. Up till now all our interaction with them has been via messages, video chats and e-mail. We loved getting to know them, and worshiping with them each Sunday. We were also privileged to be there during a very exciting time – their first survey! The men spent a few days in the Pano language region. (We skipped this process since we only joined ‘Team Do’ later in the process. You can read about the process the Canns and Dodds went through to select Do as language group and Mawerero village here.)
Shopping – I know, it seems silly. But it really was fun being able to walk through stores and look at different options ourselves. Even though we had to wear masks while browsing… (For the rest of the world wearing a mask is pretty normal but it was a first for us.)
Transport – Unless something unexpected happens and we end up leaving the village later in the year, these are the only three weeks the Mitchells will have spent outside of the village in 2020. So it is also the only three weeks during which we used anything except our own feet to get around… We enjoyed ‘normal’ things like car rides (I even let the kids sit in front with Ryan!), ‘normal-for-here-but-really-not-normal’ things like heli flights, and ‘new-to-us-things’ like taking off from a bush runway in a teeny Kodiak. Our return flight from Madang was my favourite heli flight yet! Our pilot stayed low to avoid stronger winds and we got to see vast stretches of uninhabited jungle from closer up than before.
You can thank God with us for providing the opportunity for us to rest, and for bringing us home safely.
The average energy levels in our home rose by a huge amount nine years ago. Sebastian started out as an active baby – and he has not slowed down yet!
His current favorites are: Quesadillas, waking up early to stargaze with Ryan, sneakily reading ahead in our family bedtime book, star wars, lego (all time favourite!), and ‘sciency’ things. His favourite birthday gift is his new Archeology Study Bible – he loves studying maps, comparing cities at different time periods, and reading about ancient artefacts.
We celebrated his ninth birthday just after returning from a break in Madang, and he was so happy that he got to enjoy his army party with the Cann boys.
We thank the Lord for giving us Sebastian. What a joy to be his parents. You can pray with us that he will keep growing in his understanding of, and love for the Word and Lord Jesus.
Whoever decided that you only become a teenager at 13, never met our girl! Calista has transitioned from being a child to being a delightful young lady. She is beautiful, thoughful, quirky, and funny. She is still a girly girl who loves dressing up – but she also loves getting dirty in her garden. Calista is a lot like her stargazing daddy – she woke at 2.30am the other day to show me the moon! And she’s a lot like me, she enjoys drawing, colouring, listening to music. But her love for animals and critters is her own…
We thank the Lord for giving us our girl, and for blessing her with a growing love for Him and the Bible. Happy 12th birthday, Calista!
One of the questions I (Elna) frequently get asked is,
“What does a normal day in your life look like?”
Today was pretty ‘normal’. So here you have it:
4.30am – Sebastian turns in his bed, and kicks the wall. The cat wakes up and calls in the hallway. I decide it is close enough to my normal wake-up time (4.45am) that I get up. If it was earlier, I would have just ignored Jasmin. She usually just calls once or twice when she wakes up, realises nobody’s coming, and then waits until I get up.
4.31am – Start making morning coffee (lovely locally grown coffee!), feed Jasmin a little to keep her quiet.
4.40am – Finally sit down to have quiet time. (It takes about 10 minutes to make coffee and give Jasmin enough attention that she’ll leave me alone for the rest of my quiet time.)
6.00am – Normal wake-up time for kids. Nothing. They are still sleeping. I leave them in peace, we don’t have a school bus to catch.
Get out today’s worksheets and textbooks, and use the ‘extra’ time to type out a story translated by one of the Literacy students, a letter (one of the few ways we can help people here is typing and printing letters for them). Download some articles to read for CPD (Continuous Professional Development).
7.00am – Sebastian wakes up. We cuddle a bit, and start the day – he wakes up hungry, so first order of business is cooking some oats. By the time it is ready, Calista is also up. They play with the cat, have their breakfast, make beds, brush teeth. I clean up the morning dishes. You know, the normal morning stuff…
7.15am – Nacho barks outside. I check, and it is a neighbour walking down to her garden. I go out to greet her and reassure her, and thankfully Nacho obediently stops barking.
7.30am – Put Jasmin outside with her food – she’s still getting used to being outside without us. We start school with Bible.
7.45am – While the kids work on their workbook, I start a load of washing (no, couldn’t do this in the ‘extra’ time earlier, because I had to wait for the sun – our solar system has to absorb a bit before it is ready for me to start washing).
7.55am – Nacho barks, Jasmin cries. Calista goes out to fetch her. She’s puffed up but fine.
8.00am – Start with next lesson.
8.01am – Nacho barks again. I check through the window, my language helper is early. I go out, get Nacho to be quiet (again, thankfully, he obeys). I make coffee for Wila and take that to her, along with some blocks and a cup of water for her son. We continue our reading lesson. Wila is happy to wait, she knows I will come as soon as I’m ready. She is enjoying her coffee – sugar is a luxury here, and though the people grow coffee, they do not process it for themselves. So sweet coffee is like desert!
8.20am – Ryan comes to sit with kids while they work on their worksheets. I go out to hang up washing.
8.21am – Amelia calls me for an opinion. A little boy (about 18months old) has a pretty bad burn on his leg. I take a quick look, tickle his feet (he is so cute and ticklish!), we decide on a plan and I return to hanging up my washing.
8.30am I check in with kids. They’re almost done with their worksheets. They are used to doing their independent reading and handwriting while I am busy with language. They continue with this (with Ryan close by in case they need help). I go out to start my language learning session. Today, I ask Wila to help me check a story that was translated from Tok Pisin to Do for our reading practice class.
9.00am – Calista comes out, they have recess. She greets Wila, little Manu and big Nacho.
9.20am – We finish with the story, and decide not to start with another one. I ask a couple of culture questions, greet Wila, and go back in. (She is now heading out to her garden to go and find food.) Learning about the local culture is very important. It helps us live in an understanding way with our friends here, and helps us identify areas that will need to be addressed during teaching later.
9.30am – I cut up a pineapple and give that and pretzels to the kids as a snack.
9.45am – We start with school again.
10.30am – Nacho barks. I check, it is a young man who wants to see Ryan. Ryan goes out to walk with him up to the house, as he’s very scared of Nacho. They talk for a while. He wants Ryan to type out and print a letter for him. Ryan asks him to return in the afternoon.
11.00am – Kids have a ‘brain break’, I use it to start working on lunch. Ryan joins me in the kitchen, and does the hard work (peeling potatoes).
11.15am – I call kids back in (they love checking on the Canns’ kittens), get them started on the next subject. Then I return to preparing lunch, and do the dishes.
12noon – We have lunch. I forget to feed the chickens (Sorry Cass. Keep reading, they’re not hungry anymore!) We quickly clean up after lunch.
12.40pm – I remember about the chickens, and send Sebastian to feed them. The kids spend time with Amelia – they do Afrikaans, and have some fun playing a board game. I use this time to check e-mail, reply to some messages, go through my notes from today’s language session and prepare for Saturday’s reading practice class. We’re playing syllable bingo, so I make and print out the cards we’ll use. Also have a quick ‘meeting’ with Ryan about logistics.
2pm – The kids return. We drink ‘baby chino’s’ while I read to them from our Geography textbook. Then we complete worksheets, and they do the map work by themselves.
2.30pm – We let the chickens out. This is quite the process, as a few of them (Ryan dubbed them ‘The Broody Bunch’) are broody, and need to be removed from their nests. Thankfully, Calista loves that job.
2.40pm – I check the work the kids completed today, while they finish up their independent work. They both ask a couple of questions about math.
3pm – We’re done with school. Happy dance! Sebastian is hungry (no surprise!) So they each have a scone. I have my afternoon cup of coffee.
3.15pm – The kids are off to play by in the rain. I work on this blog, and go through some common phrases in Do that I am busy memorising. A lady comes up to ask if we have a pen she can buy for her child for school. We don’t have many extras, but we sell her one anyway.
4pm – Kids come back in, take turns to shower. We are busy with a lego sorting project, and I help them with that for a while.
4.40pm – Prepare dinner.
5pm – Dinner. A friend stops by just as we sit down – I told her that I want to buy corn, and she’s brought me some. She is very happy about the sale, as she can now go buy some ramen noodles to add to their meal.
5.30pm – Weekly family prayer time. We each bring requests. Ryan reads a Proverb and we discuss it. It is Amelia’s turn to bring information about a missionary that we can pray for. When we’re done praying, the kids run off to play and the adults chat for a while.
6.30pm – We decide to watch an episode or two of a series we’re busy with.
7.30pm – Ryan reads Bible to the kids, we pray together. They read a bit before lights-out.
8pm – Lights-out. But kids giggle and tell jokes for a while in the dark. Ryan and I both do some reading before heading to bed.
Not too exciting, right? Well, even when you live in a rainforest, normal days are just that. Normal. There are momentous days in between. But for the most part, we just keep doing what needs to be done…
My aim every day is to obey Paul’s instruction to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”
What has been the hardest things about being in PNG?
Missing friends and family. It just does not get easier.
Learning to negotiate a culture very different from our own. Having to think through the possible interpretation of every comment, implications of every action… And being humbled as we often get it wrong, even after thinking it through.
Learning two new languages. Getting to a conversational level with Tok Pisin was not too hard. We still both need to practice a lot before we get to the point where we can communicate abstract, foreign concepts clearly and effortlessly. Learning nDo has both of us feeling old and not too clever. As a fully fledged language, it has a much bigger vocabulary and the grammar is very different from English.
Seeing the darkness around us. There is not a place on earth not touched by sin – everywhere we’ve lived before, we’ve been touched by seeing lost souls. But here, the lostness feels almost raw. The evil is so exposed. The confusion as result of syncretism, so crippling. We are getting to know people with the desire to worship that God built into all of us, but with no knowledge of the only true and living God. The darkness saddens us. But we’ve read the end of the book! In the end, people from every tribe and nation will worship the King!
The logistics involved in living in such a remote location. I laugh when I remember times when I forgot my list at home on a grocery run. Shopping is now called ‘Supply Runs’ and involve a big ugly spreadsheet, on which every desired item needs to be evaluated in terms of amount needed per week/month, availability, weight, and cost. Another aspect of remote living, is that when things that break, they are not easy, cheap or quick to replace.
What has been the best things about being in PNG?
Seeing growth in our walk with the Lord, our marriage and our parenting. We have faced a long series of transitions in the last few years, which brought with it some unique challenges. We are very thankful that while we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, He is at work in us! We have come to rely on God even more. And He has sustained us every step of the way.
Watching our kids mature, even when it wasn’t always easy for them. They are learning early on what it means to count the cost… Some of the lessons are just part of growing up, and most people could relate. Others are unique to having parents who are missionaries.
Our team. God picked our teammates for us. And we are SO thankful that He picked the Canns and Amelia. (This also extends to the rest of the FV team.)
Feeling like foreigners. Because it reminds us constantly of the fact that we are sojourners here on earth…
Living in the most beautiful place in the world. From my front lawn, I can often see seven waterfalls, a flock of white cockatoos, the ocean, and plants with numerous different shades of green. All at the same time. If you don’t believe me, come and visit.
Flying. The heli flight home is like sitting in a see-through bubble, looking down on the mountains and valleys of PNG. Beautiful!!
The best thing according to Calista: Gardening! You can pretty much just throw flower seeds on the ground, and they’ll grow. Also, she says it is great that we know all our neighbours, their children, and their ‘stories’. In busy cities people don’t know their neighbours this well.
Sebastian’s favorite things: Jude and Oliver. And that there are almost always village friends around who want to play lightsabers, ball or running games.
Growing to love the people of our village. During our time in Ukarumpa, we really missed our village friends, and it was such a blessing to be able to return home!
We have been in Papua New Guinea for a whole year! So much has happened – here are some highlights:
November – December 2018
The whole team met face to face for the first time in Madang, and enjoyed Thanksgiving together. Shortly after we arrived, the Canns returned to Mawerero. Amelia, having just finished her orientation, joined them.
One of our favorite things about living on our ridge is hearing the rain. It starts with a faint rumbling sound from far over the mountains and comes closer and closer until it finally hits our roof! What a display of God’s glory! I love standing on our porch waiting for it to arrive.
In the same way, the people of Mawerero have stood waiting. Many years ago the leaders sent a letter to Mibu requesting that missionaries be sent. There were a couple of visits and then in 2016, two families moved to the village. Since then, there have been big changes, with the Dodds leaving, Matt going home to the Lord, and then us and Amelia arriving to take over from the Dodds. All this time, the people have heard rumbles of what would come.
Our baby is no longer a baby! He is a running, roaring, light-saber weilding, energetic boy… He still lives at full speed and full volume here on our mountain top. He has learned to climb upright trees here, and to make bamboo siding. He can tell which spiders are safe, and which to avoid. He can converse in Tok Pisin, and happily joins in all the games on the ridge.
Sebastian turned eight in August. We celebrated twice – once during the Lehmans’ visit, which was a big surprise to Sebastian. Then on his actual birthday we had a dress-up party.
Please pray with us that Sebastian will continue to grow in his love for the Lord.
A lot has happened since we last posted anything… We’ve been working hard, and God graciously provided a refreshing rest time in Ukarumpa. After eight months in country, we planned to have a two week break out of the village. We extended this to three weeks, as there were no flights available to bring us home after two weeks…
I’ve been asked why we’d need a break outside of the village when we already live in a tropical jungle – can’t get more idilic than this, right? Well, while I do believe God gave us a home in the most beautiful spot on earth, it is not our eyes that need rest or diversion… This is still our place of work – we are not on an extended holiday – and our minds needed rest. While at home, we are constantly communicating in a new language – translating every conversation in our heads takes a lot of mental effort. We also live in a culture very different to our own, so we need to filter every possible response through what we already know about the local culture. And even then, we still often make cultural blunders. We also have constant interruptions here – our village friends come knocking regardless of what is happening inside. Work, school time, meals, language lessons, family time, team meetings, movies, games – all of those get interrupted on a daily basis. And so we end up opting to go out of the village when we need rest and uninterrupted family time…
We spent our break at SIL’s base in the Highlands. We read (some of us more than others), took walks, ate ice cream (a treat we do not have in the village), watched movies, and played card games… We met some really kind people who live on the base, and others who were also passing through, spending a night or two at the guest house. The kids enjoyed seeing cows and horses again, and I loved the diverse plant life – so different from here in the mountains. Ryan got to check out the joinery, the tech support center, and the library. There is only one store on the base (we order our supplies from them when we do supply runs), but since our village store only sells salt, oil, noodles, and chewing gum we felt like it was huge!
While we were away, the village leaders started clearing ground for the building that we’ll use for the Literacy Program. We will only be able to start the program once the building is ready. On the Saturday before we returned, the Canns and Amelia announced the program to the village again, and invitations have been sent to the people we would like to attend the first class. We selected people based on where they live (we want someone from each hamlet), level of literacy (we want to include people who can read a bit, and some who cannot read at all), clan (we want to include someone from all the clans), and gender. At this point we are only including adults. We’ve purchased boxes that will house flash cards and readers, and almost all the printing and binding has been done. Please pray with us that the students will be diligent and that starting Literacy will increase the anticipation and interest in the Gospel.
We enjoyed our rest, and were very eager to get home by the end of the three weeks. On the day we returned, our logistics family (the Lehmans) joined us in the village for a six day visit. It was such a delight to have them here! The children played non-stop, the adults had encouraging fellowship. We even managed to sneak in a surprise birthday cake for Sebastian – a week early, but double the amount of kids to enjoy it with us! This is probably the last time we spend time together as a team before the Lehmans head back to their US home. They will be returning so that Jeremy can attend seminary… We are very excited with them!
We are now entering a new phase as a team – Literacy starts soon, and Zach is working hard on translating and lesson preparation. In the mean time, however, Ryan, Amelia and I are still in the CLA phase: Culture and Language Acquisition. You can pray for us as we enter this new period.