One would expect housing to be inexpensive in Papua New Guinea, but it’s quite the opposite. Multiple towns in this country rival New York City’s expensive housing market. In order to make it possible for teams to live and work here on support from their churches, PBT has bought properties and built housing units for their workers to rent affordably.
For some time now, the branch has been seeing increased growth. Just last year we added three new teams, and more are in the pipeline to come. This is exciting and highly energizing! At the same time, we’re beginning to find our resources stretched. Read below to better understand how important it is for us to provide adequate housing for our teams. If you want to help, please visit www.pioneerbible.org/pngbuildingdevelopment.
By Erin Duplechin
I remember our first term in Papua New Guinea well. We left the United States grieving, while at the same time being excited about this new adventure; it was bittersweet. The goodbyes to friends, family, and home weren’t easy, but we left with the confidence that we were going to build a new life overseas and create a new place to call home.
For most missionaries, the years they spend in preparation for the field are ones of transition. We moved three times after joining PBT throughout the training process. And then we made the big jump across the Pacific. In addition, we moved seven times in our first year and a half in PNG, living in seven different places.
While flexibility is an integral part of the missionary lifestyle, the constant transition and change is difficult. It’s difficult for everyone: singles, marrieds without children, and families with kids alike. Some people do change very well, others struggle more. Personally, I’m one who thrives on consistency and stability. I knew the moment I said “yes” to missions that I was giving up a lot of my control in life- and that was a good thing. It’s good to hold loosely our earthly possessions, our comforts, and security- this draws us closer to Jesus.
However, we can’t deny the fact that we’re human and being human makes us fragile. I think ten moves in three years is a lot, even for the most flexible people. The packing and cleaning alone takes time and energy, and the mental and emotional toll it takes is even harder. Then add in a new culture, language, and a house that looks different and lacks the conveniences you’re accustomed to. Over that first 18 months, I saw even my husband, who is very go-with-the-flow, become worn down. We were exhausted over many things, but the continual uprooting was a large part of that. It was difficult on our two small children and on us.
When we returned to PNG after our first furlough, one of our primary goals was to create a home for our family. We felt we needed some stability in order to continue to live and work in PNG long-term. We knew we were going to live in the last house we’d lived in during our first term and were elated. I bought curtains and wall stickers, and picked out the quote I wanted to have displayed in our kitchen; my daughters picked out new bedding for Christmas and I mentally decorated our home for months before we returned to PNG.
When you leave the comfort and familiarity of your passport country and culture, you’ve already lost the feeling of home. And for many cross-cultural workers, you never regain that feeling. My passport says I’m an American, but I don’t always feel that way anymore, and I’m certainly not Papua New Guinean. Your identity can feel a bit nebulous after spending a significant time overseas, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, this world is not our true home.
But, there is something about being able to call a place your home. There’s something about really investing in a space. Buying curtains and new sheets may seem silly or unimportant, but when you make something yours, you take more ownership of it. And that’s what I’ve seen in my family. We have slowly begun to invest more in our life in PNG, and making a home for ourselves has been a big part of that.
Our home serves so many functions. It’s our family’s base, a place of rest and refreshment. It’s where we laugh, cry, vent, and express our gratitude. Ministry starts in our home with family prayer, the discipleship of our children, and with the encouragement we give one another. Home is our haven where we can just be; a place without expectations and without judgment, where we can get perspective. Home is a (sometimes) quiet place where we meet with God and hear His voice. Home is a place where we enjoy beauty and comfort. Home is where it’s okay to have nothing left to give, it’s okay to be empty. And it’s a place where we get filled back up to go back out into a country we’re still learning about, a country that still mystifies us with it’s cultural differences, a country filled with hurting and broken people.
The need here is still vast. Papua New Guinea holds the least and the last, forgotten people that desperately need an encounter with Jesus, with His Word, and His Kingdom. This means that we will continue to pray for more laborers and we will continue to expect God to answer those prayers. And we need to be ready when those answers come.
We want to see people thrive on the mission field, not just survive. When we recruit people to come to PNG, we want to have something to offer them; a home is a good place to start.
Erin is mom of two and wife to Kevin.