December 9, 2020

Right now, we’re living on New Tribes’ central support base. Every night we walk our trash to the dump down the hill, which brings us face to face with the people from the villages across the street. There’s a barbed wire fence that separates us rich Westerners and our electricity from the PNG people. Sometimes they’re sitting around a fire making music; sometimes they’re meandering around; and sometimes they’re right up at the fence. And sometimes they tell you their name, smile and reach their hand out through the gap in the fence to shake yours.

Nearby, PNG citizen security guards stand next to the gate with metal baseball bats.

It feels wrong to be separated by a fence. But the reality is we are outsiders and foreigners, and right now we don’t belong.

There are so many barriers besides barbed wire that separate us.

There is language and lifestyle; values and principles and a chasm of spiritual darkness.

Before we can leave the barbed wire fence behind us forever, we need to learn Tok Pisin, the national trade language here. Because it’s a trade language, it’s limited in its vocabulary (about 4k words). It’s also a relatively easy language for Americans to pick up because it’s based on English.

Transitioning here hasn’t been as hard as it would have been if we had moved straight to Madang, which is where we would have started if not for COVID interruptions. The highlands are cooler, and we are easing into language and culture rather than having the firehose unleashed on us. We’ve been in introductory classes this week and last. Starting next week, we’ll be making trips into the nearby villages and officially start learning Pidgin. Toward the end of the month, a PNG meri (woman) will come to our house a few times a week during Erin’s nap and help me with language.

When Nate’s not in classes or practicing Pidgin with the local men, he’ll be helping in our mission’s IT department in a role that is perfectly suited to his background.

The goal is to be completely checked out of Pidgin in about 9 months.

Mid-January we’ll be leaving the highlands of Goroka and flying down from the mountains to another base in the coastal city of Madang. We’ll continue language learning there in much the same way - visits to villages and asking locals to teach us about their culture and way of life.

As the barriers of basic speech and national culture give way, we’ll be one step closer to visiting tribes and moving into a location (with another set of language and culture barriers). There we’ll start the arduous process of learning a difficult and unwritten language.

There’s a lot of work on the horizon, but we’re ready to greet it. Pray for humility, patience and diligence.

There are tribes here that have been requesting missionaries for decades. We pray by God’s grace there will be one less in 2021.

Merry Christmas from Lapilo.

Nate and Laura

Pictures from around the central support base, where we're living, and the nearest town, Goroka.