The In-Between

March 2, 2022

The following video has English captions.


It's almost hard to believe that we're already three months past our one-year anniversary in Papua New Guinea. Life started out pretty busy here when we arrived in country, moving to three different places in seven months to learn language and familiarize ourselves with living in a tribe.

In our last newsletter, we talked about how we had committed to a year at the mission’s base in Lapilo for me to teach 7th and 8th grade English at the school and for Nate to help out in the IT department. That’s pretty much what we’ve been up to since August. Within the last couple months, we have both officially passed our final fluency evaluation for the national language, which is the most significant part of the “E2” program here! We are thrilled to be done with formal language learning; it feels like a weight off our shoulders. Of course, we still have lots of learning to do and need to keep practicing and exposing ourselves to language all the time, but it is good to have the “official” all-clear. The first stage, “E1,” was our two-year training in Missouri. This phase we just completed involved moving to Papua New Guinea, completing orientation in the Highlands and on the coast, bush orientation in Kuman (You can read about that in our previous newsletter if you missed it) and reaching fluency in the national language. The next stage is E3, which is the long-anticipated phase of moving into an unreached people group.

Right now and for the last few months, we’ve sort of felt like we’re living in the in-between: We're no longer new to the country, but we're not tribal missionaries yet, as we work in missionary support and try to be faithful in the every day. In terms of routines, most of our weeks are the same, so we haven't had much to share in these past six months. I am very much enjoying my job. I had been out of the classroom for three years, so it’s been nice to be back in a familiar niche with middle schoolers. Nate took a break from working in IT to focus full-time on language, but he's starting back and working on developing an app to help tribal missionaries with the final stage of language fluency.

The final stage of language fluency before being “checked out” by evaluators and given the green light to begin teaching and translating is called discourse analysis. In the lower levels of language learning, you learn nouns, conjugate verbs, learn tense, short phrases, clauses, sentences. Then on discourse, you learn how to string all that together naturally into different types of longer texts: i.e. comparison and contrast, narrative, exhortation, instructional, etc. The way to learn this is to record these types of discourses, transcribe them and look at what unique features there are to each type of text.

How do they start each type of text?

What connectors and transitions do they use?

How do they emphasize points?

How do they conclude each type of text?

This wasn’t too difficult in Pidgin, the trade language, to figure out, but it can be very hard in unknown tribal languages. So Nate is working on developing an app to replace an old spreadsheet where the user can plug in transcribed text and be able to spot patterns more easily.

Life here has not been without its hurdles. It seems that there are always obstacles in the way of accomplishing what you need to, and you can’t just stand at the hurdle waiting. You have to figure out a way over it.

There have been two separate waves of Covid that have come through the area, leaving the base more or less closed to nationals coming on to base or us going out to their neighborhoods. There have been several cases of civil unrest in the area too, keeping us on base. Then there is the difficulty of finding and consistently being able to meet with the same person to help us with language: Their work schedules would change, there’d be a death in the family, bad weather, sickness, fighting, etc.

The hurdles made it difficult to get the amount of time that is needed to reach fluency, but by God’s grace, he kept sending us people our way, and we were able to keep learning, albeit sometimes very slowly and sporadically.

We are thankful to be fluent in Tok Pisin. This is the language that will clear the path for us to learn a tribal language. It's the language we use with our national friends. It's the way for us to go deep in conversations and share with others the grace God shows to us. Paul wrote that if he knew the language of angels, yet did not use it to love others, his speech would be worthless. Similarly, if we show love to others without knowing their language, the source of our love cannot be known. Love is the greatest virtue, but we must be able to communicate clearly to fully express love. We believe that God's Word is the greatest example of that.

While our routines over the past six months have not been crazy, that is not to say that life has been without its trials. God is teaching us now more than ever while we live/wait in the in-between to draw close to Him and there find our satisfaction. The in-between times in life count just as much as any of the other times.

At the end of May, I will be finished with teaching at the school, and that will hopefully allow us the opportunity to travel a bit to check out different places/potential tribal works and get to know other missionaries on different bases that we haven’t had a chance to meet yet. This will help us find our future allocation spot and meet potential co-workers. A team of three families is needed to commit to work together in the same people group before the E3 phase can begin. Pray along with us as we do every night that we’d find our “bush home and bush family” in 2022.


I know there's no way to measure the difficulty of praising God in the good times versus the hard, or all the space in the middle, but arguably, I think, one of the hardest times to draw close to God and choose to remember His faithfulness is in the in-between, when life is plain, repetitive, and seemingly easy. The truth is, it's never necessarily an easy thing to keep God on the throne of our hearts, but somehow the highs and lows of life have a way of reminding us of His goodness and faithfulness. When times are good, we thank God for His material blessings, and for the joys of life. When times are tough, we thank God for the kindness He has shown us in Christ that we can now seek shelter under our Father's wing and experience the endless depth of His great love. But it's in the in-between that we often forget to delight in Him, and we live in the monotony of life, forgetting the riches of His grace that can be found whenever we simply choose to take time to meditate on His goodness. For most of us, the in-between is where we will spend most of our lives, and it is a sobering thought that it is the largest portion of life on which we will be judged. Did we wait until times were very good, or did we wait for the agonies of life to seek His face? Did we trust in Him through the struggles only to practically forget His faithfulness when our trials were over?

I hope not.

I pray to God that we always draw close to Him, delight in Him, and enjoy living in His presence. There is no other place as good, as sweet, or as satisfying. Our Father brings fulfillment to all aspects of life. His Word is a constant reminder of His power and love. How good it is that the one we call God, wherein we recognize Him as the Almighty Creator, we also call Father [Dad!] and Friend. It is too wonderful that at any given moment we are permitted - rather, invited - to call on Him and plead for His grace to sustain us.

May we be diligent to plead for His grace, and then find our joy in His response, which is always that He loves to flood His grace on us!

The grace of Jesus Christ is beyond comprehension. It is too wonderful for our hearts to fully absorb. Always will we find that the grace of God in Christ overwhelms our imaginations. What kind of God would orchestrate such a redemption? How could we ever adequately describe Him? We will spend eternity pouring out every imaginable praise, attempting to paint a picture of the goodness of God, but we will always find that no description matches the way He satisfies our hearts.

Praise and thanks be to our Heavenly Father. May He always satisfy our hearts.

Nate and Laura