A Wife’s Perspective
I now live in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea (PNG). It’s kind of like living in a very small town in the middle of nowhere.
But Ukarumpa isn’t a typical small town—it’s the main support center for Bible translation efforts in PNG. Missionaries from around the world come here to offer their various skills to help further a massive undertaking: bringing God’s Word to the 800+ language groups of PNG.
Besides buildings and offices devoted to the work, Ukarumpa has: a grocery store, a produce market, a clinic, a gas pump, a library, a weight room, a post office, a meeting house (for church services and other community gatherings), elementary and high school campuses, and a teen center (where “Hamburger Night” offers an occasional Friday night opportunity to “go out” for dinner).
When I think about my role in PNG, I remember the comments of a man whose job was working in the kitchen at a Wycliffe center in the United States. When asked about his occupation, he replied, “I am a Bible translator.” He was not doing the difficult work of learning another culture and language, but he understood that his role in the kitchen played a part in the Bible translation process. He knew that Bible translation is a team effort that requires the work, service, and sacrifice of countless people. And so it is with me.
I love knowing that our living and serving here plays an important part in giving people God’s life-changing, eternity-altering Word. I love hearing about the work that is going on in remote villages. I love being married to a bush pilot whose work reaches to “the ends of the earth.” And I love being the mom of our four precious girls, watching them learn and grow here in PNG.
Although I don’t have a clue how to translate the Bible or fly an airplane like my husband, I can be a part of the work by carrying out my ministry to my husband and my kids. And occasionally I am able to help in ministry outside of our home—I recently helped and shared at a local vacation Bible school. Life here has had many blessings.
But life here has also been difficult. There is a lot that I don’t love. I have always advocated being open and honest. I want people to realize that missionaries are ordinary people with ordinary struggles. That means I need to “spill the beans” and tell you how it really is for me.
Practically for me at this stage, life looks like a WHOLE lot of laundry, cooking, and dishwashing! No car, no dishwasher, no restaurants. Coming from a place where I had such luxuries and conveniences to a place like Ukarumpa has been hard. Before we came I thought, “Oh, life will be slower and I will have more time to … .” But I didn’t realize what life without things like dishwashers and restaurants was really like. Most days I feel tired from an endless monotony of housework and figuring out what food to make next. It’s easy to forget why we are here and to focus instead on these difficulties.
In addition to the daily workload, I’ve struggled with other challenges. Trying to learn a new language and culture is hard work. Some days, weary of trying, I just want to hide and pretend that I’m not in PNG. Mud, dirt, various small creatures, mosquitos, smoke, and mold have become my somewhat constant “companions.” Because we live so remotely and living here is very expensive, one of my biggest struggles is that there is little opportunity for a break from the difficulties and the daily routine. I have to fight my tendency toward envy and discontent. Honestly, there are some days when I just want to give up and come home.
“Is it worth it?” you may ask. Yes! God’s heart for the world and his concern for the eternity of those who do not yet know him are much more important than my earthly comfort. Although I believe this, I still get worn down and struggle to stay focused on God.
But he is so good in the midst of the battle. He is there waiting patiently to pick me back up when I fail. And he gives me grace, strength, and encouragement when I need it most. I am grateful that God uses weak and incapable people. That means he can use me!