Once a year, all the missionaries in the central area of Papua New Guinea (Highlands and Madang province) gather for the central area conference. It is a time of food, friendship, reports and Bible teaching and Steve and Gerdine Stanley have really been looking forward to it.
They were particularly looking forward to all three kids being in childcare so that they could have some undisturbed time for reflection, grown up conversation and time to see friends.
It was not to be for them though as one child after another had a sickness bug, starting with Oscar, then on to his sisters and finally to Steve. Steve and Gerdine spent the entire weekend with one of them home and the hoped for time of adult conversations and catching up with friends never really happened.
It was a tiring weekend of trying to keep up with laundry (kids throwing up multiple times on bedding!) and attending what sessions they could. Nevertheless, they were able to listen to some of the Bible teaching and it was good to hear. Over six sessions they were challenged to live within their limits, walking with the Lord and being able to say no to the urgent and pressing, to give time and energy to the important.
“Always being stretched isn’t a badge of honour in the Lord’s work” is one of the quotes that captures the theme of the messages. It is easy for missionaries to be quick to pour themselves into language learning, lesson preparation, literacy and Bible translation – taking on too much, or more than the Lord wants them to.
Being burnt out, irritable and lacking in the fruits of the Spirit is not a good witness. There is so much to do in Kovol. However, if they truly believe that this is God’s work, not theirs and that He actually does not need them – that frees them up to stay within their limits. Limits that allow them to give time and energy to cultivating character in their lives and investing in their team and children. At the end of the second, three-month stint in the tribe with three small children Steve and Gerdine notice that they are once again limping to their break, brittle and over tired.
Steve and Gerdine are doing ok. They take the time for breaks, and try to go at a sustainable pace in their daily routine but still need to adjust things a little more. The person they become at the end of this process is more important than the results of the ministry. Love, joy, peace, gentleness and kindness are more important to God than completed grammar write-ups, or even translated Scripture.
With these thoughts mulling around in their minds they have returned to Kovol and are seeking a better balance between language learning, community engagement, family and rest.
Please continue to pray for the Kovol missionary team as they work towards the goal of planting a church among the Kovol people.