Coming out for a break is a good time for reflection. Steve and Gerdine Stanley with Oscar have been in the tribe for close to a year after spending three years in training, two years waiting to get to Papua New Guinea and two years in Papua New Guinea acclimatising, followed by a year of work to get themselves set up in Kovol. Eight years of preparation to get to where they are now, learning a tribal language and culture with the aim of communicating God’s Word with clarity.
During those eight years they picked up certain expectations of what life in the tribe might be like, so here is five ways expectation and reality have differed.
- It is busier than they expected
You would think moving into a close-knit community who are relationship rather than time orientated would result in a slower pace of life. However, they push to understand the Kovol language as quickly as possible and are always thinking of getting in their productive hours. Seven for Steve, two to four for Gerdine every day in the right proportion – not too much time at the computer, not too much time outside.
- Working in a team is hard, but not in the way they expected
The team were well prepared, get on well and appreciate each other. The unexpected factor has been tiredness. When everyone is fresh, and time is set aside for team discussions and thinking through strategy it is easy to discuss things. When disagreements arise, taking a step back and talking through the issues involved helps to move forward.
It has been much harder when everyone is exhausted from months of hard work. There have been times that they have had to drop things because a teammate is not emotionally able to engage with an issue. It has been a test of their grace muscles.
- There is diversity even within the Kovol language
The Kovol people number around 1,000 people and live on three or so mountain ridges in seven different villages. Kovol territory is not a large area. Four different language groups are within four or so hour’s hike from where the team live in the middle of Kovol. They expected the Kovol language to be just that, the Kovol language. Within one dialect, each village has their own accent! It is certainly an extra challenge trying to learn the language.
- They reach their limits much quicker than expected
Patience and compassion runs drier a lot quicker than expected. The ability to learn language and engage with everything else is also limited. Language learning is tiring. They always expected it to be hard but the emotional energy continually needed reaches its limits very quickly, and God has to keep giving them the strength to keep going.
- People are still excited to have missionaries
Every day the village makes sure that at least one or two people are around to teach them language, taking it in turns to go and work in their gardens. No signs of them outstaying their welcome. People are as positive towards them now as when they first announced they would be arriving. There is a growing excitement for literacy and hearing God’s Word in their language. It is a real blessing to able to serve a community hungry for God’s Word.