Hapi Nun

The above is the cultural afternoon greeting in Pidgin
among the Bena tribe. To say it correctly, pronounce the
English word for “happy” but without the “h” (“appy”) and
then the English word for “noon.” Hapi Nun!
Yesterday (Tuesday) was our second village visit. All of
the students broke up into 3 groups and were led by a
full-time missionary for the purpose of observation. There
are many different family lines in the Bena tribe, and I
went in a group of about 6 other students, led by our
coordinator’s wife, Miriam, and their 2-year-old daughter,
Emma. We hopped the fence into the family line and
wandered around their portion of the village. Many of the
natives speak Tok Pisin, the trade language of PNG (which
we are learning in class), and it is easy for us to
communicate simple things in English as well. This time I
did not speak much one-on-one, but Emma sure does attract
a lot of attention. Usually the native children or mothers
will see Emma and call her over to say hello, thus
encountering conversation with Miriam. We will stand
close-by as Miriam converses with the women fluently in Tok
Pisin and Emma plays with the children. Miriam will tell
the women that we are another group coming through the
program, and they are excited and understanding of our
awkwardness. Then Miriam will proceed to tell us about the
particular women we are talking to. For example, one woman
we met yesterday had just had a baby 6 weeks ago, and
Miriam was asking about how the baby was doing. It was
napping at the time, so we didn’t get to see it. Hopefully
it will provide for more conversation as we continue to
visit!
Observing the tribe is quite interesting. We were given an
assignment in morning class to make observations over an
hour time frame about the family line we visited, and
anything else we noticed along the way. The family line
that our group observed is about a five minute walk down
the main road, and there are other family lines along the
way. Not much goes on in the afternoon because of the
heat. Many adults were sitting on the side of the road
selling things like sugarcane, roasted peanuts (those were
delish!) and various fruits. They were also playing cards
and just being social. The older children were just
getting back from school as we were headed back to the
campus here at Interface. There was one older man who we
dubbed as the “village nail trimmer” because he was
sitting in a circle of all younger children trimming their
toe and fingernails. Interesting, I know.
Once we got into the family line one woman wanted to show
us her garden. I think I mentioned in the last post that
the main cash crop for this time of the year is coffee. So
she showed us her coffee garden and how to pick the beans
off of the plant. They shell the bean and a white bean is
inside. Then they lay the shelled beans out on a tarp to
dry before hauling it into Garoka to sell to coffee
producers. The gardens are huge! And this one particular
lady was “lucky” to have her garden so close to her
village. Some walk up to three hours each way to their
garden. It is something that the nationals are proud of
and gives them a sense of purpose. We were fortunate to be
invited into this kind woman’s garden.
Classes are going well. We had four sessions this morning:
two in Phonetics and two in TERM (The Emmaus Road Message,
which is reading through the book). Phonetics is coming a
lot easier to me than I thought it was. Then again, we’ve
only completed our 4th lesson. The Tok Pisin that we are
learning has been heavily influenced by English and the
Bena language, so it is slightly different than Melenesian
Pidgin. It’s very similar to the dialect that is spoken in
Samoa (for all you Samoa-loving friends out there!). I
can’t wait to learn more and begin talking to the women in
the village, learning their stories and ways of life! We
are having Language Helpers come in soon. They are natives
who come in for the purpose of helping us learn the
language. We’ll be able to sit with them and learn words
and phrases, how to correctly pronounce them, and then we
get to write them phonetically. I’m sure there will be
stories to come from that.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been gone from home for
about 10 days now. Maybe because everything is so new I
haven’t had a chance to really “miss” it. Sure, I miss all
the family and friends, and I sure do wish that you could
all be here, too. And some of the conveniences of home are
noticed when they’re gone. Additionally, without a shadow
of a doubt, I miss the blessed sermons of Pastor Duane
(Creekside) and Pastor Bob (Church of the Canyons). 🙂 But
nothing is missed in comparison to the work of our great
Lord.
Many of my fellow students and staff here at Interface are
asking if I am looking into missions full-time after this.
I can only imagine that some of you are wondering the same
thing. So here we go: I am starting graduate work in
Cross-Cultural Ministries a few weeks after getting home.
I am going for a master’s degree, and because I will not
be going full-time at first, I am looking at taking 3-5
years to complete the program. I really want to take
advantage of the time in grad school to visit different
mission fields around the world that vary from each other
both demographically and culturally. For example, many of
you know the Malakar’s in India or the Hurley’s in Uganda.
I know another family, the Payne’s, in Quito. My desire
and plan thus far is to visit couples and families like
these who have dedicated their lives to mission work and
see if the Lord leads in one direction over another. Other
than that, time will only tell.
Thank you for all your emails and prayers! I look forward
to hearing more about what’s going on back home.

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