About A Really, Really, Really Hard Week In Kuman

This had to be, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating, the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually trying week in our family’s history.

Granted, we’re young and there are like, 1,000 more weeks left to challenge the 7-ish days we’ve gone through, but it’ll be hard to beat out this one. Seriously, I’m not much for missionaries complaining on Facebook about the lives they’ve chosen (by faith in God’s sufficient Word, I hope), so that’s not really where I’m headed here. Social media is a tool, when used well, for missionaries to build up their home-churches, but not for affirming materialistic American values. There’s always a lesson just begging to be taught in all of the ugliness of missionary-life for the broader, universal church Body who confesses Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins — for those regenerated, there’s much to gain from another brother’s struggles and failures. Paul actually boasted in his infirmities!

This is nonsense to a world that seeks power through masking a cultural pet-peeve currently residing in their flesh, but an opportunity for Christ’s character and unlimited resources to be made obvious to those fellow-pilgrims trudging through foreign territories toward their Eternal Home.

So physically:

√ Carson was incredibly constipated for 5 days, his stomach was bloated/in pain, and he woke up 7-8 times a night crying real hard. That means mommy and daddy wake up, and even his 1 year old sister who’s been having issues sleeping anyways. No sleep = bad language-learning and bad moods. Seriously, coffee isn’t even helping any more…at this point it’s just black, weird-tasting water. Mia got sick first though, followed by Deb, then Carson, then me.

√ Our tribe is experiencing its worst drought in 20 years, so it hasn’t rained more than twice in 3 months. Our people’s gardens are caput, and our rain barrel is completely empty. When clothes need washing, we smell, or we need water to drink, we hike half a mile to the river to do it. Crazy, huh? It’s SO bad, that the government has to start handing out rice to everyone, which, according to our people, tastes like pig food. Weird that this is the line they draw when they eat curdled, pig-blood pies, but whatever.

√ We have town power, which is a nice feature — some missionaries run solar panels — but its only nice when the power company does it’s job. This week, they decided they didn’t want to do anything, so we ran a generator twice a day for two hours for 7 days, trying to charge 4 year-old batteries that give us maybe half-an-hour of running time. Buh, what a waste of fuel.

Bush-fashion.

Okay, well, you probably didn’t read that (I wouldn’t have), but the size of that section gives you a picture of what we were up against here. Emotionally, both sets of co-workers went on furlough, the church is experiencing some hard times, which, even though I’ve only been here for 9 months, I’m the “expert” on fixing it in their minds (though they are the experts of their own culture). No matter how hard I try to point them to what they know about the Word of God and how the Holy Spirit is in them too, I’m smack-dab in the middle of it all.

There were some grumpy moments, some over-reactions (I think I got mad at Deb once because I couldn’t find my wallet, which I don’t even need here), and we all cried at some point in the week — Carson winning the prize for most consistent, doing it 40% of the time.

Our flesh was obvious — alot. We apologized to eachother — alot. The Lord heard me repent of my disbelief what seemed like hourly, man.

Missions isn’t hard because we’re stripped of our creature-comforts and amenities, it’s hard because we’re constantly confronted by what we’re not. We’re not lovely, we’re not strong, brave, peace-filled, and spiritual-giants. I was supposed to be a #cool #dad. I was supposed to be easy-going and flexible. I’m not, and the buffers that once could kind of mask those things — internet, friends, PS3, fastfood, music, basketball — are gone.

Hear me out though. In going through all of this, packed into one week in Kuman, we experienced another shock to our spiritual systems. We went through a lot of suffering and hardship, but we hung on. We didn’t pack up and leave, we didn’t let go of the truths we fiercely clung to in tamer weeks. We’re still here, running the race set before us, allowing God to reveal the things slowing us down so we can run more freely. Our view of God, His character as revealed through Scripture, has been refined a little more.

We can drive a stake into this week as a reminder that God grants us the resources in Christ to get through any situation, as Paul proclaims in Philippians 4:13. That stake will be there as a reminder that A) God loves His children, B) God grows His children through hard times, and C) any creature-comfort we crave now can be found in Christ imperfectly and inconsistently now, but perfectly later when sin is stripped from us and we see Him as He is. Miles J. Stanford says in his incredibly helpful work, “Green Letters,”

Trials, suffering, and even failures, are the very food of faith. [Tweet This]

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John Newton writes to a friend, “Number your troubles among your mercies, as necessary to keep your soul from cleaving to the dust, and to quicken your prayers and desires heavenward.”

Christians, especially those of you in America, your time will come, or has already. Each trial will be specifically designed by Satan to destroy your joy and your witness, but allowed by God to sink your roots deeper into the truths you already know.

These hardships will force you to study theology, not for arguments in a coffee shop, but that you might be fruitful in every good work. See, theology really, really matters to Christians going through some heavy stuff, living with a purpose, and living as slaves to God. Those who call theology overrated are either confused about what we mean by it, or are captive to Post-modern thinking.

Take it from those of us that just went through some stuff this week: when God brings you through terribly difficult times, and you make it through in one piece, drive a stake in and worship.

18 comments

  • Praise God that he is sufficient, committed to accomplishing our transformation, kind and gracious in our weakness.

    Thankful that in my life, he allows all troubles and fears, big or small, to be opportunities for me to turn away from self-reliance and toward dependence.

    Grateful that he is good.

    Thanks for sharing your family’s week. Sounds pretty rough! Especially the not sleeping and coffee is bad part! Will pray for y’all.

    • Thanks Heidi. Being in union with the only One that pleases the Father is an unbelievable privilege and upon meditation should drive us to worship and appropriation of all those fruits of the Spirit. Its rough, but we’ll get it all back and then some when we are physically present with Christ.

  • Thank you firstly for sharing so honestly and openly. Thank you Justin that you and your wife “didn’t pack up and leave”, and you “didn’t let go of the truths [you] fiercely clung to in tamer weeks”. So grateful that you are able to taste the truth of “His strength is made perfect in weakness.” I’ll be praying more for you and your family now that I have read this.
    Just as a side note we found the “Green Letters” very helpful also … and we were tempted to pack our suitcases several times but Praise God He kept us there in PNG and we were privileged to see Him work mightily through all those 29 years. [And we are still seeing him work.] Bai God i ken blesim yupela nogut tru.

      • Justin, I have just seen your response. We worked from 1984 to 1995 at Lapilo. Bill kept the centre functioning in all sorts of ways. He did the electrical until the end of 1989. He looked after the telephone system which ran on an antiquated exchange. He oversaw the construction of the two oxidation ponds and laid lots of the sewerage pipes with the help of National workmen. I taught at NCA. I taught some of your co-workers either mathematics or English e.g. Karen Michaud, Brooks and Brandon Buser, David Parry, Benjamin Hatton and Lashawn Dobbs. From 1997 to 2000 Bill was the full-time advisor for the FNBC and among other things together we trained two Yagarian men to operate an office for the FNBC at Bilata. Then in 2001 we started a new ministry serving the Highlands Region. We called it Technical Services. Josh Simmons and Travis Ray are continuing our ministry today for the Central Region.

  • Hang Tuff young Bullington..you come from good stock and God knows what the deal is. He has brought you to a place where you stand head and shoulders above others of your generation. Not for your glory but for his. Keep doin what your doing. …( I will however pray for your affliction of “BEAR-ITIS”..and that he will stengthen you in the coming months as news of how POORLY they will be playing pours in…..especially from me! >;) )

  • These tough times truly do prepare your heart to trust God. What He’s done for you and thru you this week He will do again and again. Your confidence in Him grows thru every trial and hardship. Never easy but always possible. His strength. His will. His ability. Never ceases to amaze me!!!! God bless you guys. I’m praying for health and strength and love and joy for you and yours.

  • Justin, I stand amazed at how mature you and Deb are….how you are able to take ownership for your flesh and make it submit to you as you yield to the Spirit of God. Kudos! Never forget your mother in law is one of your biggest fans! Stay in the running and never give up!👍

  • James 1:12 has been a challenge to us. We are BLESSED when we persevere through trials!! If you would like to then get on a PMV up to Mondia Bridge and get a PMV to Pandambai. And just these last few weeks PMVs have been coming all the way down to Karizokara. We can have you stay overnight too if you do not mind sleeping on a mattress on the floor. You can get our phone numbers from Bill M or someone at Sobega or email. P and S

  • Thanks for sharing. Just so you know that did not sound like whining, it sounded like maturity speaking. Thanks again, praying now for you all.

  • Wow. Thanks for sharing the raw reality of missions. Many view missions as purely “adventure.” But to live through the hard times and still worship – that’s real worship.

  • I tried to comment last Saturday, but I had technical issues. Here was my comment:

    //Brother, last night I slept over 8 hours. It was a peaceful comfortable sleep even by American standards. I have had nothing but good food to eat, and a wonderful week with my wife and children. I spent Friday morning praying with men at church. Nothing about my circumstance could be considered anything but comfortable. Yet this morning, I allowed my flesh to take over and I was rude to my daughters. Anyway, I only say that to remind us all that we have a battle with our flesh regardless of our outward circumstances. And that God gives grace in time of need. Let us all humbly go to the throne of grace and ask for that mercy. Thanks for sharing your struggle; your honesty and humility are inspiring.//

    On another note, my pastor was impressed by your story and used it as the introduction to his sermon this week:
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=814151726371

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