Thursday, May 8, 2014

2 Years in Tonga

Photo credit goes to the talented Jonny Paquette

There is a cooler than expected breeze that greets me as I step off the Boeing 737 into my new tropical world.  The sky is over cast and the air is much cooler than Fiji where i left an hour ago.  Everything is so foreign and for the moment i feel very conscience of how small Tonga looks on a map.  I feel fear, uncertainty, and overwhelmed.  I'm sure there's something we forgot.  I am so far from home and yet the excitement of a new place and the adventure of following God's call here is over powering my natural reactions.  For the moment.
A visa misunderstanding/complication ties us up for bit but then we are free to grab the rest of our earthly possessions that now sit alone in an almost empty baggage claim.  We are greeted outside warmly by our now dear friend Saane who rushes us into a vehicle along with our belongings.  The sun is setting as we drive the 30 minutes to our new shared home.  As we gather to pray together that night with Kamu and Saane i feel the warmth of tears in my eyes, i don't cry much, so i hold them in.  I have 2 years ahead of me.  I have never been away from home so long, almost lived in one town my whole life.  What is God going to do with us here?

Fast forward.
Today marks our 2 years of surviving in Tonga.  I say surviving because at times, that's what it was.  Our family has learned so much in the past 2 years.  We've all changed.  I have been confronted with my shortcomings and weaknesses. I have come close to losing my faith and i probably would have if it wasn't for beauty of the milky way reminding me of my Creator.  It is breathtaking here and often brings me to tears.  Like i said, i don't cry much.  

Here's somethings i've learned along the way of my epic journey.

1. I have loved stuff and God.  This was a painful realization for me..  In the U.S. i liked to imagine that things didn't matter much to me.  It's not like I was rich or anything.  The verse where Jesus tells the rich guy to give away his possessions and come follow him could not apply to me then.  I always smile when pastors preach this and then quickly reassure the congregation that they don't actually have to do this.  America is filled with stuff!  My woman heart jumps at the sight of a red tagged clearance item at Target! Tonga took away the things i thought didn't have any hold on me and I quickly realized how i fooled i was.  Sad?  Go on a shopping spree.  Frustrated?  grab a frappacinno from Starbucks.  Feeling better now?  It must be my joy from Jesus!  Ugh.  I wonder how often i've attributed my happiness being from God when really it came from STUFF.

2. I can eat pasta with bugs in it.  It's true, i've done it. We all survived.  Just cook up the pasta, catch as many of them as you can and go for it!

3. Being bitter and angry is bad for me and everyone around me.  I have been very mean and nasty a lot of the time i've been in Tonga.  Complained a lot.  My poor husband.  and kids.  My negativity has been toxic.  I can feel the weight of it.  No, Tonga is not what i would have chosen.  I'm not into sand, humidity, bugs, unsanitary conditions, and living in a stick house without modern anything.  (ok, i have an extension cord for power).  And although i can appreciate the's not my thing.  But.  It doesn't help my family when i tell them this every single day.  I'm still working on this.  It's hard when it seems so enjoyable to sink into my pit of despair and wallow.

4. Stick bugs can spray your eyes and blind you.  I still can't figure out why this isn't in brochures on Tonga.  Because i would assume it's fine to hold a stick bug or look closely at it.  Who would know it has the power to blind the innocent with it's poisonous spewing?  I wouldn't know because know one makes this information public like in a brochure or tourism website.

5. Hard things aren't bad, It can be good even though we're not having fun.  We've experienced a lot of challenges.  Like washing laundry by hand, biking to get everything (lumber, groceries, water..), no running water, lack of privacy and ownership of anything because someone will take it or ask for it,  squatting by a bucket of water in the rain to wash dishes, sickness, building a house out of cement and sticks in 2 weeks, homeschooling, loneliness, and exhaustion.  What good has come of this?  We are widely known because of biking our family around and building a more Tongan style house.  These two greatest thorns in my flesh have been used to bring God glory.  We have many opportunities to speak with people who otherwise would blow us off.  And despite the fact that i hate having a plethora of eyes on us wherever we go,  God is using it hopefully to turn eyes toward him.  Do i like these hard things?  No, not at all.  But, if look hard enough and stop complaining i can see the good it is producing.

I'm sure there's a lot of other things that could be added to this list.  But this would be a long blog post and i'm ready to sleep.  Thanks to all of you who have remembered us these past two year in your thoughts, giving, and prayers.
Here are a few photos from our trip to Ha'apai where we went to help after the category 5 cyclone hit the island of Ha'apai.  Thank you everyone who helped send the kids and I to go with Chris.
  Island off of Ha'apai where Chris delivered tarps for roofs after Cyclone Ian hit in January.
Chris in the hospital while in Ha'apai after getting a kidney infection from kidney stones

delivering tarps from Samaritan's Purse Australia

getting a girl's dormitory covered

another jonny Paquette picture