December 7, 2015
As part of our language and culture learning here at POC, all of us students were paired up with a wasfamili (host family) from one of the villages in the area. We got together with our families several times over the course of POC, in situations that continued to stretch us as we grew more comfortable with the language.
The first visit, all the families came to the POC campus to eat dinner with us. After they arrived and we were introduced, each group sat down on a mat to eat (as is normal here), and the food was brought out to us from the kitchen. Then we learned a bit more about PNG culture as we observed and tried to discover answers to questions like, Who serves the food? Who gets served first? Are you supposed to start eating right away or wait till everyone is served? After the meal, we had some time to story with our family. I didn't know enough Tok Pisin at that point to say much of anything yet, so most of the storying consisted of waspapa talking and us doing our best to understand what he was saying and asking him to repeat stuff.
The following week, we had dinner with the families again, but this time at their houses. My wasfamili lives in the village of Guntabag, about a 15-minute walk from POC. In the weeks following the second visit, we returned to their house twice more, but this time to stay overnight in addition to eating dinner. Each visit, our Tok Pisin improved a little more. These visits also gave us our first taste of what PNG village life is like, and what it's like to eat and sleep in a bush house. All this, in turn, helped prepare us for the 30-day village living portion of POC (from which I just returned). More on that next time, with lots of photos.
And, for good measure, a couple moments that stand out in my memory:
I remember sitting on the mat at their house one night after dinner as my waspapa, Ninto, read from the Tok Pisin bible and then prayed. As he prayed, I was struck by the thought that, though I had to concentrate and struggle in order to understand what he was saying, God heard and understood his prayer just as easily as he understands my English ones.
Shortly before we all left for village living, all the wasfamilis came back to POC one last time for dinner and farewells. As we were saying good-bye, waspapa told us that, though we may not meet again on earth, we'll see each other again in heaven. Though I've heard many Christians in America say the same sort of thing, hearing it said in another language by someone from halfway around the world made me stop and realize that all followers of Christ, no matter where we're from or what language we speak, share the same hope of eternal life. So when we get to heaven, look me up - I'll introduce you to my wasfamili!