NO ONE—not even a tightrope walker, whom I would think knows all about exciting experiences—could say that life in the mission field is dull.
Why, just tonight as we left the college church after young people's meeting and the closing of Sabbath service, three little boys came running over the lawn by the swimming pool shouting, "Pastor Rankin, Pastor Rankin, there's a pig in your garden!"
You have to live in New Guinea to realize the havoc that one little pig can work in your garden. As we rushed over the little rise we must cross to reach our house we were confronted by a startling sight. There on our front lawn were about ten men and boys, some armed with long sticks, and all of them dancing about and shouting at the top of their voices. The rebel pig was making her share of noise too, but was not captured without a struggle—she gashed one boy's arm.
This boy, however, felt it was worth the pain because my husband gave him $5 in expectation of getting at least $10 from the owner of the pig. I wouldn't have tackled that monster for $50. However, pigs are worth a lot of money here, and a kanaka (native) would gladly pay the money rather than have his pig shot, as it should be, when it comes on the campus and does extensive damage. But this crafty animal, after being tied up with yards of strong, heavy rope, defied the whole army of would-be captors, slipped from her noose, and went snorting off. Five dollars down the drain!
Adaptability and Sense of Humor Necessary
There is so much to learn when you first go to the mission field. You must adapt and forgo some of your long-cherished ideas. Above all, you must have a sense of humor.
We had been here only a few weeks when our second son came triumphantly in the front gate followed by a fearsome-looking Chimbu who carried bow and arrows.
"Hey, Mum, I found this fellow, and he wants to sell these. Aren't they beauties, Mum?" I fingered the arrows and thought, "Can I afford $1 for an arrow?" They were nice, and I hadn't bought anything of the sort before so I went inside and found the money, paid him, and said good-by to the man. I was sitting in the living room admiring my very first artifact when my youngest son, who had watched my purchase, came in with the other two arrows.
"Where did you get those?" I asked in astonishment. He replied, "Oh, I traded my hat for them." The hat cost thirty cents at Woolworth's back home. I have learned to bargain now.
Dorcas Society meeting in New Guinea is an education in itself. It is a vastly different experience from any meeting I have attended in the homeland. Each week thirty or forty women from the neighboring villages come along to the college dining hall to hear a talk on health and to be taught how to sew. How they love it! When you are confronted by a bare-bos omed, string-skirt-girt, white-haired lady, who hands over her fee and announces triumphantly, "Me like workim trousers,"— you don't turn a hair—just say, "O.K., Mumma, me markim you now me workim quicklime." I've never had so much fun playing simple games like "Rats and Rabbits" or "Flying Dutchman." Games are new to these women. They laugh so much that by the time we are finished they are breathless and speechless.
Of course, Dorcas meetings in the villages are far less sophisticated. There the women sit on the bare ground to sew. Here again some of the sights take a bit of get ting used to. For instance, everybody seems to know about the pigs in New Guinea— pigs and New Guinea are almost synonymous, but no missionary or casual visitor returning to the homeland prepares you for some of the unusual experiences you encounter in these far-away fields.
Children Love Mission Life
We were much older than most people when my husband did his ministerial training, so when we got our much-wanted mission call we had a teen-age boy and one approaching teen-age. What would be the effect of mission life on our children? We need not have worried. They love it!
There is always activity for them here at the college, plenty of outdoor life with none of the distractions of television, or temptations of the theater, or other worldly pursuits. Instead of just mentally devouring every mission story in the Guide and the paperbacks put out by our publishing houses, they are now themselves a part of the great mission program.
Every Sabbath they go along with the students and faculty on branch Sabbath school work. It means getting up about 6:30 A.M. and walking or riding by truck, car, bike, or any other means of transport available, out to the surrounding villages within a radius of 14 miles. They lead these unkempt, lovable, heathen people in songs and then hold the Picture Roll while their student companion tells the gospel story in pidgin English.
About two hours later we drive back along the road and collect our sons and the students. We all compare notes and make up our report to be presented in the Sabbath school back at Kabiufa. Altogether about 250 students and faculty families go out to about sixty villages and contact up to two thousand people.
Our boys frequently bring some of the village boys back to Sabbath school and church at the college. For a number of Sunday afternoons our twelve-year-old David went out to his village to help them erect a shelter where they could worship on wet Sabbath mornings. Living in the mission field enables children to help in a very definite way in the finishing of the work.
Hard Work But Satisfying
Is mission life hard work? Sure. Exhausting? Very definitely. But it is oh, so re warding, satisfying, and completely worth while.
Here in this Christian college in the mission field I just never know what will hap pen next. Perhaps I shall be asked to start teaching commerce in two days when I haven't studied accountancy for twenty years. I may have to take a student to the hospital, or speak in worship at the girls' dormitory to still a temporary feeling of discontent. I may receive a telegram saying that an important visitor will be arriving, and asking us to "please meet and accommodate." Without warning someone may land on my doorstep, and I may have to manufacture a cold drink from nowhere. Perhaps it is ten pairs of boys' pants that need patching, or a national staff member or student that needs a new dress, or school uniforms that need to be sold. It may be a "kanaka" mother who has lost her milk and needs instruction on how to prepare bottles. It could be just ordinary little things like three boys and one little girl who need comfort and understanding, or a tired, harassed husband who wants peace and quiet. Whatever it is, mission life is the life for me!
And if you love the Lord and you love people, and if you have a sense of humor and can adapt to the unexpected, then mission life is the life for you too.