No, we didn’t make a time machine, but we came close to time travel. In February 2002, my family and I traveled to Papua New Guinea. During the village living phase of the SIL Pacific Orientation Course (sometimes called Jungle Camp), we lived with people who were not far out of the stone age. Yes, they had steel tools that they had traded for, but nobody there knew how to mine and process iron. We lived without electricity (except for battery power for flashlights), indoor plumbing, telephone service, television, or radio. We learned a great deal about a typical Papua New Guinean culture and learned to speak Melanesian Pidgin (which they call Tok Pisin) fluently. We learned different ways of living and looking at life. Over the next 4 and a half years, we learned more and changed more to fit in with the culture and people of those we lived with. It was very much like traveling back in time, or maybe traveling to another world, even if it was technically moving forward slightly in time and staying on the same planet. We also gained a more global perspective by working and living with people from many countries and cultures. This enabled us to learn more about our own cultural biases, and to rethink some of them.
As it turn out, forward time travel is easy. Everyone travels forward a day in time every day. Actually, you could travel forward in time faster, but you have to go near the speed of light to travel forward in time much faster, but we didn’t do that. We just waited for the years to pass while we were living in on an island in the South Pacific where we didn’t have any broadcast TV in our home and no cell phone service. During that time, our three sons grew, learned, and got stronger spiritually and physically. Our daughter joined our family. We saw the issues facing Papua New Guinea and how they handled them up close. What we didn’t see much of was what was going on in the United States of America with our friends and relatives there.
When we returned, we knew that children would have been growing and society would change, but it was still kind of surprising to actually see. Returning to the USA was kind of like returning to a house full of odors. The people in the house don’t really notice them any more, but when someone comes in from the fresh air, the smells are intense. In this case, some “smells” are pleasant. Some are not. Some are just different. It is good to see friends and family again. It is good to enjoy the great freedom, prosperity, advanced telecommunications, and conveniences in the USA. There have been some great advancements and some good advances for the Kingdom of God in this nation. There has also been some increases in some of the more depraved elements of society and politics. Having not seen much broadcast TV in years, I was surprised to see some things advertised that I didn’t think appropriate for broadcast TV… things that I had only ever seen advertised by criminal email spammers. I am grieved to see more media and political acceptance of things that God calls sin in the Bible. There is an obvious agenda by many to try to cause things that are destructive to people and hated by God to be accepted as a normal part of our culture. That these people try doesn’t surprise me, really. What surprises me is the degree to which it seems to be working, especially in the realm of church and denominational politics. However, where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. God has many people in this country, and He still blesses the whole country for the sake of His people.
Another thing we noticed is that we have changed. We appreciate the USA much more than most people who have never left this country. We enjoy the benefits of our earthly citizenship, but we are aware that we are really aliens anywhere on Earth. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God.