the FOUR most awkward words

THANK YOU so much to all of you who’ve been praying for us through the last few weeks.
We’ve been in PNG now for just over 3 weeks. Those weeks have gone by quickly, but at the same time it feels like it’s been a year since we left home.

The trip here was a success: We all made it! … with most of our sanity.
To sum up the whole trip, it went very differently than we expected. We made it onto each of the three flights which was a big win … on the first one of those flights we were on the last bus of people to board after nearly 4 hours in lines. On the last one of the flights we were actually the last passengers to climb the stairs into the plane. It’s kind of funny to look back on it all now … but only a little bit funny.

The Lord gave us more than one opportunity to lean into Him, that’s for sure. Those opportunities spanned from sick bodies to luggage issues, time changes, cancelled flights, sleep deprivation, declined credit cards, and hours in lines. Many hours in lines.

The Lord really did meet us each step of the way though.

The kids did really well for the most part. Which that alone was a dump truck full of grace. They loved that we were all traveling together and that they had buddies to play with. Our four sets of hands and eyes were very helpful as we herded the littles through lines, security checkpoints, onto shuttle buses, and through all the rest of the 3 day trip.

To say the least, we’re glad to be done traveling for a bit. We experienced enough of the upside-down of international travel to hold us over for a while.

Right now we’re living in the town of Madang on a New Tribes Mission support base. The day after arriving, we hit the ground running with some trips into town and into some local villages as a group. Overall, it’s been busy with a lot of “orientation to PNG” time. We’ve had some different modules with a lot of information, and we’ve visited a lot of the local area.

This last week, we logged the first official hours of learning the national language of PNG (Tok Pidgin). There are some pretty uncomfortable parts of stepping into a culture where we have almost no idea of the right way to function … and almost no ability to communicate with people.
Thankfully, we’re not alone. We have some great teammates in Luke & Ellenie and some great leaders that have been here before us and are now helping us step through this transition.

For the most part we’ve been spending time building relationships with people in the surrounding communities in hopes of finding people to help us learn Pidgin. 

Right now, the most uncomfortable words for us are:
“finding a language helper”.

It’s amazing how awkward those 4 words can become as we walk into villages and try to find someone to spend time with. For the most part, we’re needing to collect as many nouns as we can so that we can start building a foundation of understanding in the language. Thankfully, Tok Pidgin has a lot of English influence, so we’re able to understand quite a bit. We have almost no ability to speak correctly yet, but we can understand enough to follow the flow of things. It really makes for some short and awkward conversations at times:

One of us newbies walks up to a village house:
“Good morning, how are you?”

New acquaintance is sitting there wondering who we are:
“I’m good. You?”
(shake hands)

New guy:
“I’m good. My name is ______.” 

New acquaintance:
“My name is ______.”
(long awkward silence … nodding at each other … looking around … crowd of kids begins to gather)

New guy:
“Can you help me learn Tok Pidgin?” 

Or (depending on the situation)
New guy:
“Okay, I’m going to go walk around now.”
(cue awkward music)

Without a doubt the Lord wants to teach us a lot during this initial time in PNG. We’re totally out of our comfort zones and are having to lean on Him & each other every day. We’re having to constantly remind ourselves to have a big perspective, a flexible mind, and a humble heart as we encounter a whole bunch of non-ideal situations.
I guess that’s the beauty of it … we’re in a position where we’re consistently uncomfortable and pushed to lean on the Lord all the more. Isn’t that the best place for us to be?! It’s certainly not the most fun and comfortable, but in the big picture, it’s where God loves to work.

Trusting the Lord looks pretty practical these days. Right now it means opening up the gate, walking to the village, and talking with people. That can feel pretty intimidating and I’m sure will only increase as the language learning heats up.

Working as a team looks pretty practical right now too. We’ve depended on Luke & Ellenie a lot. We’ve planned together, walked to the village together, made meals for each other, helped each other with kids, etc. etc. Teamwork and dependence on each other has been a big part of these first weeks in PNG … that’s gonna be a central part of our lives for years and years to come.

We’re only about 3 weeks from moving on to our next stop in PNG where we’ll be spending a couple weeks at another NTM base. In PNG there’s a huge network of people who fill all varieties of support roles so that disciples can be made out in isolated villages around the country. Those are the people that we’ll get to spend some time with during our quick stop in Goroka.


Please Pray with us

That we continue to grow into people that have big perspectives, teachable attitudes, and tons of grace. The Lord has so much to teach us … we have so much to learn.

That we willingly continue to grow in our marriage and parenting. We’re trying to figure out a whole new rhythm of life right now, and things get turned upside down pretty quick sometimes. We want to be open to input and purposefully faithful in the relationships that God has blessed us with.

That the Lord would give us wisdom in knowing how to best do things so that both of us can get the language time that we need … and that our bodies would be healthy so that we can function well each day.


13 thoughts on “the FOUR most awkward words

  1. Oh wow!!! Such an amazing description of your trip with heart-felt sharing! I know it’s a load having little kids in all of this but you don’t have to carry the stresses that go with taking older kids over. Little ones are just so content to have food, parents and playmates without a worry! Ours were that way too even though they were 3, 5 and 6. Of course, ours had each other for playmates 🙂 Anyway, we read the letter together and I’ve just printed up a copy to give to the best prayer warrior I’ve ever known. She’s a widow who raised 5 children alone and is almost 83 and a very close friend named Jan. Thanks so much for taking time to share all those details and give us a clearer view into your complicated lives these days.

    We love you all and are praying, Grandpa and Grandma

    On Sat, Feb 10, 2018 at 7:58 AM, Seth & Kaitlyn Sanford wrote:

    > Seth & Kaitlyn posted: ” THANK YOU so much to all of you who’ve been > praying for us through the last few weeks. We’ve been in PNG now for just > over 3 weeks. Those weeks have gone by quickly, but at the same time it > feels like it’s been a year since we left home. The trip here ” >


    1. Hey Seth and Kaitlyn. Thanks for the update sounds like the Lord is really stretching you both already definitely taking out of your comfort zone and needing to totally rely on him Will keep praying for opportunities for you both to build relationships with the people there and find a good language teacher Kids look great and seem to be adapting well to life in PNG. We will definitely be praying for you too and for your partners also. Definitely lots of teachable moments. I feel out of my comfort zone living in the United States so many times. can’t imagine not brand new culture and people and not being able to express yourself the way you want to. Great to hear from you


  2. It has to be longer than 3 weeks ago when you left! It seems much longer Seth! The description of the trip sounded incredibly difficult on every level but at the same time….amazing to see God’s provision! Thankful!!
    LOVE the description of the interaction in the village….”Cue awkward music” : ) I can see the whole interaction!
    Great pics of you all (looking forward to more as you’re able)
    Praying for the Lord to help you all adapt to your new “normal” in your marriages, parenting and new assignments in the coming days and that you will realize the Holy Spirit’s peace when you feel out of your comfort zone in a new time zone.
    Praying for what is next and for physical, emotional and spiritual health. Love and miss you, Chris


  3. Thank you so much for your update that we eagerly look for. We pray for your safety and God’s protection daily and am so thankful to Him that we know He listens. Your faith, your trust and obedience to God is such a great inspiration to us here at home. Your kids are going to learn so much growing up that others will never experience. God luck re the language barrier, but I know you will conquer it in God’s timing. God Bless you and your family and Luke and Ellenie as well. John and Carol DeForest, River Community Church, Clayton


  4. Thank you for the update! Praying you find a language helper and that you continue to rely on the Lord when difficulties arise! Love you guys!
    -Jesse and Brandi


  5. Praying for you and thinking of you as we attend the missions conference at our daughters church.

    Love the description of what’s been going on and the beautiful pics.

    Continue leaning into His matchless grace.

    Love and prayers.


  6. Thank you for the updates and pictures. Lauren has changed so much already since Christmas! Think of you guys often and will keep sending prayers your way. Love and miss you….hugs and kisses to all💞 Good Luck learning pidgin!


  7. You are all a magnificent blessing to the people around you wherever you are. Just to think that God had all of this planned out for you before any of you were born. It’s overwhelming. You will always be in my prayers. I love you and ask God to continue to bless you in every way and through every experience.
    Ann Heath


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