When my family and I first arrived on the mission field in 2003 life was much more difficult than we thought it would be. We were well aware, when we arrived on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea, our life would become very challenging. My wife and I both came here for a survey trip. (As a side note, this survey trip was not to determine if this is where God wanted us, as is too often the case today, but to get acquainted with where God had called us to.) During the survey trip we recognized many of the challenges we would face, but it is something different when you arrive in a place like this and you do not have a return ticket in your pocket!
When we arrived we found ourselves without electricity, water, and in a culture vastly different then what we were accustomed to. We thought we would have 12 hours of power each day, as it was during our survey trip, but that changed by the time we arrived on the field. The place we made arrangements to live in had a water tank (our source of water is rain water), but we were not told it leaked, and was completely empty. We did not even know where there was a river for us to get water and wash. Needless to say, we all experienced culture shock! After a few weeks I did purchase a generator, and the owner of the place where we were staying purchased a small water tank, so we had running water in the house.
After four months, we were still figuring out how to survive in this environment. We had the help from a small mission work I was working with, and those people really looked after us and helped us. By March, we had our first of what would be many run-ins with Malaria. I was the first to get it, and it was very severe. I thought I was dying. We battled rats in the house and had confrontations with them nightly. (I have many rat stories!) I was not getting anything accomplished with language study or ministry-wise. I was just trying to get by. Then one day my entire perception changed, all because of a bag of Doritos!
About six months into our time here I went to our small trade store to pick up a few things. This store would be smaller than the convenience stores in the U.S. and not a quarter of the selection. We can get basic things there though, for which we are thankful. I just walked in, and as I passed by an aisle I noticed something. I quickly went down the aisle, and behold there was one small bag of Doritos! (As many of my friends and family know, Doritos are my favorite snack food.) I was shocked, stunned, surprised, and thrilled. There is nothing in this store from the States, and I mean nothing! I bought the bag and quickly walked back to our house, and Mariann was sitting outside. I hid the Doritos behind my back so she could not see them. I approached her and asked, “What is my favorite snack? She replied, “Doritos!” I then threw the bag on the table in front of her. (Our kitchen and dining room were outside at this time.) She was shocked as well. We both stood there amazed at this bag of Doritos! I was thrilled. I did not even want to eat it. I then returned to the store to talk with the owner of the trade store, who by this time was my friend. I asked if he had more of these, and he said yes. He told me he had one case of Doritos that came in. One case! I bought the whole case!
The trade store owner did not “order” a case of Doritos; they just came in with his other food items. The trade store has never again carried Doritos, but I knew exactly why that one case of Doritos arrived. Why? Because I knew when I saw the lone bag of Doritos on the shelf, it was the Lord telling me, “I know right where you are. I am here.” There is not a doubt in mind those Doritos were there for me and my family. The bag of Doritos did not change my circumstances one bit, but it did change my view of my circumstances. I learned how to have joy in the midst of hard times.
Oh how we need to heed the lesson of keeping our eyes on God and not on circumstances! It truly does change everything, even if nothing changes!