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On Packing and Packages

February 27, 2012

People now ask about packing: how it’s going, what are we packing, how much can we take, what do we need to take, what advice have we been given on packing…the list goes on.

To answer those questions, and to help us pack properly, we have developed a packing philosophy: we are not taking our lifestyle with us.  We are taking necessities for our personal needs, a few personal items to make daily life easier, and the kids get a few toys.  We are trying not to take everything we feel is important and everything we think we might need.  Why?  Space, for one.  We can only take what we can bring on the airplane, and, until our tickets are purchased, we won’t know those requirements.  Further, because bringing an American lifestyle’s worth of stuff is pointless, silly, and will only lead to frustration.  We learned at our training in Nampa last summer that one of the main causes of missionaries to come home, off of the field, is because of what is commonly called “culture shock.”  More specifically, they come home because they expected to live the same life they lived in America in their new home.  The difference in culture will not allow for it, and they were unprepared to adjust.  I’m not saying we won’t have those struggles.  We most definitely will deal with culture shock.  It is inevitable.  We will take a few things to remind us of life stateside.  But, we are going with as few expectations as possible of what life “should” be and that means not taking things with the hopes of transferring a certain way of living.  I would love to bring all of my favorite kitchen gadgets!  I really would!  However, besides not having the space in my luggage, I won’t be eating the same diet (we hope to adopt as local a cuisine as possible, for cost-saving measures) or even cooking in the same way.  I won’t have consistent electricity…I don’t even know what life in the kitchen will look like – why would I bring tools for a job I may not even do?  How frustrating would that be?

On a grander scale, we want to be involved in the culture there.  We hope attend a local church, despite the language barrier.  We don’t want to pack things that would suggest that we don’t want to adapt.  We are going to force ourselves to immerse.  It may sound tough, but to us, taking excess things and being frustrated by them sounds tougher.  We are excited to go live in this new place – why would we bring our old place with us?

More importantly, in missions and in ministry, our goal is not to help the Congolese become more American.  It is to share the Truth of the Gospel.  It is to tell them about the hope of redemption.  We feel this is better done by trying to assimilate as much as we can without drowning in the adjustment (one of the reasons we won’t be living in a mud hut, for example).  We’re not trying to torture ourselves, but we want to be effective in ministry.  We may not be effective if we are busy trying to make all of the things we brought fit into our new life in the DRC.  We aren’t poor, and we won’t pretend to be, but we want to learn about those we are trying to reach and we feel that by not having an abundance of things with us will we be better off in the long run.

Furthermore, they have stores there.  People sell things that are commonly used.  We will have the opportunity to support local people and their families.  That transaction could lead to a relationship.  A relationship is necessary to share the love of Christ.  Goal accomplished!

Conclusion: we are packing as if we are going on vacation.  A very long, hard, hot vacation.  Isn’t is more fun to think of it as a vacation anyway?  It isn’t one, but we can pretend, right?

And about packages.  Many of you have asked how to send us packages.  Perhaps more of you are thinking of surprising us this way.  To all of you: thank you.  Thanks for the thoughts – it does mean a lot to us.  But, the sad news is that we cannot receive packages.  Not a one

Bummer, right?  We are bummed too.  I am still confused as to how life looks without Amazon.com.  But, the Lord will help us learn this new way of living, too, won’t He?

The DRC lacks proper infrastructure to have a mail system.  If something did arrive, we may not know about it.  And then it would most likely be “inspected.”  And then it would definitely be “taxed.”  And all of that amounts to whatever is in that package is not worth the trouble and money it would take to receive it.

Can you think of something we should take with us?  What would you need with you in a foreign country?  Have you lived abroad – what did you miss most?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 0829

    Pack your sense of humor and a big box of flexibility! When we have electricity, I do sometimes miss my food processor/blender because I do everything by hand here, but truthfully I don’t have the space for any more stuff in my tiny kitchen and I only have electricity half of the time. When you HAVE to have a hamburger, we’ll take you to a place here that sells huge burgers. I can make bteku-teku for you if you want to try some local stuff. And if you want to meet vendors in our neighborhood I would be happy to walk down to the center with you and introduce you to people that you’ll be buying stuff from and interacting with. They love it when I bring them new customers!

  2. Melody Paramore permalink
    February 28, 2012 0829

    I always take my favorite cook book/recipes.. you can usually adapt your recipes to fit the local supplies. It is nice to have some comfort food now and again. And our favorite snack are homemade chocolate chip cookies. So far, everywhere we have been, have had some form of chocolate, and the rest of the ingredients, the right flavored vanilla sometimes is a problem. So I bring vanilla. I know, weird. Other than that, we bring our bible and our favorite photos of family, friends and home… on an sd card now days or in the computer! When the kids were small, a few of their favorite books and toys. A few light weight decorations for the various Holidays.. A small first aide kit…the thermometer, Neosporin, bandages, antihistamine, etc… We have found that you can usually find what you need, buy asking the locals. And they are usually in the weirdest places or shops! lol Most of all, take your sense of humor, a good attitude and an open mind! Enjoy the adventure!

  3. Melody Paramore permalink
    February 28, 2012 0829

    P.S. Most international flights now days, have the same weight restrictions for the amount of suitcases per ticket along with the weight limit per suitcase. I believe it is 50 pounds per suitcase and one suitcase per ticket in economy. And 15 pounds per carry on, per person. (2 carry on items per person). You can check to be sure by looking up pretty much any international carrier and their luggage restrictions… 🙂 Learn to pack well, and get a really good scale! lol\

  4. February 28, 2012 0829

    Your willingness/eagerness to learn a new way of life and to adapt to the challenges and learn the way the culture works is one of the main reason I feel you four are perfect for this “Vacation.” Sounds like you need a few clothes, a few things for the kids to be entertained with (although I bet Levi will be quite happy to enjoy the dirt there!) and just a few little things to remind you of home. You will have a fantastic time there.

  5. February 28, 2012 0829

    I find it interesting that your Feb. post in 2011 is also about packing.

  6. HeatherL permalink
    February 28, 2012 0829

    This is a fabulous resource from a samaritans purse couple who have done short term missions with their children for many years. Several of the appendices from the book are available as pdf including how to travel and what to pack for children:

    http://www.brucesteffes.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=100&Itemid=71

    http://www.brucesteffes.net/images/stories/handbook/traveling%20with%20children%20-%20steffes%20-%20your%20mission%20-%20get%20ready%20get%20set%20go.pdf

    http://www.brucesteffes.net/images/stories/handbook/packing%20list%20-%20steffes%20jan%202010.pdf

  7. Dawn Wills permalink
    February 28, 2012 0829

    This was great to read as I am also packing for our move to DRC. Thanks for these great reminders!

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