Communication Addendum

Maybe this is coincidence, but I've found that since folks only seem to answer calls from people in their contacts list, they know who is calling before they answer.

And the caller knows they know who is calling.

So there often isn't this exchange of hellos… it's more like a
then right into business.

Years ago I was chastised for my bad phone etiquette. I was told I need to be more cordial on the phone, say nice long pleasant hellos, chit chat, etc… but now.. that seems to be gone.

And it seems to also be bleeding into meeting face to face.

If I text you, then Facebook you, then see you in person, then text you later… it's like we're in contact 24x7 and so for the people you see often, greetings aren't like they used to be.

I used to have a rule back in 1992 when my school started a network bulletin board system (bubbs) that I wouldn't speak to someone in person about things we spoke online about.

I wanted a clear delineation of real life an virtual life.

Those lines no longer exist. My virtual me is almost as present as my physical me… and so conversations to me right now are still somewhat awkward.

I don't know exactly how to behave when I've been emailing and texting someone and then actually see them. So… I give a handshake or a hug, say hello, ask how they're doing… but then….
there isn't much to say because folks say it all already on Facebook.

So what ends up being said is 'well if you've been following me on Facebook you know what's been happening…. I posted an update, you can read it later.'

On the flip side.. its GREAT for people like me. I'm in touch with folks, I know what's going on even though I'm 6600 miles away.

And, when something tragic happens, you don't have to tell people, instead they start right in with 'I'm so sorry about ____" which is helpful for my wife right now, not having to retell the story because so many people already know it.

I'm against these communication changes I'm just observing them and even in a way, celebrating them.

However, I've always considered the art of conversation something to be valued. I enjoy people who can converse and be interesting in groups. I think perhaps to maintain that level of interest, you have to be a touch mysterious, which I suppose means not blogging and Facebooking about every detail of your life.

So… I guess I goofed there.


Furlough Musings #3 Communication

One of the things that has changed in the last 4 years is how people communicate.

I've learned this:
-if you want to hear back quickly from someone, DON'T call them, text them.
-people won't answer the phone if you ring, but they'll text you back immediately.

Texting seems to be how people communicate these days.  Something that, 7 years ago, was only done by the 'young' people.  The cool and hip folks were texting, but I never got into it.

It seems to be like such an inefficient form of communication in all but one way, it doesn't interrupt what your'e doing.

Except that it does.  Everyone seems to be a slave to their phones in their pockets.  If it chimes, or beeps they stop what they're doing, stop what they're saying and check their phone.

It's call FOMO "fear of missing out".  

I see people walking around staring at their phones, and I have to wonder if the pedestrian fatality rate has gone up, because as they're walking around oblivious to their surroundings, so is the driver who is texting at the stop light, then realizes the light's been green for a while and guns it.

When those two people meet… LOOKOUT!

It's funny because when coming back to the U.S., missionaries used to have to get a home, and a car, as their first priorities.

Now they need to get a smartphone, a Facebook account and THEN a home and a car.

I've gotten more communiques via Facebook messages and texting than any other way (email is not  nearly as popular as it once was).

I rarely Facebook while in PNG, but here it seems like a life line… If I don't log into Facebook I'm missing people trying to get in touch with me, and talk to me, etc.

I fully understand the temptation to be always online with your smartphone.  I met a guy who was collecting old smart phones to give to missionaries at discount rates, because it really is that crucial to have one these days.

I answered an email from a friend the other day asking for help in the cell phone choosing because of all the options, which was ironic to me because I just myself figured out all the new tech.

So if you're a new furloughing missionary here are some tips:

-a smartphone and a personal hotspot (aka mywi) are not often going to be the same device

-there is technology that blocks you from using your smartphone as a mywi device.  You have to purchase a mywi type of data account from your provider

-there are a LOT of pre-paid or month-to-month providers you can look into (I recommend consumer cellular, they have good customer support, and they use the AT&T network for coverage).

-there is a new speed of network connection called 'LTE' which is VERY fast.  It explains why everyone is using their smartphones now.

-If a provider says 'unlimited data' they almost never mean it.  Read the fine print.

-IF you're not in the country for more than a year, most discounts and services to you aren't available.  For example, everyone has iPhones because they signed a 2 year contract and got it for free or for a discount.  However YOU won't be able to get that because you're not able to sign a 2 year contract.  The best thing you can do is get an unlocked GSM phone and put a new SIM in it.  Check with friends and family and see if they can give you their old cell-phones.

-Most people here don't know the ins and outs of their phones or home wifi.  They have so many choices and so much technology available that they tend to go with the best price and best provider and then everything just works for them, so many of them will not know if their phone is GSM or QUAD band or unlocked or takes a sim, or anything.  So you will have to do your own research on that.

-For around $5 you can purchase carrier unlock codes, so just because someone gives you a used phone and it doesn't work with your new SIM isn't enough reason to throw it out.  With a little patience and work, you can turn that old useless phone into a great phone for your tween.

-The teenagers all have smartphones.  Your kids may want one too.  Mine do.  Doesn't mean they'll get one.  They'll likely want iPhones as well.  Both my kids want an iPhone but they acknowledge they are not going to be given a $600 portable device of any kind unless medically mandated by multiple doctors. (such as a hearing aid, or pacemaker).

-There is a new home wifi speed.  You've heard of A/B/N now there is AC and it's up to 1Gbps!  But don't be too enamored, none of your old electronics will work with it.  It's 5ghz 

-If you want to setup home wifi, you might be able to find a used WAP from someone wanting to upgrade to AC. 

-Lots of people aren't getting cable tv any more.  However cable tv (or satellite) is still the only way I have found to watch live sporting events.  You can watch select teams and games online but you'll have to buy a special membership to get the 'streaming internet feed'.  So in the end, going 'internet' only for television really only saves money for non-sports enthusiasts.

In the end, my impression of all this wonderful technology is that I love it!!! I absolutely love that it's available and there are multiple ways to communicate.

But the side effect is, that people don't seem to pay as much attention to small details, and they also seem to be rather oblivious to their surroundings.  Not to mention having shorter attention spans.

I'm left to wonder how much of that is just me getting older?

I ask this question.  If you're sitting in a quiet, relaxing place, you've put your feet up, you're comfortable…. is your first thought 'I should do something on my phone?'  or is it 'I'm enjoying the quiet I think I'll sit here and think for a while.'

I think people need to pursue silence.  It used to just come naturally in a day.  But now we live in a world of distraction.  Distraction is all around you, whenever you want it.  God created a day for rest, which indicates we have a need for pause, for reflection, for rest.  I'm wondering if these electronic devices are robbing us of that.  Any momentary silence can be broken when that 'incoming tone' gets your adrenaline wondering what it could be?  The FOMO kicks in and the calm moment is lost.

Then again, plugging our kids into these devices may create more 'moments of silence' than we would otherwise have, and so I have no judgement for people who hand their kids iPads and say 'play a game, I need some peace and quiet.'

It'd be great for traveling too.  Maybe we could compromise and have the kids google the lyrics to sing along songs for the car trips!



Some months ago, we were contacted about a possible scholarship to Hume Lake Christian camps for our kids.  Long story short, thanks to the generosity of others, we were able to send both our kids to Hume Lake.

If you don't know of this camp, well imagine the perfect hollywood camp experience, throw in a heavy concentration on moving the youth towards a meaningful relationship with Christ, and you've got a healthy image of what Hume is.

Today camp ended and we got to hear the kids stories.

You could tell almost immediately by the change in them that camp was an unforgettable experience.  Further than that, we were praying that our kids would connect with some others their age so that they can make friendships while they are here in the U.S. before returning to PNG.  We wanted them to get plugged in.

It sounds as if they had.  Because right now, they'll on their computers 'friending' all the new kids they met.

The highlights are:
My son got baptized in the lake!!!  
Both kids made new friends
a LOT of kids made decisions to follow Christ
(my kids spent a lot of time talking about the exciting things that happened in the lives of people… they were very excited about people become Christians, and getting baptized and they enjoyed the humorous camp speaker and chapels, etc.)

After all the stories, they said
"we were challenged not to leave God on the mountain… as we come away from camp, to not forget about what we learned and to let it change us and stay with us."

As a parent, who never had a camp experience quite like that, I'm very happy and thankful to all who make such a thing possible.


Furlough Musings #2

Today we had a break in our schedule of traveling and connecting with people and wondered what to do with it.

We opted to go to a "secret" place along the Lorenzo river called "the Garden of Eden" in Felton. It was about a mile hike (easy) along Roaring Camp railroad tracks, into this gorgeous little swimming grotto.

It was an absolutely beautiful spot. The water was clear, (and present) and cold, the redwoods went up and up and up.

We were only the 2nd group there, and we jumped into the water. We were enjoying the spot until a few things started to happen.

First, dozens of 20 somethings started arriving out of the woods wearing very little. (bikinis and swim suits). The crowd started to grow. As it grew I found myself uncomfortable, it was a grotto, not a huge pool.

Second, though the rules said not to, people were bringing dogs and alcohol. One young (imbibing) lady began jumping daringly from the rocky cliffs and ended up needing paramedics to carry her out on a stretcher after hitting her knee badly.

Thirdly, the swearing was all around us.

We packed up and hiked back up to where we parked. It was hard to know exactly what made us the most uncomfortable.

-the way people dress
-the way people spoke
-the way people broke the rules
-the way people were being unsafe

thankfully however, I can't add 'inconsiderate' to that account. In fact when the young lady got hurt, people rushed to her aid. And, they were cordial saying 'hi, how are you' on the trail and such. I have found a lot of people are inconsiderate when they drive, but that is normal for San Jose.

We were having a good family outing, and because we left, it remained good. But it could have been a longer outing if it weren't for the fact that we were getting uncomfortable quickly in that setting.

This is life. And rather than being overly put-off by it, we chose to make it a teaching moment for the kids.

We had discussions about using alcohol, about the reasons for rules, about doing stupid risky things while under the influence and while not under the influence, and we spoke about swearing, all of which in the context of our faith and how we decided to behave ourselves and interact with others.

So still a good outing, but we did bristle a little being in the 'real world'. It had felt to me like people are more liberal with the swears in public than they were 7 years ago.

Its not a judgment it is simply an observation. We didn't turn down our noses or think 'these pagan people best not come near us' God loves all of us, and asks us to love everyone and so that's how we live. It was simply an observation having been out of the country for a while.


Found a place!

We found a place to live!
We move in August 30th.
If you're in the San Jose Area and have a pickup truck and able to help pick up donated furniture on August 30th, drop me a line!



Reflections on Returning #1

Many people have asked me thus far 'so how are you adjusting?' I'm
thankful for those who recognize there is an adjustment going on. I'm
trying to answer the question for myself. I consider myself highly
adaptable, and so the transition for me seems quick. Even though we've
had a rocky start of it.

Me and the kids have been gone for the longest we've ever been gone.
Having not returned to the U.S. for over 3.5 years, whereas we did
return once during our previous term.

I was warned that the longer you stay overseas, the less likely you will
be to find friends who can integrate you back into their lives. I've
been gone 7 years and so I did not arrive assuming I'd see old friends,
nor that that any still around would be able to make time to spend with
me. I was expecting that sense of loss of 'everything has changed' but
it didn't happen.

In fact what I found was a lot of friendly faces, all excited to see us,
all finding time to talk to us, greet us, take us to a meal. People
bending over backwards to help us find a place to live and furnish it.
What I found was hospitality and love, and it is overwhelmingly wonderful.

I've caught up with friends as if I've never left. Ran into familiar
faces still together at church in the same groups, talking about
Biblical concepts. I've eaten burritos with folks, and have found that
a friend is never too far.

Even though our schedule is completely chaotic, we've still been able to
run into a few familiar faces, and even speak to some we couldn't see
yet over the phone.

So, THAT is not a worry.

On the other hand, with variety comes complexity.
I've been having a hard time finding the time to sit down, and evaluate
all the choices in front of me, technically. For example, I need an
internet connection, but there is mywi, cable, satellite, free wireless etc.

Trying to find the best solution for our price range and family in a sea
of possibilities is hard, because I want to read up on everything... and
then, you don't always pair up the right two items.

Buying a used car, transferring ownership, getting a cell phone to work,
etc... all of this is much much much more complex than in PNG. Even
though everything is familiar to me, it simply isn't as simple as it is
in PNG, because, there is less variety and therefore only really 1 set
way to do most of these things.

With options, comes my desire to weigh the options and make the most
responsible choice. But that takes time which is not currently working
in my favor.

I have taken the PNG method and abandoned the tasks I need getting done,
in favor of relationship building. So my 'to do' list is growing and
not getting near done yet because I put down the 'read up on what LTE
is' in favor of 'hey you want to meet so-and-so?'

This may have driven me mad 7 years ago, but now, it is something I can
just do naturally without stress.

I'm very thankful for the variety, but it is the hardest thing to adapt to.

LOVE the roads. California has some of the worst roads in the country,
and still they are REALLY comfortable to drive on.
I told my son 'in PNG you drive and look out for dangers like potholes
and pigs, but in California your biggest threat is other drivers on the
road not paying attention.'

The hazards are different, but the driving itself, is so much more
comfortable when you're not hitting potholes and having the tarmac
suddenly turn into dirt and gravel.

But we also drive a lot more. You have to drive to get anywhere it seems.

So, for my first Reflections on returning I would say, we're adapting.
Things aren't overwhelming or too complex.
Mostly what is happening is an onrush of information and I'm having a
hard time discerning what's important, what's vital and what can be
ignored, and while it's all coming I'm realizing how much has changed in
the last few years.

It would be interesting to me to read a blog posting of someone writing
about their entry into PNG. I don't believe I'm suffering from any
'culture shock'.

I'm just so very happy to have seen the familiar faces that I have
already and look very forward to seeing the faces I have yet to see.



Sometimes as a dad, all it takes to feel like a hero is that look of "you saved me!" you get from your wife when you quickly hand her the plastic bag you had tucked away for emergencies because the car sick son she is jammed in next to shouts "I'm gonna be sick!"

-chad owens 2014



Since the plane ride over here I have had ear pain. But our schedule didn't allow for a Dr visit. Finally today I got one and after intense pain found i had a bad ear infection. So bad my eardrum ruptured the minute I got home. The pain has relieved quite a bit since then. Illness is one of those ways your body uses to tell you "if you push me too hard too long I break. "

In the USA

Been in California for almost a week now. Lots of little suprises. Have had a sinus infection so unsure if the tiredness is from that or from all the new stimuli

Biggest surprise this far is having to bring your own bags for everything. Not a surprise because its silly, it actually makes sense. But a surprise because I keep forgetting to bring bags.

A few days ago I bought a bag for a dime at Frys and the ink+receipt was more expensive and wasteful than the 10 cents I spent. Then at the door I was stopped until I could show a receipt for the bag. I had the items receipt.

Not a huge shock so far but I can tell my brain is trying to process a lot of new information. Things are much more complex here than I remember.