Hate to Love Stuff

Missionaries are sometimes renown and respected for not having a lot of stuff.  But nothing makes you so aware of how much 'stuff' you have as when you pack to move.... and we move often.

Have you ever packed to move and just thought 'How on earth did we come to own so much 'stuff'?'   When you're faced with the possibility of having to pay for storing your stuff, it starts to make you question why you ever bought it in the first place.

You find yourself asking "Do I really want to pay $20 a month to store this?"

On the other hand, when you live in a country where you can't get many items, coming back to the U.S. suddenly you have to resist the urge to go on shopping sprees.

"Dad, look at all this stuff! They have phone chargers here, and a million different kinds!"
"Yes kids, welcome to America, phone chargers for all!  Pink, blue, polka dotted, let's get one of each kind just in case!"
only to find out our phones are 4 years out of date, and when we buy new phones we have to get a different kind of charger!

If you put me in an electronics store after having not been in one for several years, you best stand aside for your own personal safety.

But every purchase is tinged with the reality of 'we're going to have to pay to get this back to PNG' and so you find yourself denying yourself that purchase.

And then, the day comes, like today, when you have to pack up all the little purchases that you did make.

The airlines only allow you 2 bags at 50 lbs each.  And our bags were selected to perfectly fit the maximum size allowance, and hold as much weight as allowable.

We've become masters at packing, fitting items in, elimination unnecessary weight from packaging, using socks and clothing instead of bubble wrap.  Saving every inch and every pound.

And as I'm packing all this wonderful stuff that I just have to bring to PNG I think, I wonder when I'll have to pack up all the stuff in PNG to send back to the U.S.?

I like the theory of living a minimal lifestyle when it comes to what I own.  And yet, even with what I would consider a minimalistic intent  (a desire to own very little) I'm still constantly struck with how very much we own.

For Silicon Valley, USA standards, most people would look at us and say 'they own so very little.'

By our fellow missionary standards people may say 'my they're doing nicely.'

Compared to a Papua New Guinean's standards we're rich.

But there's only one standard I really care about, and that is God's standard.

Does our stuff own us? Are we overly emotional or possessive about our belongings? How much of it would we be sad about if a fire took it all?

We have a lifestyle that causes us to pack our stuff often, which tends to make me take stock of my life.  Each time I buckle that duffle bag, I think 'am I overly attached to the things in this bag?' and 'is my focus on God where it needs to be?'

Moving and packing tends to make you take stock in your life.  At least it does me.  

We do it often.

We've been in the U.S. 3 months and we're taking back our full allowance of 'stuff'.  We always seem to.  I'm surprised at our ability to accumulate 'stuff' so quickly.  Awed by the blessings of those who support us that we can afford to.  Given hope by God that when we don't have the 'stuff' we always seem to get by without.

And this time, blessed in knowing that at least half of the stuff we're bringing back, we are doing so because we can bless our community with it.  Craft materials to make people cards, or gifts to bring people smiles and encouragement.  Items meant to bring people together and give them something new to do, or educational materials.  

This is how we've always viewed our role as support staff.  We're always thinking of little ways we can encourage others.  We've already begun hatching new Christmas encouragement schemes.  

JUST wait until Christmas!!! Hopefully we'll be able to share some stories!  There's stuff in my duffle for Christmas, birthday and (ssshh) anniversary gifts already!  

My wife said to me 'any weight or room we have left I want to bring chocolate chips and walnuts so I can bake for people at Christmas.'

It is much harder to deny yourself a purchase when you're thinking 'This would be so fun to do with so-and-so.'  In a way, having your focus in the right place, actually makes it harder to keep your pile of 'stuff' small.

The bags all feel a bit lighter when they're filled with things for others.  Instead of hefting around that 49.95lb duffle bag thinking 'why did I pack all of this stuff for myself?" You're thinking "I can't wait to get back and share XXXX with my friends!"

Yeah we're looking forward to getting back, we leave on Thursday!