Tim and Carol had no children when they first got to the field, and with all of their teammates having children they were very tempted to jump on the "band wagon." Then her mother's words would ring in her ear, reminding her of the importance of first grasping the language. They were both still young, so they decided to wait to have children until they had a better grasp of the language and culture.
Though they had decided to wait to have children, one thing she picked up on early was that the locals loved babies. So Carol would babysit her teammates children and walk around town and people come and visit with her and the baby, as their babies would always attract a lot of attention. When the babies got tired she would bring them back home. Then after dropping the baby off she would go write up her notes and all the new words she learned. It was a win-win situation. They got free babysitting, they were confident she wouldn't take them anywhere it wasn't good and she got easy access to conversation through their babies which she could return back. She didn't have the work of parenting but she did it occasionally. Doing that helped her learn the language, she continued.
When Carol first left for the mission field as a married woman she asked her mom for advice and what they should be aware of as they prepared for their journey. Her mother's advise was, "Make it a priority to learn the language there.." she continued, "Because if you don't, if you just try to get along in English, or a poor quality of their language, you will never feel at home there. You will always be yearning to go back to America. If you want to live long term there learn the language. That's how you make friends and that's what keeps you there." She kept this wisdom in her heart as they embarked on their journey.
With this in mind they requested to live with a host home during their first couple of years to gain a better understanding of the language and culture. Their team said that would break up the fellowship and the unity of the team; they were a team that went out as ten and then two more joined them within six months. Well, she didn't like that answer but they felt like they needed to rule by consensus.
The next place they moved to they lived along the highway in a failed restaurant building so it wasn't really a proper home, but they made it work. With like 5 or 6 of the missionaries living in there, they only had one neighbor behind them who had been the former cook and she wasn't a native Ilocano language speaker but she knew the language, she had 5 children. Then behind them was a government building where people came to work everyday they used Tagalog and English there and they weren't learning Tagalog, plus they had their jobs so they couldn't sit and chat with them. If they wanted to go to the village they had to walk a kilometer in the heat, it was very hot! It was just unnatural. "I told Tim, 'I did not move thousands of miles away from my home, from friends and family, to sit in this building along the highway.' Where you couldn't let your kids play outside because of the highway and people driving fast pace, because it was the road to Manila... It was just so impractical." She continued, "I said, 'I need to be surrounded by the people we are trying to reach or I just want to go home.'"
So that's when we brought the proposal again to the team and by this time we had been there two or three years. This time the other's decided that they wanted to do the same. So we all moved to villages. Referring to renting out part of a local's house, "We stayed much longer than the others did at just about 2 or 3 years." Then later they were joined by another couple who had two little kids so they didn't want to live with a family but they wanted to live in the village close to the people surrounding them. "So that worked for them too. But living on the highway apart from the village did not work for me." She continued, "It was hard sharing. We had the upstairs and we shared the living room, kitchen, and the dining room. We built a bathroom, because we just had an outhouse. It was hard, but it was really good for learning language and culture." There was no electricity and it was just so hot so she didn't really have an appetite to eat so she lost a lot of weight, which she says was still wasn't a bad experience. She didn't have any ill-effects from having lost that weight at that time.
I was curious how she came about finding a place that would let them move in with their family, at this time they had a little child. She said they were introduced to that village by someone who had done Bible studies in that town so they had that connection and then from there word of mouth. Just asking if anyone had a house or rooms they weren't using to rent to the American's. No one could find one until someone spoke up and said they had an upstairs that they weren't using that the Americans could move into. They were just a couple and a kid so they had their little one, Jenny stay in the room with them. Then they had a helper so she stayed in one of the tiny rooms upstairs. "We just negotiated with them. We built a bathroom. We didn't pay much rent but we did a lot of improvements on the house for them instead." Having their own stove they brought with them, then building a ledge by which they could wash dishes near where the pump us, then doing little improvements like that.
Being the only Americans in the village they were somewhat of a novelty, and having a baby the locals were very intrigued! Here there was this little baby learning to walk in their village everybody wanted to hold her. During the times that weren't harvest or planting seasons the farmers would get a little bored so they would sit around and visit, unemployment was high so a little white baby was the sight to see. It made for some great conversations about why they were there and what they were doing, opening lots of doors for the Gospel. After those two years in the village and living with them she had gained a whole new confidence. Both in language and accent they had grown leaps and bounds.
This is simply their experience, it is not the way it has to be. There are pro's and con's to each type of living. Whether it be sharing a home with locals, living on your own within the village or living on a base and going out to work. This blog was just to show one of the many ways this can be done.