October 08

October 08

Just a glimpse

Kinship system and gift giving

SNORKELING THROUGH REEFS, HIKING through jungle, making a drum oven, learning to dehydrate food, working with Americans, hearing about World War II in this area, getting my turn at the tummy bug, saying my testimony in pidgin, watching the Independence Day celebrations... That's just a glimpse of what has been going on for me these few weeks at the Pacific Orientation Course (POC).

I'm learning some great stuff. One topic in lectures and practice is kinship and gift giving, which is all about relationships. I'll have a go at explaining a bit how it works. Our speaker for this topic came as a missionary to PNG many years ago, and married a Papua New Guinean. She was therefore fully into the clan system.

Most people in a village are related to each other. There are definite responsibilities that different relatives have for each other, based on their relationship with them. If you're not part of the kinship system, not part of the family, people don't know what to call you nor what their obligations are. That's why when we have village living on this course, we are connected with a "was family" (watch family).

We will be treated as part of their family, in terms of the rules of relating to each other, and they will be responsible for us. But being part of the family requires building a relationship with them. They are keen to serve us and we show our gratitude by giving to them. That creates a "debt" in them, that makes it easy for them to continue to give back to us. We take over food when we visit, and they teach us things. We will give them a gift at the end too.

Likewise with our pidgin language helpers. We give back to them by sharing our testimonies in pidgin with them, by doing a skit for them, by giving them a gift... Our speaker described how for years she felt she was always giving, in terms of fulfilling her obligations to various relatives' children. However, a couple of years ago her husband died, and she was just amazed at how people rallied around, as their obligations to her were reciprocated.

There are lots of implications to the kinship system. There is no sense of ownership of your individual things. For example, our speaker would notice things in her house gone, only to find them in an aunty's cupboard. They are intensely egalitarian. If you earn money, it is to be shared with others, or it may be taken off you! It is far more than gift giving: it is the whole economic system. Bride price payments and corruption now make more sense.

There are many challenges for the westerner like me. I'm used to hospitality having a lot of boundaries and thinking I deserve my own things, neither of which are particularly godly traits! I wonder though, how to be part of the kinship system, yet also do the Biblical thing of loving your enemies, giving to all who have need etc.

I'm getting a sense of what it will mean for me to be in Dande village later with a bunch of local girls. I will need to negotiate the gift giving culture in establishing a relationship with them and the village. It is a hard thing for nationals to teach me, because it is so engrained in them as normal and expected. I will be somewhat in debt to their graciousness...

Visa Saga...

Just two days before leaving NZ, mum and I ventured to the PNG high commission in
Wellington and came back with my 60 day tourist visa. This means I will leave PNG
on 3 Nov, while the course finishes 2 December, so I miss out on most of the village stay which the course builds up to. As a friend said, God seems to have decided I don't need it! I will go out of PNG, probably just to Australia, and wait for my 3-year visa to come, then go to Rumginae when I can.

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for wisdom and a visa for after POC.
  • Pray for good goodbyes and transition out of PNG
  • Pray for my spiritual growth.
  • Pray for good relationship with my POC partner Joy, especially in village living.


Praise God for safe arrival in PNG, great learning.
Praise our God for all good things.

Digg StumbleUpon del.icio.us technorati blinklist furl reddit sphinn