A Stretchy Bag With Room to Grow

I have always loved bags and baskets. I currently have about seven that I’m rotating among, depending on the occasion—there’s the beach bag, the pasar or market bag, the church bag, the rattan basket, the Mickey bag, the Downton Abbey bag I use for sports, and the red bag.

Natalie and all her bags

My newest bag is a noken, or Papuan net bag, that our night guard’s wife made for me. Many Papuans carry a noken, which traditionally is made from plant fibers, but now is often made with brightly colored string. Carried from the head or across the chest, nokens are used to carry pounds and pounds (or—here in Indonesia—kilos and kilos) of just about anything: baby pigs, sweet potatoes, firewood, bunches of bananas, Bibles, and babies.

Baby in a noken

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The thing I find fascinating about a noken is its carrying capacity. At first sight of my new noken I thought, well, I could carry my wallet and a few small things in it, but probably not much more than that.

But then I took it to the pasar, and because I was running out of hands to carry my shopping bags, I started dropping produce in it, and it grew, and grew, and grew. It morphed into a totally different bag.

Natalie with stretched noken

I feel like the noken is a picture of my life overseas. I have an idea of what I can “carry” or my stretching limits, but it seems like the Lord keeps loading me up, stretching me, and I’m surprised at the shape my soul has taken on. God is using the experiences of this life in Papua—the joys, the homesickness, the deep friendships, the moves, the challenges and frustrations of living cross-culturally—to stretch and shape me into the person He wants me to be.

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