My husband grew up as an M.K. in New Tribes Mission. His parents were the first from the mission to go to Senegal, West Africa. New Tribes focus is to reach unreached tribal groups. When the mission started in the 40's, the world had been in the midst of WWII, and so they used some terminology in those days that reflected what they had become used to, words like "boot camp." This was your preparation for going overseas to a foreign land. Today they call it Missions Institute, or M.I., but we "old timers" call it "boot camp" still.
Anyway, as part of our training we spent 6 weeks of living in the woods, so that we could get used to what it would be like to live somewhere that was remote, there was no corner store for supplies, and limited communication with the outside world. This was the days before cell phones as well!
A few weeks before our training, all the men went up the "hill" to start work on our houses. (the woods were on mission property) They couldn't come down all week. Tim said that gave them the chance to really focus on getting things done. Our house was pretty small, as we only had one child at the time and he was little. The house had an area for eating - Tim made a great table,on which we laid cardboard and I put a vinyl tablecloth on top, and benches, which I later covered with foam and fabric when we all moved up the "hill" to Jungle Camp. Then he built a wonderful 6 foot long couch. You know all that expensive willow furniture that was so popular a few years back? That is what we had. For comfort, we used cardboard from an appliance box on the back and seat portion and then foam. I covered it all with a great old quilt, and voila! We had a very comfortable place to sit, in front of our warm stove no less! Next to the sitting area we had the stove and the counter tops. The counter tops were wood from the forest and then cardboard on top, and covered with vinyl tablecloths. This made a sturdy surface and the ability to keep things wiped up easily!
The bedroom area, which also housed our shower, was cozy but built for comfort and storage as our space was the smallest site. For shelves we used crates from a local tea company, and for a counter top we did the same thing as for the kitchen counters. Our bed was built about 4 feet off the ground, so that we could use the underneath portion for storing supplies. This area of the plastic house was the dark landscaping plastic for privacy obviously! I was not so keen on looking at black plastic for 6 weeks so I brought up pretty "old" sheets and hung them on the walls! Nate's crib was built in to the corner of the room, right by the window. He loved to wake up in the mornings and look out and see what he could see!
We had no refrigeration, only a metal trash can in a hole in the ground to keep things cool. Part of my training was to learn how to prepare foods that don't require refrigeration. Did you know that mayo can keep for weeks without refrigeration, IF it has never been refrigerated? And eggs? We bought our eggs at a local Amish farm, fresh from the chickens, and we didn't have to refrigerate them at all! I also learned to can meat, and we also brought canned meat such as tuna, chicken, and bacon. Did you know that some places (at least in the early 90's) you could buy bacon that had been canned? It was uncooked and very salty. I would rinse the bacon in cold water over and over before using. It was very good. Our stove had a metal top, which made clean up a breeze, and with most of the meat already cooked in the canning process, meals were easy as well. I made bread and rolls a few times a week.
Part of the training is to get you used to how long it takes just to live when you don't have all our modern conveniences. We had to start a fire in our firepit outside every morning and in our stove, so we would bank both fires at night. The outdoor firepit was so that we could heat water (also to burn trash) for dishes or laundry in large kettles! You have to think ahead, because you cannot just turn on your hot water faucet!
We landscaped our place with ferns and rocks from around the area. I had cute curtains at the windows, and fabrics ( old curtains and things kept just for jungle camp) that had similar colors in them. We made it our home. We had a hammock out front that Tim and Nate napped in everyday after lunch. We had people over in the evenings.
It was a huge learning curve! I grew up in Southern California, after all. Even though we used to go camping and hiking, what did I know about doing anything from scratch?
What wood burns long and burns hot? Do you know? It is very important to know for cooking! The hard woods are the best and maple is a great one! Did you know that Dogwood is a hardwood and really difficult to nail? Not great for making furniture, unless you are lashing your pieces together! For laundry I used a manual washer, with a hand agitator. This was done by moving the lever side to side. Then put each item through the wringer, into rinse water, and then through the wringer again. Then they all got hung on the line to dry.
At times, our mail was brought to us, and sometimes it was held. When you are on the mission field and in a remote location, you are dependent on the buyers for the field and to the mission pilot to make sure you get your supplies. If the plane was broken down, you may not get supplies for a while.
Today, there are few remote tribes. Civilization has crept in all over the world. It makes being a missionary easier. Small towns even have the internet. Missionaries had use skype to talk "face to face" with their loves ones around the world. The need is still there however for missionaries to share the gospel with people who haven't heard the Good News of Jesus.