“I’m putting words together! And they’re making sense! Okay, so my English may be going downhill fast, but what’s a girl to do?
Seriously, I love languages, and words, and new friends, and communication. And the more time I spend with the ladies, girls, and little ones, the deeper grows…”
With that my randomly jotted musings were interrupted, right in between the page about my first trip through the jungle with Neno friends, and a page with random vocabulary (who would have thought blisters, trash, hair elastic and “I’m going to grill fish” would have ended up on the same list, after all?)
Although the thought remained unfinished in my notebook, I remember exactly what was growing deeper. Please allow me to continue.
“And the more time I spend with the ladies, girls, and little ones, the deeper grows…my desire to learn from them, to become part of them, to meaningfully communicate with them. If only we could engage in heart-to-heart conversations about life, love, family, frustrations and the Bible. I would love to share my testimony, and the Gospel, the joy we can experience in following Jesus, and so much more.
That day will come, Lord willing, by a large measure of His grace and lots of determined effort – the day when the language and culture barriers are broken down and I am ready and able to share in fluent Neno, in culturally appropriate ways. And while my heart wishes that there were some secret program to make that possible today, I know that isn’t the way it works. Time and patience are required.
So for now, it is exciting enough to be learning hundreds of nouns, dozens of verbs, and many random phrases. Moments of insecurity are normal in the mental struggle of putting words to objects and situations, sometimes followed by a satisfying adrenaline rush, the reward of getting something right. And even better, I am learning from new friends who are eager to teach, quiz, laugh and correct. It’s been wonderful so far, and as soon as I get back to the village there are countless language and culture lessons yet to enjoy! In the meantime, please excuse me while I go review that random vocabulary page and attempt to successfully put a few more words together.
What are the possible combinations? Maybe the noun trash can be used in this sentence…“I’m going to grill trash.”
Most of this post came from a journal entry, straight from my heart, posted here with the goal of sharing this adventure honestly and sincerely with you – both the good and the bad. You’ve already seen the ugly, after all! My fingers are looking pretty decent tonight, by the way. Not quite ready for the back-to-“normal” photo shoot, but hopefully soon!
Location: Neno village.
Date: April 26, 2016.
Already feeling that I am in over my head, having bitten off more than I can chew. Less than 2 weeks on the field. How can I be overwhelmed already?
My brain feels overloaded, tired, saturated, and incapable of remembering the dozen “Survival Phrases” (greetings and pleasantries) I am trying to cram into it.
Incessantly itching bug bites are driving me insane.
An inflamed and infected left thumb is not only painful, but taking care of it wastes so much time.
Diminished amenities and conveniences (and the thumb condition) make daily tasks take longer.
24 hours here just are not as productive as 24 hours might be somewhere else. And, starting next week, I wonder how I will be able to organize my time and energy (already diminished due to the heat) to fit in the required 8 hours a day of Culture and Language Acquisition, which I am still super-excited to officially begin.
And there are a couple other frustrations as well. Nothing major, truly, but all the little things add up to OVERWHELMING.
But I remember what I prayed just last night– “Father, make me a warrior fit for the battle.” What prompted such a prayer? Don’t worry; the days of tribal wars ended in this region almost forty years ago. It was my evening Bible reading.
1 Chronicles 12 talks about mighty men who came to David in Ziklag. Wimpy warriors, step aside! These men were helpers of the war, arriving at a time when David needed them. There were battles to be fought, families to be defended, dangers to be faced. Yet these men put their lives on the line. They must have believed that David was a leader worth following, and that the cause he was fighting for was worth the sacrifices and suffering they would endure to fight alongside him.
The Bible records the names of some of these mighty men – Ahiezer, Joash, Jeziel, Pelat, Berachah, Jehu, Ismaiah, Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Josabad, Eluzai, Jerimoth, Bealiah, Shemariah, Shephatiah, Elkanah, Jesiah, Azareel, Joezer, Jashobeam, Joelah, Zebadiah, and men from the tribe of Gad.
Although their names appear in the pages of Scripture, they certainly aren’t famous. At least I hadn’t remembered any of them specifically, despite reading 1 Chronicles dozens of times, and knowing that a band of mighty men helped David. But David was the famous one.
Yet these dedicated men fought alongside David in times of difficulty, stress and uncertainty. Verse 8 says, “And of the Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold to the wilderness men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains.”
More than anything, I want to be a mighty woman, a helper of the war. It’s not my war; I’m not the leader (Thank goodness! That would be a mess. I’m happy just being a helper). Jesus is the one in charge here. And He is waging war right here in this village, not against the Neno, but FOR the Neno, against the enemy who wants to destroy these precious people. There is so much at stake; their lives, their families, their culture, their future, their eternity.
In light of all this, I too have separated myself, not into the wilderness but into a native village. Why? It’s because Jesus is a leader worth fighting alongside, and His cause is worth any sacrifice or suffering that I might go through in this war. After all, Jesus already DIED to save the Neno people (as well as every other person on earth) from sin and death.
As a great missionary once said, “If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” C.T. Studd, 1860-1931
How I pray that in the strength of Jesus I will prove to be a woman of might, a woman ready for the battles which lie ahead, leaving all my wimpy-warrior tendencies behind. May I run strong, as fast as wild pigs through the jungle. May my face be like a jaguar (since there are no lions in the Amazon), focused, determined, and unafraid in the face of obstacles, refusing to give up even when the going gets tough.
You may be in the thick of life’s war right now, my friend. If not, battles and struggles are sure to come at some point. May I challenge you with something? Make absolutely sure that you know who and what you are fighting for. If your leader isn’t worth following, your suffering will be pointless. If your cause isn’t worth dying for, please don’t waste your time and yourself living for it either.
But if you are fighting for Someone who deserves your loyalty, Something that goes far beyond this world, you already know that the battle is worth any risk and any cost. So run strong, fight hard, and never look back. I’m praying for you tonight, that in Jesus’ strength you will be a mighty warrior, ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
One day, when the pain from my skin infections was especially high, Isadora commented to her mom, “I wish I had brought my doctor kit to fix Miss Paulette.”
LOOKING UGLY ISN’T SO BAD
On another occasion, her pity and compassion levels must have lower than normal because she glanced at my fingers and legs and told me, “You look ugly.” Lorena exclaimed, “Isadora!” who defended herself to me, “I didn’t say you ARE ugly. You just LOOK ugly.” Hahaha. I’ve never met a three-year-old capable of offending me (their cuteness always surpasses their bluntness or even their violent rage). Besides, in this case, Isadora was partially correct. Both my fingers and legs were beyond ugly; they were hideously infected and disgusting. So I told her that right now, they were ugly, but hopefully they wouldn’t be that way forever.
MEXICANS IN THE VILLAGE?
This story requires translation, but hopefully it will still be funny.
We were sitting around the table eating a bedtime snack, when Isadora, who was peeling her tangerine (MEX-E-RI-CA), suddenly almost dropped it and exclaimed, “My Mexican almost fell!” (In Portuguese, the word for Mexican is MEX-I-CA-NA, so it’s a reasonable mistake for a three-year-old. Nonetheless, Juliana and I burst out laughing at the idea of Isadora’s Mexican falling on the floor.
Lorena, who also had no clue what a Mexican is, chimed in, “Speaking of Mexicans, we still haven’t eaten the sugar cane the villagers gave us.”
Mexican – MEX-I-CA-NA
Sugar cane – CA-NA
So you can see why one word would remind her of the other.
After Juliana and I finally finished laughing, we gave the girls a brief lesson in geography, social studies, and ethnic groups. Hopefully now they know the difference between Mexicans, tangerines, and sugar cane so they can go through life without getting them confused.
One day, when I returned to the house, Lorena was armed with a homemade bow and arrow (made of string and thin sticks, with a pencil stub as an arrow), a determined look on her face. Apparently she had been hunting butterflies, which was a surprising switch after her endeavors earlier in the week, to catch butterflies and take care of them.
Normally, Lorena is extremely sensitive and compassionate. She has been known to cry and get upset with her parents for killing “poor tarantulas” which invaded the house. So it was quite shocking that a couple days could transform butterflies from friends to hunting targets.
Fortunately for the butterflies, Lorena’s aim wasn’t that great. Tired of constantly missing the targets, she moved on to bigger and better game…the village chickens.
After 15 minutes or so, she reported, with a gleam in her eye, “I almost killed a chicken.” “Really?” I replied, trying not to laugh at the idea of a pencil stub being that deadly. “Yes, I hit it and it ran away fast. I think it was hurt bad,” she boasted. Living among the Neno, their hunting culture must be rubbing off on this child. Although later when I asked Lorena where our supper was, she just looked at me and giggled as if that were a crazy question.