Six Ways that ACL is like a Tree [ Becoming – Part 11 ]

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


Tacked onto the bulletin board next to my desk, along with an assortment of other ACL papers, in three languages, is “The Missionary’s ACL Manifesto,” a reminder of how I should think and act every day on this journey of becoming.  This manifesto is a set of personal declarations for the learner.  It is based on ACL’s six tenets, which are illustrated by a tree and three supporting principles, which can be compared to sun and rain, pruning and feeding, and soil preparation.

Without further ado, I present to you,

The Missionary’s ACL Manifesto

I will work to build relationships with, and interact with as many people as possible.
I will learn mostly from the context of what the people are doing and saying.
I will spend most of my time away from paper, home and office, and be out observing, interacting and participating in the real life of the people.
I will spend significant time trying to understand and be understood.
I will spend more time in real communication than on study alone or in mere repetition for practice’s sake.
I will appreciate the value of evaluations, both to determine my progress and to fine-tune my CLA efforts toward reaching my goal.
I will be disciplined, work hard and seek help when I need it.
I will seek out and appreciate help and advice, and will take advantage of all input by applying it to myself.
I won’t compare myself to others, and will follow a multi-style approach.

This evening, as on many others, my evening reflection includes manifesto-based assessment of the day just gone by.  To what extent was each declaration fulfilled in today’s ACL activities?  How can I live out these tenets and principles even better tomorrow?  How can I deepen my roots in this culture, intentionally, purposefully, growing and becoming?  What steps can I take tomorrow towards the goal of producing fruit of linguistic, social and cultural proficiency?

CLA tenets

Reflections on July 26 ACL:


Interaction with almost everyone in the community today!  One family’s daughter and son-in-law arrived from another village, and I forgot to go over and greet them, so need to remember to do that tomorrow morning.

I had the chance to help out two adult friends…nothing big, but even little things can be a blessing and mean a lot in relationships.

  • Photocopying attendance forms for Xibu, who is the government-paid teacher for the kindergarten – fourth grade students in our village. The government hasn’t been sending supplies to them, which is becoming not only a frustration but a real handicap in the children’s education.
  • Printing out a copy of James chapter three, recently translated into the sister language by a missionary at the base whose primary ministry is Bible translation. He e-mailed it to me to get feedback from people here.  One of the native believers here in the village, who read it a couple nights ago, asked for his own copy of James 3 so he can adapt it into their language.  It is exciting to see this man’s initiative and love for the Word of God.

Little friends came over to hang out and play with my toys, today…okay, that happens almost every day!  I played with them for a few minutes before going back to studying, took photos of them wearing my huge sunglasses, let them spit their apple peels all over my floor (it is made of dirt, remember), and cleaned up the mess later.  One of the three-year-olds even “helped” me with photocopying in the evening.  He got a big kick out of pushing the button and watching the paper feed into the printer and then come out.


This tenet was fulfilled beautifully today.  Community hanging-out time in the morning, class with the children (since Thursday is their tribal history day), and watching steps in the processes of 1) weaving a sifter 2) making pottery, and 3) crafting some sort of item that goes on a person’s head.  I need to follow up on all of these, but especially the last one, because it was in the beginning stages today and I really don’t understand what it is going to be.


4 out of 6 hours were out in the community, away from my desk, so this one was certainly accomplished.

Comprehension-Based and Communication-Focused

These tenets are very easy to achieve when spending time with people.  It would be rather absurd to spend hours with friends without talking, trying to understand and be understood.  We are getting pretty skilled at “negotiating meaning,” an entertaining activity that language learners do with their language helpers, who should get a prize for patience.

I engaged in plenty of conversations today, about things happening in the village, how my family is doing, future plans, the culture events I participated in, tension going on between the teachers and the government organization responsible for the oversight of native schools, funny things the children did or said, and much more.


Need to improve on this tenet tomorrow.  I could have been more disciplined today by planning my schedule better.

The fact that I was awake until past midnight with back pain and headache, and still woke up shortly after 5 AM was a contributing factor to low productivity, but should motivate me to be more intentional, not slack off and waste time. Although I also did do laundry tonight, which, along with the accompanying bathroom-washing task, is a nearly 3-hour chore.

So instead of being frustrated for only doing 6 hours of ACL instead of the hoped for 8, I am letting it go today, but will make a more solid plan for tomorrow…and stick with it.  .


Today I followed some specific recent advice from a consultant on how to handle a difficult ongoing situation in a culturally-appropriate and godly manner.


Some plans for specific multi-style learning strategies didn’t work out to do today because the friends whose help is needed were busy, so I’ll try again tomorrow.

Another Day Closer to Four Thousand Hours!

Big jungle tree…I think this is a Brasil nut tree.

Overall, I would call this yet another successful day in my ACL journey.  After turning off the laptop and flashlight, I’ll go to bed…with a grateful heart.

First of all, I thank Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Creator of this world we live in, and the Giver of every good thing in our lives.  Each sucessful day here is a victory by Him and for Him.

I am thankful for God’s Word, and the precious promises it contains for us who follow after Him.  The following verses were part of drawing me to personal faith in Jesus when I was four years old.  Now they now encourage me in ministry, as I seek to know Jesus more deeply and make Him known in dark placed, bringing forth fruit in His great harvest field.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.    Psalm 1:1-3

Do you know who else I thank God for tonight? I am deeply grateful for my village friends, prayer partners, family members, financial supporters, and blog readers.  Some of you fit into more than one of those categories.  Even though you are not here right now, your encouragement and partnership on this journey contributed to making today an ACL success.

Thank you!


Redeeming (and Recording) the Time [Becoming – Part 10]

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


In the last five posts, we looked at “the Four Ps” which run my life help me organize ACL activities and use time wisely, learning from the culture events happening around the village, in the jungle, on the river, or anywhere else.

You will probably remember several references to amounts of time spent on each of the Ps.  Did you wonder how an ACL learner is supposed to keep track of all that?  Well, you have come to the right place for the answer!

Let me introduce you to an ACL form called the Monthly Report.  For each day, it has boxes for each of the Four Ps and some of their subdivisions, in order to record how ACL time is spent, rather than just reporting a daily total of hours.

Pictured below is a real sample of my hours for the first half of November.  The reason it isn’t from a more recent month is that I started planning for this series back in the fall, and at that time did an English version just for you.  Forms are normally filled out in Portuguese to submit to our ACL consultant, which also explains the white-out and rewritten words.

November 2017, Monthly Report.  This link: img051 should take you to the pdf version, which is clearer and easier to read, except you have to turn your head sideways.  

The expectation of our field leadership and ACL consultant is that missionaries would spend a minimum of 40 hours each week on ACL.  These 40 hours can be organized according to each missionary’s preferences, based on the people group, living situation, family status, and other factors.

Some missionaries do five 8-hour days, with 2 days off, reminiscent of a typical full-time job.  Others have different schedules. So far, I have gone through several “phases” in my personal planning.

For awhile, there was no point in planning for a weekly “day off” because I was loving ACL and being with my friends so much that there was genuinely no felt need or desire for a break.  (It does look like I took one full day off in November, though; nothing is written on the 11th). But normally, what would I do all day by myself?  After a few hours of cleaning, reading, cross-stitch, and listening to downloaded sermons and radio programs, I’d probably get bored or lonely, and end up going to spend time with friends, which involves language, culture, and relationships…ACL!

That has all changed now that Wi-Fi has been installed in the village.  Yes, yes, just writing that sounds crazy.  And it’s certainly ironic that we only have power for 2-3 hours a day, (except when the diesel runs out…tonight will be our last night of electricity until more is purchased) so we can’t have a fridge, but we’ve got Wi-Fi!

So all of a sudden, there are so many things that can be done on days off!  I can skype with my family, blog, look for new recipes, listen to sermons on RightNow Media, watch a cooking show or movie.  And it has been good to spend one day a week “disconnected” from the world in which I am semi-immersed here in the jungle, to reconnect with family and just get some down time to relax my tired brain.

So, since June 15th, I am in a new season as far as scheduling.  A few strategic changes to simplify diet and routine have reduced stress while increasing available time to be spent on…you guessed it!  ACL!

My current personal goal is 10 hours a day which would be 60 hours/week, with one day off.  Considering the 40-hour mission expectation, this gives plenty of flexibility for unanticipated circumstances.  A few recent “for instances”

  • Discovering a major infestation of thosands of tiny ants in my food bins.
  • Washing dishes in the river for a few days due to broken water pump for the community well.
  • Migraines.
  • Spending extra hours alone with Jesus after finding out discouraging news.

When these or other unexpected circumstances arise, since my working goal is already higher than it has to be, I can take a few hours (or the whole day when a migraine is bad enough) to deal with the situation, then go back to work, knowing that we are still “ahead of the game” as far as hours go.

And just to make sure it doesn’t sound like I’m overdoing it or becoming a missionary workaholic, remember that I truly love language learning, and my friends here are terrific.  Spending time with them is a delight, not a chore.  Most of the hours tracked each week symbolize a high percentage of fun.

And while the goal of 10 hours is always on my mind, it’s not a burden, but more like an extra-bonus challenge, resulting in prayers like, “Jesus, let’s see if we can do 10 hours today, okay?”  But when it doesn’t happen, it’s fine, like yesterday, when the intense heat drastically reduced a certain North Country girl’s productivity to the point where by 11 AM, I had accepted the fact that it would be an 8-hour day.

Now let’s go from days and months to the big picture.  According to the consultants and missionaries who have already finished ACL, after four thousand hours, a learner should be fluent enough in the language with sufficient understanding of the culture to begin teaching the Word of God.  Four thousand hours!

So these hour sheets are more than just required reports for leadership.  They are more than proof that I am doing my job and not just hanging out with friends in the Amazon jungle…oh, wait, hanging out with friends in the Amazon jungle IS my job.  But these logs are more than just an interesting record of our activities together.

Every hour tracked on these forms is an hour invested with a purpose, toward a specific goal.  As days and months march on, my ACL hours accumulate, pushing ever closer to 4,000, that elusive but reachable number.  Monthly totals are a recorded testimony to the learning of words and phrases, gaining of experience, assimilation of culture, and deepening of relationships.

Each hour spent in ACL is one hour further into the journey of becoming who God is calling me to be in this place, one hour closer to being ready to communicate God’s Word clearly to my dear friends in their heart language.  The time is short; their need is great; the task is urgent.

Although I often fall short of this, my heart’s desire is not just to “get the hours in,” but to make every ACL hour and minute count – for language learning and for eternity. Will you pray that God will help me in this area?  I want to view these hours not merely as time invested toward an important goal, but as precious opportunities to be a light and a witness on the journey. 

Oh that I might learn well, laugh often, love deeply, and live for Jesus only!

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  – Ephesians 5:15-17

PROCESS for Progress. (3rd P) [Becoming – Part 9]

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


In the ACL journey, the 3rd P is sometimes a challenge to keep up with.  Why?  First of all, frankly, when there are events happening and people nearby, it is sometimes hard to sit in front of the laptop and concentrate.

What if I am missing a great Participation opportunity in Xibu’s kitchen next door?  The bits of conversation I can hear sound interesting, and the other ladies are there right now!  And maybe no worthwhile Culture Events will be happening later when I am done with filing these language notes.  Processing is important, but it can always wait until another time…

Such are the thoughts that sometimes run through this Culture/Language learner’s little brain, either distracting me from Processing or convincing me to Participate instead.  There are also days, however, when I can happily spend hours processing if needed, learning from and enjoying the progress thus attained.

According to the ACL program, out of an 8-hour day, 45 minutes to 2 hours are supposed to be spent processing.  Since our electricity is inconsistent, sometimes there is a valid reason for getting woefully behind, and then catching up later, since I use the laptop and printer to Process.

Our village owns a generator, and we all contribute money or diesel from time to time, so that we can have electricity for 2 or 3 hours each night.  However, there is no organized system for collecting money, purchasing diesel, or computing the rate at which it is used, so sometimes we go without electricity for a week or more, with only a night or two of electricity before the diesel runs out again.  Thankfully, I have a spare battery for the laptop, but if I do a normal amount of Processing and some non-ACL writing, both batteries are typically used up in about 5 days.

But what is processing?  It is storing and organizing data – photos, audio recordings, and the pages of linguistic notes collected each day.  Processing also involves transcribing some texts so that I can focus on learning new vocabulary and grammar from them.

I file observations about how this culture thinks, believes, views the world around them, and understands the Bible.  These observations will be helpful in the future as I prepare to clearly communicate God’s truth in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them.

Accustomed to teaching the Bible using methods suited to a Western culture, I will need to learn new approaches to teaching that work here.  Please note that the message will be the same.  Just as God Himself never changes, the truth of His Word is also unchanging, crossing all cultural boundaries.  However, the way God’s truth is presented can and should change depending on the audience with whom we are attempting to communicate.

New (to me) Jungle Trivia:  In May, there are swamplands within walking distance of our village!  Pristine, eerily beautiful, seemingly untouched by time and humanity.

Process time is also when that I take note of difficult vocabulary, words with tone differences and grammar patterns or sentence structures that I always seem to mess up.   Finding these challenges is fairly simple; the challenge is coming up with dynamic drills or learning exercises to use during Practice sessions.

To give you some examples of the Processing I’ll be doing this next week (May 19th-25th), here are the texts I was able to record during the last week.  Not included are the many short word or phrase texts recorded during the week; these are only the longer ones that require more time to process.

  1. Text recorded with the village grandma (she is the chief’s mom and grandma or great-grandma to over half of the people who live here), “Coatcoara”, with me asking questions about fire in the the olden days.  She answered those, then talked about their traditional drink which used to be fermented to the point of being alcoholic and causing drunkenness at festivals.
  2. “Coatcoara” again, this time talking about the different clans in their tribe.
  3. Coatcoara, this time being interviewed by Xibu and her 1st-4th grade students for their history class. Coatcoara is the last person alive who was part of the group that made the first contact with “white people” (Brasilians), and told us that story.
  4. Legend or folk tale about a man made of rubber, recorded by a man from another village, whose name, translated, is New Path.
  5. Short conversation with New Path and his wife.
  6. Another long legend or folk tale told by New Path. I didn’t actually understand a lot of it, so will save it to process at a future date, when my language level is higher.
  7. Text with a friend talking about guests coming to our village later that day, preparations to be made for them, and her happiness about receiving guests.

Often, I transcribe texts, typing them out word-for-word.  Later on, during the Practice stage, I ask a friend (whose official title, in the ACL manual would be CLH – Culture and Language Helper, but I normally just call them friends) to correct the transcription and help me understand any difficult parts of the texts.  Other times, instead of transcribing the text, we simply listen together, and the “CLH” helps me understand the difficult (to me!) parts of the text.

Technically, these texts are supposed to be based around culture events, but some of the texts lately have revolved more around stories, events of the past or how things were done in “the olden days.”

Also on my current Processing to-do list is:

  • 20 pages of notes in my Field Notebook, that need to be transferred to the computer.
  • Organize photos from the last two or three weeks into their proper Culture Event folders on the computer.
  • Print photos of objects or activities for which I need to practice vocabulary.
  • Re-read articles about grammar of the “sister language” to help me understand how the language works.
  • Enlist assistance to translate example sentences from “sister language” into ours, to help me master grammar concepts.

Thank you for reading this post until the end, despite the drudgery of a not-very-exciting blog about transcribing texts and filing photos.  Do you ever feel like your career or ministry or life itself is mundane and unrewarding?  Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel that no matter how hard you work, you see very little progress.  Well here is a verse that the Lord has used countless times to speak to my discouraged heart.  Hopefully it will encourage you too.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 15:58

No matter what one’s job title or daily routine is, for the servant of God, all work is to be done for Him, and viewed from His perspective, as an occupation that has the potential to make an eternal impact.

And let me remind you that “servant of God” is a term that that includes all we who believe in Jesus, not just people who leave their home country to go live in the Amazon rainforest.  So don’t put me in some separate group, okay?  We are all created for good works, commanded to preach the Gospel,  love others,   deny ourselves to follow Jesus, and do everything we do in His name.

What does this look like for you in your current season of life?  Do you need a changed perspective regarding the eternal, Jesus-centered purpose of your work or daily routine?  How can I pray for you as you serve God where He has placed you?

Today, I need to remember that this P is not simply “process for progress”, although that does have a nice jingle-bell ring.  These 4 Ps that set the rhythm for my days and weeks are more than a useful pattern from the ACL manual.  They are Ps with a purpose: to lift high the name of Jesus in yet another language in His world!

Oh friends, please continue praying for me and my friends here in the village as we work together through ACL learning cycle, day after day, week after week.

Plan. Participate. Process. Practice. Plan. Participate. Process. Practice.

Pray that I will not grow weary in this journey, but will stay strong in the Lord, keep my eyes on Jesus, and finish well.  Pray for a bountiful harvest to be reaped in due season!  The firstfruits of this crop will be seen in my life – the inevitable changes involved in becoming someone God can use in this place among this people.  They will include fluency in the language, deep relationships in the culture, and an ability to clearly communicate God’s truth, all by the power of His Spirit.

And after that, we look ahead to an abundant harvest in other lives, as people from this culture believe in Jesus, become His disciples, translate and learn His Word in their heart language, and take His message beyond their world to others who have yet to hear.

Do you have the faith to see all this too, dear readers, and join us in praying until it becomes reality?