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.
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.
- 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.
- “Coatcoara” again, this time talking about the different clans in their tribe.
- 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.
- Legend or folk tale about a man made of rubber, recorded by a man from another village, whose name, translated, is New Path.
- Short conversation with New Path and his wife.
- 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.
- 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?