Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village
According to an online dictionary, the expression “level with” means
to be straightforward with someone about something; to be sincere or truthful about someone or something.
Well, today, I’d like to level with you about my progress in ACL. I’d like to level with you, but I’m not going to.
This is not because I want to be indirect, insincere or dishonest about my progress.
Actually, I cannot level with you about this today because I need someone to level with me first.
As many of you have probably experienced in your workplace, ministry, family, or other areas of life, self-evaluation is a challenging task. Can you imagine trying to evaluate your own progress in learning a tonal language spoken by less than one thousand people? (In other words, there are no youtube videos, vocabulary lists, or handy little DIY proficiency quizzes online). Well, I can imagine trying to evaluate my own progress, but I sure can’t evaluate it accurately.
Enter the ACL consultant! His (or her) job is to evaluate the progress of missionaries who are doing ACL, to figure out what level they are at.
But maybe you are asking, “What levels? I thought you only need to learn the language so you can teach the Bible, make disciples, and plant a church.” True, only that.
However, working towards that goal, in the ACL program, there are 4 distinct levels – Basic, Progressing, Capable, and Proficient. Each of these is divided into 3 sub-levels. These levels are used to describe and measure the learner’s language ability. Each level has a different focus, which determines the most helpful learning activities, study strategies, and percentages of time spent on each of the 4 Ps.
In order to be approved to teach God’s Word here, I must reach sub-level 3 of the 3rd level, in both language ability and understanding of the culture. Based on research and our mission’s experience, this is the minimum level necessary to communicate Biblical truth clearly, without creating confusion.
My language and culture skills are definitely NOT at sub-level 3 of the Capable level yet, but I am very eager to find out my current level, and get tips for accelerating future progress.
The star in the levels diagram above marks the goal, the official finish line for the ACL journey!
Reaching that 3rd sub-level of Capable does not mean the end of learning and becoming, but the end of full-time ACL. It will mark a transition into teaching ministry, while still continuing to learn about the culture and improve language ability. The Proficient level isn’t pictured in the diagram for some reason.
Would you like to know a secret, though? Reaching the proper level does not guarantee that a missionary will communicate successfully.
The strategies and levels and learning cycles and evaluations of the ACL method are all helpful in working towards a measurable goal, and achieving it more quickly. We use these tools, but we do not depend on them. They would never be adequate to accomplish our objectives.
In the ACL journey, success is not attained by the method itself. Nor is effective ACL achieved through the missionary’s intelligence or ability or dedication to the task. Successful ACL is absolutely impossible without the work of the God of the Impossible.
That goes for teaching ministry as well. No matter how fluent and assimilated into the culture a missionary becomes, clear communication of God’s truth is not guaranteed by reaching the level-with-a-star and getting approved by a consultant.
As the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2,
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Clear communication of Biblical truth, in any language or culture, is dependent on the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Fervent prayer is essential. These are truths God started impressing on my heart in a deeper way last year.
There. At least I leveled with you about something today.
So, please pray that God will empower me to do my level best during the next 10 days of ACL, and also during the evaluation itself – August 14th-16th. Those will be an intense and mentally exhausting three days, for my coworker, myself, our consultant, and the two language helpers who will be working with us.
My earnest hope and prayer is to come out of the evaluation amazed by Jesus and the mighty workings of His power. Whatever level has been achieved, may the evaluation results make us all say, “Wow! Look what Jesus is doing! JESUS is amazing!”
Hopefully the results will also encourage the hearts of my faithful friends and language helpers with evidence that God truly is helping us and that in Him, our labour is not in vain. And will inspire you to praise God with us, assuring you that your prayers and participation in this journey are making a difference. Together, with His continued blessing, we will arrive at that star.
God is faithful, and He is able! After all, He is the One who created my ears, brain, and mouth. He has enabled me and sustained me, even through seasons of challenge and suffering. He brought me here and gave me precious, meaningful friendships in this Amazon village. He has planted in the hearts of our friends a hunger for His Word that is incredible to see.
I haven’t reached that star yet, but am still praying that God will give me the language this year, so that by the end of 2018 I will be fluent enough to teach His Word.
Will you believe with me for this, friends? Will you pray in faith, that the God of the Impossible would do great things in my heart, in this place, and among this people, for His glory?
What impossible dreams has God given you? What goals are you working towards for the name of Jesus? I would love to pray with you about these!