8 Things I Miss About the Village

Two of the most frequently asked questions as a missionary is finishing up home assignment are,

“Are you excited to leave? and “Are you excited to go back?”

IMGP8530

No one has ever asked me both of those questions, however. It is either the first or the second. I finally figured out that the reason either one of those questions seems complicated is because answering both questions is the only way to give an accurate picture without oversimplifying the situation.

So are you ready for both answers?

No, I am not excited to leave. Saying good-bye to family and friends that I love is always painful and hard and sad.

Yes, I am very excited to go back. I love the friends and the life God has given me in the jungle and even while I have loved being here, have missed being there at the same time.

After explaining that paradox to some friends a couple weeks ago, someone asked what I miss about the village.

Well, the biggest and obvious answer is my friends who live there, but here a few specific descriptions, in no particular order, of things I miss.

  1. The effortlessness of spending time with people. Rather than calling to schedule something for the next day or week, or ask if someone is home so I can go visit, all I have to do is leave my house and walk around the village until I find someone sitting on benches outdoors or in their kitchen houses. Due to their culture’s natural hospitality and acceptance, and almost 3 years of intentional relationship-building, I am welcome to just walk in, sit down, or join in whatever activity might be happening, no questions asked, except for the traditional question like the one you ask friends when you first see them each day, “Did you wake up?” This lifestyle of togetherness and community is a wonderful way to live.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  1. The look of delight and pride on the face of one of my best friends when I get things right in their language, or ask an insightful question about the culture. She has invested countless hours in patiently teaching me, and we have grown so much together, as teacher and student, and as friends.
  1. Little children yelling at my door during my third or fourth shower (cool-off technique) of the day, “What are you doing?” Well, they can hear the water running, so they know I’m showering. They just want me to hurry up so I can let them in to come play with my toys. The funniest occasion was when the little girl who tries to take charge of every situation, yelled in the most demanding voice a 4-year-old could muster, “Hurry up and let us in, cuz these bugs are biting us!”, as if there were no other houses in the village where they could escape the bugs, and I was a horribly neglectful person for failing to grant immediate refuge. These little friends make me laugh so much. I thank God for all the children He has placed in my life who enjoy spending time with me.
  1. The peace and stillness after the generator is turned off, normally between 9 and 10 pm. After everyone has gone to bed, with the background music of singing birds and insects, it feels like it is just Jesus and I alone, with no one else awake in the world to interrupt our time together. Many nights I step outside for a minute or two to gaze at the starry Amazon sky that He created. Even if the day might have been filled with stress or physical pain or discouragement or tears or a sense of failure, the beauty of that sight never fails to fill my soul with wonder and stir my heart to worship our Creator and Saviour.
  1. Not needing to deal with money or shopping or errands or appointments for months at a time. 
  2. Seeing brightly-colored parrots and macaws fly overhead as I walk across the village and remembering again, with a thrill, that I live in the real, live, Amazon rainforest.IMGP9652
  1. Being engaged in a lifestyle of ministry in which I am reminded on a daily basis that I do not have what it takes to do what Jesus has called me to do. That is true in the States as well, but it isn’t quite as apparent. In a culture that I am still becoming part of but will never completely belong in, my incompetence and weakness is very obvious to everyone. I’m not strong enough or brave enough or smart enough or organized enough or healthy enough or spiritual enough. Whether it is my inability to adjust to the heat, cope with stress, pronounce words, keep bugs out of my food, use a machete, handle a complicated cultural situation, or trust God instead of worrying, I am in way over my head in the village. And this is good. Abiding in Jesus comes more naturally when we are constantly confronted with practical examples of the reality that we can do nothing on our own.watching ee
  1. The daily suspense of waking up with no idea what could happen on a given day, but knowing that if I am in the right place at the right moment, there will probably be exciting culture events or interesting conversations to participate in. Knowing that I’ve missed out on lots of events and conversations since July increases my anticipation to return and jump back into language and culture learning with my friends. Every day in the jungle is an adventure!

20181124_090118 (1)

I’m Already Going

à tere unkaliá.

I’m already going. I’m on my way.

One week left. In seven days I’ll be leaving this jungle village, leaving all of you. Oh, it’s not a permanent good-bye. But nine months seems like such a long time.

WhatsApp Image 2019-06-18 at 10.36.22
As this picture shows, I actually already left. Wrote this blog on June 10th, but just posting now.

Entreat me not to leave you. Where you are, I have come. Where you lodge, I also lodge. Your people have become my people.

Today I ask you, my beloved village friends, how can I leave this place of learning and becoming, where my mere attempts to talk or use your simple everyday tools like machetes result in laughter and memories and an occasional minor injury?

How can I spend nine months separated from you who have become my teachers and friends while I have, to some extent, in the process of learning your words and your ways, become one of you?

How can I say goodbye to you who have put up with me, given me the most delicious fish the world has to offer, and appreciated the simplest of my homemade cakes more than any other group of people ever has?

How can I leave my little house in the jungle, whose thatch roof and dirt floor in the kitchen delight the depths of my being in a way I never imagined architecture could?

How can I bid farewell to the stunning Amazon night sky that never fails to remind me of the greatness and power of our Creator and Savior?

Saying goodbye to you who are still longing for the Word of God in your language pierces my heart like a sharp deadly arrow that your people used to use.

While I desperately need a break from the heat and some of the physical and emotional challenges faced in recent months, I find myself reluctant to say goodbye to the intensity of life here. The incredible mixture of persistent pain and extreme grace has kept me clinging desperately to Jesus while falling deeper in love with Him. Why would I take a break from that?

But that “other world” where I was born and raised is part of God’s purpose and plan, just as essential to my calling as language and culture acquisition in your world is. Rest and different ministry opportunities and time with family and friends are other ways in which Jesus will show me His abundant mercy and grace. 

So I’m already going.

As a culture that values family relationships and honor very highly, it is easy for you to understand that I miss my family. You have expressed your happiness that I will soon see them again. I love all of you dearly, but obviously I also love my parents and sisters and brothers and grandparents and nieces and nephews and church family and other friends, and it isn’t right to stay far away from all of them forever.

A nephew was born five months ago that I haven’t yet seen. I am excited to meet him and hold him and watch him grow. I am excited to once again spend family time with my family, as you have graciously allowed me to spend almost three years with yours.

All the accumulated memories and shared experiences and solid friendships have already caused me to cry repeatedly at the thought of saying good-bye. When I told some of you about my tears and sadness, it totally made sense to you. Why wouldn’t I cry? While I’m excited to see my family, obviously I’ll miss you like crazy while I am far away in their land. And of course you’ll miss me just as much, especially when you see my empty little house. Goodbyes are awful. Togetherness is precious.

To my four-year-old friend:

Yesterday I almost cried when you and your cousin were here playing with my toys and sucking lollipops and saying the cutest, funniest things that little boys could say, wishing I could store these moments away for safekeeping like the treasures they are.

When I come back, you and your cousin won’t be four anymore. How can I leave?

You are a master of sass and sarcasm, in a tonal language that lends itself to such. There are so many stories to tell of the many ways you have brought me joy.

Like the recent day when you looked down at your feet and then at mine, exclaiming, in your most sarcastic tone, “Your feet are STILL white?”

And I rolled my eyes and laughed with delight. Yes, small friend, my feet were white on the day I met you when you were one year old, (how is it even possible that you were just one and now you’re four?) and they were still white last year, and last month. They are still white today, and as much as I wish that the tropical sun would change their tone to a lovely shade of brown like your feet, my feet will most likely still be white when I see you again in nine months.

Because I’m on my way. If I don’t, I won’t get to see my bubbly, blonde niece, born just three weeks before you, while she is four.

Her personality is similar to yours in many ways, I think. Teller of stories, roller of eyes, one who delights in life and makes people laugh even when she isn’t trying to do so.

But I know your personality better than hers. I need to spend this season there, to be present in her life, and get to know all of my nieces and nephews again, after being separated for much too long. They are already counting down the days until their “Tia Paulette” arrives.

So on Saturday, I will tell each one of you that I’m already going.

And each of you will tell me. “Go.”

Some of you will add, “Go well.”

There will be tears on both sides. But it will be okay.

imgp6012

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This week will be difficult physically, as I know my back will rebel against all the cleaning and organizing and lifting that remains to be done. It will be difficult emotionally as all of us face the upcoming farewell.

I am thankful for the roots of friendship that have grown deep in our hearts, and can’t be uprooted by distance, or by wild pigs as often happens to the manioc root in your fields. It would be far more painful if you didn’t care that I was leaving, or if I was eager to get away from you.

Although it won’t be an easy week, it will still be a good week. We will treasure these last days together. We will fit in a few more study sessions, go to the gardens a couple more times, and sit around talking in our kitchens, reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future. The opportunity to talk about goodbyes, relationships, language progress, dreams, the Bible and God’s work in our lives makes transitions so much easier than they used to be.

For while I cannot yet string your words together with perfection and skill, in the way you string beautifully-crafted coconut shell beads into traditional necklaces, at least I am finally able to string them together in grammatical and logical sequences that communicate thoughts and feelings and ideas in ways that can usually be understood.

WhatsApp Image 2019-06-18 at 10.36.23
Looking with wonder at one last cloud of Amazon butterflies.

After a few more heart-to-heart conversations and after the last goodbye, I will step into the leaky boat that normally smells like fish, cross the White River, and leave you, for now.

I’m already going. I’m on my way. Ã tere unkaliá.

WhatsApp Image 2019-06-18 at 13.57.01
The view right now from my kitchen table here at the mission base.  As of today I have exactly one week to get this apartment all cleaned, organized and packed up as well.

The Corn Speaks Again!

IMGP7888

I am the corn.

Whatever this means for today, for 2019, and for the remainder of the days You give me on this earth…

Dear Lord Jesus, I am available!

Another year is just about over; 365 days of adventures with Jesus to treasure up and ponder. Just like the last day of 2017 and 2016, this morning found me trekking through the jungle with friends, harvesting corn from their gardens and watching them work long hours to prepare tasty traditional dishes.

As usual, I reflect on the work of God in my heart and life, thanking Him for His good gifts of joy and suffering in 2018.

Please check out this story I wrote that was published online by Ethnos360, along with a few pictures from our village, including one of a dear friend.

And The Ear of Corn Speaks!

 

 

The Babies Someone Wanted

We forget many conversations almost immediately while others impact us so deeply that the words are etched on our minds forever.  In March, a friend, sitting on my kitchen bench, started an unforgettable conversation by saying, in a quiet, anguished voice, “I killed my baby.”  In response to my questions, she told me as much of the story as I could understand.  It wasn’t her choice.  My friend’s father-in-law didn’t want the baby for some reason, and said that she had to follow the cultural procedure of burying the baby alive and leaving it.  She told me how it’s cries grew weaker until it’s little life was over, and how she cried because she wanted and loved her baby.

SAM_5540.JPG

A few days ago (12-18 – it was about three weeks ago now), the little elderly grandma in our village told me a similar story from her youth.  In her case it was her own husband that didn’t want the baby and said it had to be buried.

On Monday, as part of ACL practicing, I decided to spend one of the hottest hours of the afternoon lying on the cool tile floor of the bedroom while listening to audio recordings.  That conversation with the grandmother was first on my review list.

So much for my scheduled hour of listening practice.  Three minutes and 18 seconds into the audio recording, I was bawling so hard I had to hit the pause button, and never did finish practice time that day.

These dear ladies still carry the weight of strong negative emotions decades after their babies were buried.  The emotion they both named was sadness, but their comments and facial expressions lead one to suspect the possibility that pain, trauma, bitterness, helplessness, guilt and anger also reside in their hearts. 

These women each lost a baby.

Babies they nurtured in their wombs for nine months, babies they wanted and loved, babies they were not allowed to keep.

I cried so long and hard today.  I cried for the countless babies in this culture who were left to die over the years, before the Gospel came.  I cried for the mamas who loved and wanted their babies, and still have not been comforted.  I cried for the dads and grandpas whose hearts were hardened toward these precious little lives.  I cried for the people groups that are still living in total fear and bondage, as my friends were just 42 years ago.  I cried for the sorrows and fears and questions that my village friends still face.  I cried about my own fears and insecurities.

If these things grieved my heart so deeply, why would I write about them and risk bringing sorrow to you?  Even as I write this, I’m not certain I will post it.  This is the third time I have written about similar cultural topics and my reactions, but the first time I have had the courage (or audacity) to post.  Perhaps the time has finally come to share this part of my heart and ACL adventure.  You want to know why?

First of all, because it’s hard to cry alone. 

I need you, my family and friends, to come alongside me in prayer.

Will you please pray that Jesus will fill me with courage and hope?  I’m not very strong or brave, friends.  Monday proved it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

As a result of the power of the Gospel and the changes that Jesus has already brought to this culture, the practice of burying “unwanted” babies ended years ago.  Praise the Lord!  By His grace, some of the enemy’s lies have been vanquished by Truth, and many dark places have been illuminated.

But it would be naïve to think that all is now well in this village and culture.  Yes, there is evidence of true joy, hunger for God, and Christian fellowship.  Yet darkness and lies and bondage and pain still exist among this precious people.  And how could it be otherwise?  They don’t have the Word of God in their language yet!

I want to make it very clear that I am not judging this culture or saying that it is worse than North American culture.  Our culture also has dark and tragic aspects that grieve my heart and would shock people from other countries.  Just as no individual human being is perfect, no people group is perfect.

Every people group has wonderful characteristics, and I prefer to share the parts of this culture that I love and appreciate and participate in.  But it would be dishonest to pretend that life here is completely lighthearted, one cool jungle adventure after another.

And that is the second reason I might actually post this.

Because you are part of the ministry team God is using to reach these people, so you need to know at least some of the hard, heartbreaking details. 

How will you be able to pray knowledgeably for us if I never tell you that this culture, like all others, is contaminated by sin and marked by darkness? 

How will you support us in the battle if you only know about the triumphs and not the defeats? 

How will you hold the ropes for me personally, your sister and daughter and friend, if you don’t know what makes me cry, or sometimes want to run away? 

Can I be very real with you, friends? Even though the very reason for being here is to shine Jesus’ light into this dark place, my own fears and insecurities show that darkness is still trying to claim a stronghold in my heart. 

20181206_183028

After two years of great fun, hard work, and dependence on Jesus, I can speak well enough to discuss serious topics and investigate slightly more profound aspects of this culture.  Thank you, Jesus!  But suddenly, since September, new questions have begun to trickle into my heart and mind.  On Monday that trickle turned into an overwhelming and unexpected flood…

What if I discover unspeakable hidden customs, not from this culture’s past, but from their present reality?

What if my trusted friends start telling me unbelievable things that shock and grieve me?

What if I can’t handle it? 

What if I’m not strong enough?

What if I don’t know what to say? 

What if I don’t have what it takes?

And, you can guess what happened next.  I started bawling again, this time out of fear instead of sadness, until the Holy Spirit quieted my heart with the realization that while my questions are real and valid, there is another question that trumps every single one.

“What if God’s grace is enough?”  And I worship God through the tears.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

That question is not a true “what if”, my friends.  The blazing truth revealed by that question answers all of my fearful questions.  Of course I’m not enough for these things.  And I don’t have to be.  Jesus didn’t bring me here because I am qualified or tough or have what it takes to do this job.  He brought me here because I am a weak, foolish, fearful vessel, and that is the kind He loves to use to demonstrate His power and glory and sufficiency.

God’s grace is enough. 

God’s grace is enough for me and for all my fears.  His grace is enough for the elderly little grandma and for all her grief.  God’s grace is enough for you, and whatever you fear or grieve today.  God’s grace is enough for this whole people group, for my home culture and your culture, and for all people everywhere.  And isn’t that the good news we celebrate this time of year?

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  Luke 2:10-14  (emphasis mine)

Will you please pray for me with regards to all of this? 

Will you please pray for these sweet elderly ladies whose hearts need God’s healing and peace? 

Will you pray for this people group as a whole, and for each individual, that Jesus’ light will shine brightly into the darkest hidden places, bringing freedom and life and joy? 

All of us, wherever we live and work, are in a battle.  Light versus darkness. Truth versus lies.  Good versus evil.  Faith versus fear.

sunset

What kind of darkness do you encounter in your community?  I would challenge you not to turn away from the lies, the tears, and the needs around you.

We who walk in the light do not need to fear the darkness.  Ask Jesus to show you the dark places where He wants you to shine.

And please feel free to comment or e-mail me with how I can be praying for you about these things.

13 Reasons I Probably Should Never Be Allowed to Visit the USA Again

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

IMGP2225 - Copy
Learning to see the world through new eyes, with new face paint, compliments of a teenage friend.  This paint is made from red seeds called “dough-cop”, and comes off after just one washing.

After a little more than 1 ½ years of living in a new culture with new friends, it is evident that I am becoming more like them.  I’m not just learning the language, after all, but living the language.  I am learning how to view the world through the eyes of my friends instead of the eyes of my birth culture.  While here, these changes are fantastic.  One goal of ACL is to become one of the people, to the point where I understand them and can relate to them in culturally appropriate ways.

The downside is that my behavior might not be considered…umm…normal in places outside of this Amazon village.

Honestly, I have picked up some habits that would be unacceptable at the very least (if not obnoxious) in the good ‘ol USA, and might even shock you a bit.  The list below is not intended to be derogatory or make fun of my host culture and their ways.  The fact that I actually DO all of these things here shows that I don’t have a problem with their culture and am adapting to it quite well.

My intention is simply to share more about becoming part of a new culture by comparing the differences in a humorous way.

To be completely candid, it would be just as easy to write a post…Why North Americans Should Probably Not be Allowed to Visit Our Village.  Some culturally normal behavior from the USA or Canada would be viewed as very strange or downright offensive here.  In the interest of relating to others in love, avoiding offense and living at peace with my new friends, I have learned to suppress certain habits and customs learned from North American and Brasilian culture.

All of these differences are not indicators of better or worse.  They are mere reflections of diversity.  God made all of us different, thankfully.  Wouldn’t it be boring if we all acted and thought and behaved exactly the same?  It is important to appreciate and value diversity.  And why not enjoy the funny side of it as well?

Besides, I need something to laugh at other than all the language mistakes I make.  Although those are quite amusing.  For instance, during my language evaluation last week, I told my friend, twice, very confidently, that yes, my entire family speaks Portuguese and only Portuguese.  We had a good laugh over that one.  For variety’s sake, though, sometimes I enjoy laughing at my new “normal” behavior, imagining what it would be like to bring such customs back to North America in my suitcase. 

Before you resolve to never invite me to your home or church, let me assure you that I intend to leave my new habits here in the jungle, suppressing any random third-culture urges.  So please do invite me over next time I’m back in North America!  I’ll be good (and as culturally normal as possible), I promise!  What would it look like if I did fail in this intention, however?

Well, I might…

  1. spit on your kitchen floor.
  2. fling small amounts of water, left in a cup or pot, onto the floor. Imagine my surprise when the wood or linoleum doesn’t immediately absorb the water like our lovely hard-packed dirt floor do.
  3. throw chicken bones or other undesirable scraps of food on your floor.
  4. practice the fine art of culturally appropriate nosiness. “Where are you going?”  “What did she say to you?”  “When are you going to town?”  “What are you doing?”  It probably wouldn’t take long for you inform me that in American culture, such things are none of my business.
  5. casually ask if your child (or you) have lice. You mean that’s not a good conversation starter?
  6. treat meat and potatoes like finger food.
  7. Carry a notebook around and write down phrases from every conversation, sometimes asking you to repeat yourself to make sure I record your statements word for word. (This isn’t actually part of the culture here, but it is something that a language learner is expected to do which has become part of my daily life.  I have even mastered the impressive skill of writing words in a notebook while walking on jungle trails, without falling down.  Usually the words are even decipherable).
  8. Ask to go along when you nonchalantly mention that you are going grocery shopping, hunting, or to visit your in-laws. Can’t miss a good cultural event, after all.
  9. Stand up in the middle of a church service (even the sermon) to go rearrange something that doesn’t look “just right” to me.
  10. Speak tonally.
  11. Make strange comments such as, “will there be electricity tonight?”, “I love refrigerators!”, “It’s morning, and the lights work!” (This also has nothing to do with the culture, but is a direct result of living in a place with only 2 or 3 hours of generator-provided electricity each day…okay, most days).
  12. Ignore compliments, as if I didn’t even hear you.
  13. Ask, “Did you wake up?” instead of saying good morning.
SAM_5830
Not included in the list is habitual posture which is extremely unladylike, although not nearly as uncomfortable as it looks.  It does tend to make one’s feet fall asleep unless weight is shifted frequently, however.

So, if some random person did happen to engage in such behavior, which number above would be the biggest irritation to you, personally?  Seriously, I’d love to know, so please answer!

Don’t worry though, your jungle-dwelling missionary friend will not annoy you in any of the ways listed above!  Except speaking tonally and making comments about loving refrigerators and the novelty of turning lights on in the morning…those might happen occasionally.

Are there any items on the list that you actually wish could be part of your culture and normal behavior? 

Which number would you most strongly advise that I never ever EVER do as a guest in someone’s home or church?

ACL Evaluations are finished and the Results Are In!

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

(Please excuse the rambling, and lack of editing in this post.  I am still exhausted, so my writing is not up to par and this is much longer than it should be, but I know some of you are eagerly waiting for ACL evaluation news, so want to share it before heading out for a morning of errands). 

Our ACL evaluations are over!  Last night I went to bed early – mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, although thankful that the last three days went well, and relieved that they were finally over.

Despite leaving us exhausted, these days were very good, positive days which included laughter and memorable moments, as we enjoyed time with our friends who came from the village specifically for our evaluations.  As Sergio told them, although he prefers to visit missionaries in the village, when necessary, it works just as well to do their ACL evaluations in the city.  The deciding factor is whether native language speakers are able to come to the city as well.  Without Xibu and her husband’s help, there would have been no way he could have evaluated our language levels.

Since arriving in the city on Saturday, from early morning until bedtime, in between other activities, I spent as many hours as possible reviewing vocabulary, talking aloud in the language for practice (alone in my apartment), listening to audio recordings, and reading over culture observations.  Oh, and running next door to bug the missionaries who are fluent in the sister language with questions about grammar.  They were so gracious, helpful and encouraging!

Although I certainly wasn’t able to review all the linguistic data collected (nearly two years spent in the village, after all!) the intense, focused studying helped a lot in keeping more words and sentence structures and information fresh in my mind.  Since Bible college days, intense, this strategy has always been productive for me.  The big difference since then is that I now stop studying at my normal bedtime instead of continuing late into the night.

Besides being helpful in preparation for the evaluation itself, these private study sessions revealed areas that I need to practice more with language helpers too, providing plenty of ideas for our study sessions back in the village the next couple months.

While here in the city, I had really wanted to make pizza as a special treat for Xibu and her family, Sergio, Denize (Okay, okay, also as a treat for me!  Not gonna pretend I don’t love pizza and have been wanting it for months), and that plan worked out well.  Everyone enjoyed the pizza, and since I love cooking and feeding people (at least in places with a refrigerator, air conditioning and access to grocery stores), it was a fun, relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and a break from language review.

So, are you wondering what an ACL evaluation really looks like?  Well, I had been wondering, and now I know.  While each church planting team and each ACL evaluation is different, ours went like this:

DAY ONE

Morning:  planning session – Sergio, Denize and I

Denize’s one-on-one meeting with Sergio

Afternoon: Denize’s language eval with Xibu and Iteran.  She has been here only four months.  Since the first level (Basic) of ACL focuses on learning words, Denize’s evaluation consisted mainly of  vocabulary.  “Name 15 types of fish.”  “15 different birds,” etcetera.  Also “survival phrases”, including greetings, simple questions, etcetera.

Early evening:  Pizza break!

Evening:  Denize’s culture evaluation with Sergio.

DAY TWO

Morning:  my one-on-one meeting with Sergio (8 AM – 10 AM)

My language evalulation with Xibu, Iteran, and Sergio.  Sergio gave me communication tasks, setting up the scenario to include one of my friends.  I was supposed to do most of the talking, but they ended up interacting a lot too, which worked out quite well.  He recorded these conversations with a voice recorder.  Yikes!  Nothing quite like the pressure of speaking in another language when your every word (including all the wrong words you know you’ll say) is recorded.

  1.  Sergio had come for a visit and Iteran asked me who he was.  I told hiim about Sergio’s family and work.
  2. I went to Xibu’s house and after a few pleasantries, she asked me about my family.  I told her about my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and some information about each one.
  3. Iteran asked if it were true that my family lives far away in the USA and wanted to know what it is like there.  (The purpose of this exercise is to show if the language learner is able to compare and contrast).  So I talked about the weather, squirrels, snakes, cows, and corn, comparing and constrasting details with how things are here.  For instance, “American squirrels are small and have bushy tails, just like the jungle squirrels.”  And, “There, if the snakes bite us, they don’t harm us, so we’re not afraid of snakes there.  Here in the jungle, we are very afraid of snakes, because their bite is dangerous.”
  4. Explain the process of how to make something simple.  First Sergio suggested cake, but I wanted to do something from their culture, not from Brasilian culture, so asked if I could talk about how to make the traditional manioc root drink.  My friend Xibu liked that idea better too.

Afternoon:  continuation of my language evaluation.  We listened to the recordings from the morning session, one sentence at a time.  I was asked to translate into Portuguese everything my friends said, to check my comprehension.  They were asked to translate into Portuguese everything I said, so that Sergio could understand.  Then they corrected each mistake, and Sergio would ask if I understood the difference between how I had actually said the phrase, and the correct way to say it.  I actually learned some neat things about the grammar of the language during this process, which took over three hours.  At the end Sergio asked me to translate phrases and questions from Portuguese into the tribal language.

Early evening:  Denize cooked a delicious supper for Sergio and our language helpers, and then their work was finished.  Good thing, because it was pretty tiring for them too.

Evening: team planning/strategy session.  At this point, we stepped away from the ACL side of things as Sergio talked with us on behalf of the mission leadership team (he is one of 6 members) about situations related to the overall ministry in this village and people group.  Lots of helpful information, advice, and strategies for moving forward and acting in a manner that glorifies God and represents our specific mission well, in its goals of church planting, discipleship, and Bible translation.

Late evening:  Denize and I were really excited about one of the topics covered in our team strategy session, so we talked for awhile.  (I will send a quick e-mail update out today or tomorrow to share that news!  Thinking about it kept each one of us up until way after midnight, when normal bedtime for both Denize and I is between 9:00 and 10:30, so you know it’s exciting).

Also, since we had run out of time for Sergio to do an oral check of my understanding of the culture, he gave me a list of cultural topics for self-evaluation.  It only took about half an hour, while I ate leftover pizza, at 11 PM, just like a good paulistana (person who lives in the municipality of São Paulo, which is known for its amazing pizza and for eating late at night).

Sergio, poor guy, stayed up most of the night analyzing all the data he had collected, calculating our proficiencies and averaging the totals…this part sounded rather technical and mathematical.

DAY THREE

Morning:  Sergio met with Denize and I together to share and discuss our language evaluation results.  He also spent a lot of time encouraging us in the Lord, reminding us to keep our focus on God and who He is, and that all we are doing is for His glory, and other Biblical truth to help us in our journey.

Then right before lunchtime he got a ride to the bus station and headed back to Manaus.  Sergio said that we will hear from him soon via e-mail, with written reports and work plans.  During his trip he was planning to finish these reports of our evaluations and generate work plans based on our individual results to help us keep moving forward, in a focused, effective manner for the glory of God.

So, after all that, here are the results!  Solid, objective results that show where I am in the ACL journey, provide direction for finishing well, and prove that we serve an awesome God!  He really is the God of the Impossible, who uses the weakest of His servants, enabling their brains and ears and mouths for the praise of His glory.

eval results

Remember that even though there is one more level not included in the picture (Proficient level), the star marks the level I need to reach in order to teach God’s Word.  The smiley face marks the level I am at right now – low Capable level.

Do you see what that means, friends?  Only two more sub-levels to go!  We are getting so close to the end of this ACL journey!  So that WOW is a “Look what God has done!” kind of wow.  There are tears of joy in my eyes right now at the privilege of sharing with you what your prayers and support have accomplished here in the work of God.  As I have said so many times before, it is not me.  Not even a little bit.  It is all Jesus!

So will you thank Jesus with me?  And will you remember and rejoice that you are part of this accomplishment, this victory that God has brought about?  And will you also thank God for Xibu and Iteran and all of our village friends?  They are a big part of this accomplishment too.  God has is using them to teach Denize and me their language so that we can someday teach them His Word.

By faith, let’s continue praying and believing for that day to come soon!  And please pray that we will all stay strong in the Lord and finish this race well!  

 For by thee I have run through a troop: and by my God have I leaped over a wall.  As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.  For who is God save the LORD?  or who is a rock save our God?  It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.  He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.”  Psalm 18:29-33

In this situation, I say, using words similar to David’s,

By my God I have run through these language evaluations.  By His Spirit and in His strength I have reached the low capable level in this tonal, tribal language.  His way and timing is perfect!  He protects me and is my shield as I trust in Him.  Jesus is amazing!  He is the One who gives me strength and brings me step by step, level by level in this ACL journey, giving me beautiful friendships and indescribable joy along the way.  He gives me sure footing when I would surely stumble or despair on my own, holding me up and sustaining me through every incredible delight and overwhelming challenge of becoming part of a new culture.

 

 

 

Level With Me!

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

IMGP0921

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.

levels

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.

IMGP0933

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! 

 

 

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

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

IMGP1701

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

Relationship-Centered
I will work to build relationships with, and interact with as many people as possible.
Culture-Derived
I will learn mostly from the context of what the people are doing and saying.
Experience-Oriented
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.
Comprehension-Based
I will spend significant time trying to understand and be understood.
Communication-Focused
I will spend more time in real communication than on study alone or in mere repetition for practice’s sake.
Proficiency-Measured
I will appreciate the value of evaluations, both to determine my progress and to fine-tune my CLA efforts toward reaching my goal.
Learner-Motivated
I will be disciplined, work hard and seek help when I need it.
Consultant-Guided
I will seek out and appreciate help and advice, and will take advantage of all input by applying it to myself.
Situationally-Adapted
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:

Relationship-Centered

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.

Culture-Derived

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.

Experience-Oriented

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.

Learner-Motivated

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.  .

Consultant-Guided

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.

Situationally-Adapted

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!

IMGP6774
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

110830

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.

IMGP2234
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

IMGP1717

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.

IMGP1710
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?