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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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!

 

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

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

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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.

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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?

 

Becoming – Part 6…PRACTICE with Patience (4th P)

 

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

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Practice is supposed to take up between 50% and 65% of ACL time.  Some of this is practice on my own, and some of this is practice with friends and language helpers, both in the context of actual culture events and out of context, at my house.  This is the P in which the information I have gleaned actually sticks in my brain, hopefully, at least.

Today (May 7th) the focus area for my Practice time was Gourd Blackening.  People here drink their traditional beverage, “ee” out of gourds that have been split in half, scooped out, cleaned, dried, blackened with ashes from wood from a certain type of tree, and sealed, using glue made from the inner bark of another type of tree.  Yes, it is a lot of work, especially since these types of trees grow way out in the jungle, not in or near or village.

Gourd Blackening was an event I participated in the day before yesterday.  I spent some Practice time on it yesterday, but needed more.  Instead of recording an oral narrative of this event by asking Xibu to tell me the story of how we blackened drinking gourds, I decided to write this story myself.

First I looked back at my Field Notebook, pages 177-182, where I had taken notes during the actual event.  This time, I had had the unique opportunity to Participate in the same event twice on the same day, with two different ladies.

Gourd Blackening is an event which seems to only take place in April, based on this year and last year, at least.  That would be an excellent question to ask someone tomorrow.  Ooh!  What P is that an example of?  That’s right – Plan!  .

At any rate, Gourd Blackening is not something an ACL student gets to participate in often.  I participated once last April, in a group culture event, where one of my friend’s mother-in-law taught her, her sister and I how to do it.  But that would be another story about Participating.

From my Field Notebook, I reviewed all the new vocabulary and specific phrases related to Gourd Blackening.  At this phase of ACL, I am also focusing on writing the correct form of complex sentences, especially when I try to form a sentence and it comes out in the wrong order…which is probably the case for most of the complex sentences I say, but thankfully, no one is tracking those statistics.  I also looked at the computer file from last year to check if there were any different words or phrases recorded there.

The goal was to practice these sentences, phrases and words by including them in the story, which was a step-by-step narrative with dialogue, written in third person, about Xibu and I blackening her gourds.

Less than an hour after I had rough drafted the story and edited it as much as possible, Xibu arrived for a previously-planned study session.  The reason I add that detail, is that Xibu is such a proactive friend and language helper that sometimes she comes over without being asked, with the plan of teaching me.

Her initiative seems to be based on two things – friendship and hunger.

Our friendship has grown so much over the past two years.  We genuinely have fun together, whether doing traditional art, tramping through the jungle, smiling at the antics of her grandson, baking bread, or sitting on a bench outdoors while moaning about the vast numbers of biting bugs.  I think it is evident that I value her culture and language, and she truly enjoys passing it on, as well as learning a skill or two from me.  Of course, much can also be said for the opportunities to laugh that I provide – amused laughter at her student’s clumsy attempts to use tools or vocabulary, as well as delighted laughter when I wield a tool well or say something complicated correctly .

Knowing that my purpose for being there is to teach God’s Word in their language, Xibu wants to help me reach the goal of fluency as quickly as possible.  While she is the teacher on both sides of the language/culture coin, she views me as the future Bible teacher and she is looking forward to the time when she can be the student, often expressing her desire to learn God’s Word and her frustration at not understanding it in Portuguese.  Xibu’s hunger for God’s Word motivates her to continue investing time in teaching me.

This afternoon she stayed for about two hours.  Most of that time was spent correcting Gourd Blackening Story (that is admittedly not the catchiest title, but since the story is not destined for publication, it’s fine).  Xibu corrected all of my mistakes, of which there were a significant number, but not nearly as many as I expected.

On some of the complex sentences, after reading aloud she would say, “Good,” to which I would ask in surprise, “Really?”.  And a couple times, as she read my tiny but neat pencil scratchings, she would exclaim, “Nice!” with such a proud expression on her face, pleased that we really are succeeding in this task together, teacher and student.  Xibu made suggestions for phrases to add to the story, and explained a few grammatical topics along the way.

For instance, she taught me that after you have stated the names of people, you don’t refer to them as “alej” (the word normally used for “they”) but as “é ej.”  This may apply only when one is referring to the named people in the very next sentence; clarifying the scope and specifics of grammar rules is very difficult with my current language level, but I was excited to learn this much today.

Tonight I typed and printed the story out, coming up with a few more sentences in order to include a couple vocabulary words accidentally omitted, and a couple grammatical structures that might fit into the story, if Xibu (or her husband, whose Portuguese is better), can help me figure out how.

I’ll continue practicing this culture event by reading the story aloud to anyone who is interested.  I am so grateful for the patience of Xibu and other friends in helping me practice their language.  I also am learning to be patient with myself, even when I wish I were progressing more quickly.

Some other Practice Techniques I often use at this stage of ACL are:

  • Focused conversation – simply talking with people about the event.
  • Looking at photos of the event with friends, and discussing photos.
  • Asking questions about the event.
  • Getting an audio recording of someone talking about the event.
  • Listening to and typing out such texts, and thus learning new words and grammar.
  • Various practice techniques specific to the ACL method.
  • Review and drilling.
  • Correcting independent “grammar work” with a language helper.
  • Listening to audio recordings – new words, sentences, texts.
  • Mimicing the audios, practicing pronunciation and especially tone.
  • Participate in the same culture event again, practicing what was learned previously.

Part 2 – Becoming…An ACL Addict

Becoming: The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

So…the Neno language has me officially hooked.  I stayed up until 10 last night.  That’s late for me, especially in the village.  It was our second evening without diesel (this time), so from about 7:30 to 9:15, I was sitting on a small block of wood, outdoors in the moonlight with my next-door neighbors and two couples who had come down from the school to visit them.

That gathering included lots of laughter and conversation, of which your resident language and culture learner understood only about 10 percent…maybe.  Group conversations are the hardest to follow, especially when I don’t know all the speakers well, and cannot see their lips or facial expressions.  Yet they are still great opportunities for friendship-building, challenging the brain, and practicing my Neno listening and deduction skills.

Afterwards, although tired, I was too excited to sleep, and spent another 45 minutes reading a thick linguistics textbook which had fit into my suitcase this time.  Having read at least half of it before, it is more exciting and relevant now that I can apply all the principles to a real language I am currently learning.

Today, 5:25 AM found me at the computer with earbuds in, listening to a lively Neno song, which along with the mug of coffee I had already started on, was a strategic way to wake up and get going.  Three Neno “music groups” have recorded original songs (12-15 songs/group), for which I have been typing out the lyrics.

Did you know that a couple years after learning Portuguese, having spent a total of just 14 months in Brasil, I got this crazy craving to learn another, harder language?  The novelty of Portuguese had worn off.  I could speak it already, after all, and communicate anything I wanted to.  While there was definitely lots of room for improvement (I hadn’t even reached what I would define as fluency at that point) and a definite sotaque (accent) to lose, it no longer provided the mental challenge of a language totally new.  So I spent 30-some bucks on Japanese language-learning CDs, which I listened to on roads all over Lewis County while working as a home visitor.  It was fun, and I learned some phrases long since forgotten, but the motivation didn’t last without the opportyinity for relationships with anyone who speaks Japanese.

Well, now I get another chance at a harder language, built-in relationships already included, no CDs available.  Let it be known that the Neno language fits into the “High Level Challenge Category”, no doubt about it, including tones, grammatical categories that English and Portuguese speakers never imagined, and sneaky switcharoo sounds.  But it’s a blast.

I resent activities like eating, washing dishes, and killing the termites which built a small mound in my kitchen, because all I want to do is be interacting with this language and culture in some capacity.

  • Observing or doing new things with friends, “out-and-about” in the community.
  • Hanging out in groups and attempting to decipher conversations.
  • Actually talking one-on-one with someone, with much better comprehension.
  • Listening to music.
  • Sitting down for a formal organized semi-organized study session with a language helper.
  • Analyzing sentence structure.
  • Writing out the text of audio stories that friends have recorded for me.
  • Reviewing sets of vocabulary flashcards. (This one I often do while eating, actually).

I love it all, and find myself in a perpetual state of wanting more, more, MORE!

Even now, writing to you, a truly enjoyable undertaking, I’m restless, almost agitated, hoping to finish up quickly and go back to that partially-compiled adjective list.  Adjectives here are tricky, one discovers after awhile.  They remain the same whether referring to men or women, thankfully, but have a different plural form, as well as a diminuitive feature, which would take too long to explain when I’d rather find a Neno friend to help me learn it in real life (and there is a real example of the restlessness).  But not ALL adjectives have a plural form, and some adjectives are used almost exclusively in the diminuitive form, so the “basic” form is rarely heard.  There is so much left to learn.

But it’s all good.  By God’s grace, slow and steady will win the race, right?

Sure, I can’t wait to be finished with ACL, because the goal is getting “released” from the program and start teaching the Bible.  And the sense of urgency for that task is growing steadily.

Yet in the meantime, the linguistic aspect of becoming part of the Neno community is worthwhile, fun, and rewarding in and of itself.  And it’s addicting.

Open Doors and Closed Circles

(written in June 2017)

It was the last day of classes up at the boarding school.  The next day, students would travel back to their home villages, scattered over this half of the reservation.  They only get two weeks of break in between school sessions, but based on how emotional they were, you would think they were going to be spending months separated from each other.

I had walked up the starlit path, enjoying several minutes of nighttime beauty and jungle sounds.  The plan was to sit in on the seventh grade Maternal Language class which was scheduled, but their teacher decided to cancel the class and give the students a chance to go up front, one at a time, to say good-bye and express whatever was on their hearts.  At least that is what seemed to be happening.  Sometimes I just guess.

Based on some of the conversation, I wondered if this particular teacher would no longer be teaching the seventh-graders, increasing the emotion of these farewells.  Again, sometimes I just guess.

It was interesting to observe a lot of “typical teenage behavior” in the manner in which each young person went up to share.  The order was determined by drawing

Some of them talked timidly and briefly, looking down at the floor.  Others expressed themselves quite articulately, making eye contact with the rest of the class, gesticulating forcefully.  Some students giggled or cracked jokes while another was speaking, or pushed a hesitant classmate up to the front for their turn.

At least two of the seventh-graders are already parents, one a young mama with a little boy who is just learning to walk.

After all the students had shared, their teacher spoke as well, his words seeming very sincere and heartfelt, whatever their meaning might have been.  After he closed with the typical, “Ena tete.”  (That is all), one of the more outgoing girls in the class suggested that they pray.

They formed a circle at the front of the room and the teacher invited me to join in.  During the whole time, I had already felt as if I were intruding on private class moments, an out-of-place wallflower who is far too white and blonde to ever be invisible, but then again, the current story of my life involves habitual intrusion on moments that in all honesty, a Lewis County gringa does not belong in.

I can’t remember if we held hands or put our arms around each other’s shoulders, but we were all gathered close, touching one another, coming together to talk to God.

Someone said, “Let’s all pray.”  And the low voices began all around me, words flowing fast and freely, to me an unintelligible stream, but understood perfectly by God, to whom language is no barrier.

And I long for deeper relationship with these precious young people, “teens” to us, but probably already considered adults in their culture.  May our physical closeness in that moment of prayer symbolize a future relational closeness, that will give us a friendship of freedom and trust.  May we someday spend hours in conversation about life, love, God, the Bible, the future, our hopes and dreams and fears.

My mind races with questions about these young people, questions that I don’t even know how to ask yet.

Who do these teenagers believe Jesus is?

Would they call themselves Christians just because a chief made that decision for the entire people group a number of years ago?

Or do they really understand what it means to know Jesus?

To them, is prayer a way of communicating with the God who created them and loves them?

Or is it a ritual performed to gain God’s favor, get something they want, or impress others?

Or is prayer merely a “cool thing” to do, because they have seen it done in churches in the city?

If prayer is important to them, why do almost none of them come to the Sunday meetings down in the village?

Are their hearts really hungry for God?

After the generator is turned off in an hour, will some of these very young men and ladies pair off and “secretly” do what we have been told many of them do every night, while the adults turn their backs?

Good thing their prayer wasn’t longer, or I would have started crying.  I have no idea what they were saying, but I know what my prayer is tonight.

Father, thank you for these precious young lives gathered around me, and for the open door to be here among them, although my youth was a world away from theirs. 

Help me learn this language fast and give me the privilege of discipling these seventh graders.  Give us a deep friendship that will cross the cultural differences.   

Protect them from the evil in this world, from the dangers they are exposed to in the midst of the major transitions their culture is experiencing. 

Help them know Jesus truly and walk with Him, love Him best of all, and see Him in my life, even now. 

Give them your word in their language, and a hunger to read it and know it. 

Teach them what is right and wrong, convicting them of any immoral or sinful behavior that is forbidden by You, for their good and protection. 

Guide them by your Spirit, in righteousness, morality and purity.

Show me how to love them like you do even before we can really talk. 

Give us moments together of fun and friendship and connecting.

Increase my burden for their souls, my fervency in prayer, my love for every teen in this circle, and my faith regarding the work you are going to do in their lives and families and culture. 

May this circle, which has neither beginning or end, symbolize unbroken unity and eternal life in Jesus…probably not a reality for all of these tonight, but by faith, I ask that one day it would be so! 

For, since you open doors wide, can you not also close circles tight?  With you, all things are possible. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Not by Might…

The other day I had a meltdown.  I can’t even remember what triggered it.  All I know is that I tried to distract myself by leaving the house to spend time with someone, but there was only one elderly grandma in the village, and after a brief chat, it seemed that she didn’t really want company right then, so I ended up back in the house, crying.

Despite the progress gained in seven months, counting by time actually spent in the village, not time since I first arrived here (I still hold a slight grudge against those bacteria and those incorrect antibiotics that kept me away for a few months) one can get so discouraged by the limited capacity for conversation and the minute understanding of a complex culture a world away from our own.  So it is easy to get discouraged by the enormity of the task, and the slow progress towards the goal.

But in that moment of discouragement, a Scripture verse blazed into my discouraged mind and heart.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”  Zechariah 4:6

Applying the biblical principal to a language learning situation, where “might” and “power” aren’t exactly what one wishes for the most, it seems appropriate to say,

“Not by intelligence or organizational skills, nor by determination and willpower, nor by anything else, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”

That’s where it’s at, friends.  One might long for more intelligence, organizational skills, determination, willpower, etcetera, etcetera, but those qualities won’t accomplish the task, at least not in the most effective way.

Which begs the question, “How does one learn a language and culture by the Spirit of God?”

That question has burned in my heart and interrupted many other thoughts for the last several weeks.  Here is the answer I have for now, though it is something that I will continue contemplating and praying about.

The how of language and culture learning is up to God.  I honestly believe that the way I learned Portuguese was a miracle.  Oh, maybe not the blow-your-socks-off kind of miracle where the sun stands still or a dead person sits up during their funeral procession or Jesus walks on top of the sea in the middle of a raging storm.  Nevertheless, all things considered, I learned Portuguese fairly well, rather quickly.  More importantly, I integrated into Brasilian culture to the point where in many ways, I feel more comfortable or fit in better there than in my own culture.

And I ask myself, over and over, exactly how did I even learn Portuguese, and exactly how can I replicate the process for learning Neno?

Eight years later, it seems like a blur….  I remember lots of sitting around in people’s living rooms understanding almost nothing.  I remember afternoons in the kitchen with my Brasilian mom, asking her what utensil after utensil after utensil is called in Portuguese, and repeating their names rather badly.  I remember dozens of times when tears would well up in my eyes, because more than anything, I longed to be able to understand and communicate with the amazing people around me, especially in order to talk about Jesus and His great love, and I just didn’t have the words.    But those days passed, melting into fluency, and today, I am living a similar situation in the Neno culture, of desperate longing to understand and communicate.

After God brought Zechariah 4:6 to my attention, with respect to ACL (Acquisition of Culture and Language), I realize that trying to duplicate the process is not the answer.  What I need (and already have!) is not the same process, but the same power.

Circumstances are different, after all.  I am not living with a Neno family, immersed 24/7 in their lives.  I am responsible to care for my own house and cooking.  There are health challenges which slow me down and use up valuable chunks of time each day.  Supply-buying and other business requires frequent trips out of the cultural context.  So it would be unrealistic to expect the process to look the same.  And even though God opened doors for an amazing process of Brasilian culture immersion that worked very well, it wasn’t the process that was the key factor for success.

It was His Spirit that was my passion, my life, my fire, my everything.  And guess what?  The Spirit of God still lives in me.  Here in the Neno village, He is still the same as when I was in the midst of Brasilian “ACL”.  He surpasses any might or power or intelligence or determination I might have on my own.  He works in different ways in different times and different places, and orchestrates circumstances in the way He knows is best.  But we can trust that since the Lord Jesus brought me here, He has a foolproof, success-guaranteed plan for my Neno ACL.  The results and the timeframe will be exactly what He has planned, if I will walk not according to my own resources, but walk in His Spirit and depend on Him.  Please pray that I will not only write this and believe it, but that I will remember this and live it, every moment of every day.

Putting Words Together

“I’m putting words together!  And they’re making sense!  Okay, so my English may be going downhill fast, but what’s a girl to do?

Seriously, I love languages, and words, and new friends, and communication.  And the more time I spend with the ladies, girls, and little ones, the deeper grows…”

With that my randomly jotted musings were interrupted, right in between the page about my first trip through the jungle with Neno friends, and a page with random vocabulary (who would have thought blisters, trash, hair elastic and “I’m going to grill fish” would have ended up on the same list, after all?)

Although the thought remained unfinished in my notebook, I remember exactly what was growing deeper.  Please allow me to continue.

“And the more time I spend with the ladies, girls, and little ones, the deeper grows…my desire to learn from them, to become part of them, to meaningfully communicate with them.  If only we could engage in heart-to-heart conversations about life, love, family, frustrations and the Bible.  I would love to share my testimony, and the Gospel, the joy we can experience in following Jesus, and so much more.

That day will come, Lord willing, by a large measure of His grace and lots of determined effort – the day when the language and culture barriers are broken down and I am ready and able to share in fluent Neno, in culturally appropriate ways.  And while my heart wishes that there were some secret program to make that possible today, I know that isn’t the way it works.  Time and patience are required.

So for now, it is exciting enough to be learning hundreds of nouns, dozens of verbs, and many random phrases.  Moments of insecurity are normal in the mental struggle of putting words to objects and situations, sometimes followed by a satisfying adrenaline rush, the reward of getting something right.  And even better, I am learning from new friends who are eager to teach, quiz, laugh and correct.  It’s been wonderful so far, and as soon as I get back to the village there are countless language and culture lessons yet to enjoy!  In the meantime, please excuse me while I go review that random vocabulary page and attempt to successfully put a few more words together.

What are the possible combinations?  Maybe the noun trash can be used in this sentence…“I’m going to grill trash.”