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.



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.

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.

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:


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.


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.


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.




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

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also on my current Processing to-do list is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


8 Fun Things to Do With Your Neighbors…if you live in an Amazon village. [ Becoming – Part 8 – PARTICIPATE ]

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

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Sugar cane, ready to be hacked in shorter pieces for planting.  See # 7 in list below.

Participate!  In my book, the second P of the ACL learning cycle is the most fun and exciting of the four.  My sister must have agreed, because she was always up for participating in a culture event, especially if it involved walking deep into the jungle.

Do you want to know the best advice I was ever given when learning Portuguese?

Don’t learn the language.  Live the language.   – Antonio and Gustavo –

Credit goes to my Brasilian brothers for sharing that unforgettable pearl of wisdom, which captures the essence of Participate with inspiring words that continue to stir enthusiasm in this language learner’s heart.

What could be more motivating than doing life with neighbors and friends, after all?  At least for someone who genuinely loves people and enjoys social interaction (despite being an introvert) this job/ministry sometimes seems light on the work and heavy on the delight.  Just consider my daily work routine as intentional, purposeful “hanging out”.  Some might prefer to call this “chilling” but in the scorching temperatures we face here, that word would be incongruous, if not absurd.

Participation, or “living the language” is the best way to begin relationships, deepen friendships, attain fluency in the language, understand who the people in this community are, and how they view the world.  Participation provides diverse opportunities to enter the daily routines of my friends in a way that textbook learning could never imitate.

During Participation in a Culture Event, an ACL learner is expected to:

  • Observe.  (Watch, listen, and learn.  My friends are the experts).
  • Record.  (Take notes, record audio or video, take photos).
  • Elicit language and culture. (Figure out what can be learned from the event).
  • Join in. (As invited or allowed, without taking away from the natural flow of the event).

Essential tools for Participation:

  • teachable spirit
  • paying-attention skills
  • sense of adventure
  • flexibility
  • patience
  • camera
  • notebook and pen
  • voice recorder
  • (additional tools vary according to the event)

So, are you ready for my surefire, foolproof, satisfaction-guaranteed-or-your-money-back list of fun things to do with your neighbors if you ever happen to live in an Amazon village?  Here we go!

  1. Eat wild pig’s head. Nothing like a community gathering around the supper table for great food and time together.  Only this meal often takes place between 8 and 10 AM.  And instead of sitting around a table, try squatting around huge metal basins which contain the pig’s head and manioc or another root vegetable.  Make sure you grab fast, ripping off chunks with your fingers, no matter how hot the meat and manioc is.  At village “potlucks”, if you snooze, you lose…literally.  So if you like meat (and wild pig is way yummier than boring old grocery store pork), head to the pig feed as soon as you hear the shrill call, “Come and eat pig, ya’all!”  It doesn’t last long.
  2. Dance all night. You don’t know how to dance?  No worries.  Neither do I, in the technical sense of the term.  Here, dancing is just walking/marching/step-stepping around in a circle.  Very little skill and coordination required.  All you need is a friend, energy, extra coffee, and willingness to deal with a headache the following day.
  3. Swim in the river. This is a great way to pass time, learn vocabulary, test your memory (since you can’t write new words down while you’re in the water), and cool off on days where the tropical sun threatens to burn you up.  If your swimming buddies are children, you may end up spending hours laughing and swimming and playing their version of tag, called “Jaguar!”  There aren’t any real jaguars in the river, thankfully; just watch out for anacondas, which have been seen there on rare occasions.
  4. Burying a dead pet monkey. This doesn’t happen often, but just goes to show that anything that happens in my neighbors’ lives counts as a culture event, and is a learning opportunity.  How do they bury the monkey?  What do they say?  How does the monkey’s owner (a little girl) act?  Perhaps the conversation will turn to deeper topics such as their feelings about death in general, or belief in the afterlife.
  5. Weave baskets. A great opportunity to observe carefully and then try your hand at a new skill, probably amidst much laughter.  I did successfully make a basket last year, with help, although it turned out a bit lopsided.  Hopefully there will soon be an opportunity to try again.  Basket-weaving is a “girls-only” Culture Event however, so the men in my reading audience will have to find their own activity.  Making arrows or feather headresses are a couple of “boys-only” alternatives.
  6. Make manioc root drink.  This sugar-sweetened beverage is called “ee”, in a high tone, not to be confused with “ee” in a low tone, which means river.  The women spend a lot of time making this.  After all, if you don’t have “ee” available for your family at all times, you’re probably not a very good wife and mom.   I’ve watched the ee-making process countless times, but it is still a learning opportunity.  We often have wonderful conversations in my friends’ kitchens as they peel, cut, cook, strain, and mix.
  7. Plant sugar cane. Shortly after my arrival in the village I had the chance to participate in this event, and my teacher, Werrig, made a big deal of how well the sugar cane grew, and invited me to help again last year.  Although I sweat more that morning than any other morning in my life, planting sugar cane isn’t difficult.   Werrig’s encouragement and plan to take me again next planting season had me thinking I must be a natural sugar cane planter, or at least a pretty good helper or a hard worker.  Well, come to find out, just last week, that Werrig is convinced that the reason her sugar cane grew nice and thick is because I have fat arms.    Just what every girl wants to hear.
  8. Eat honey. Okay, this one does sound a bit boring.  But how will you and your neighbors eat honey unless you have honey?  And how will you have honey unless you harvest honey?  And how will you harvest honey unless you avoid the beestings?  And how will you avoid the beestings unless you light a fire next to the tree you chopped down?  And how will you chop down that tree without going deep into the rainforest where you will get lots of ticks?  See?  That wasn’t so boring after all.  And wild Amazon honey is finger-licking delicious.

Well, this list could easily contain 58 Culture Events instead of 8, but it’s a start.  Guaranteed to provide fun and laughter with friends, and enough new words to keep your brain working hard as you become part of a new community.

Let’s face it though; you might never actually live in an Amazon village.  Yet God designed us human beings to engage with each other in meaningful relationships, no matter where we live, what the culture is or what activity options are available.

So how can you participate in the lives of your neighbors?  Maybe God wants to use you to make a difference in the community where you live, or reach out to a specific person or family in need of a new friend. Have you ever made a list of ways to spend time with your neighbors?  How might you intentionally begin relationships, deepen current friendships, understand who your neighbors are and how they view the world?

Becoming – Part 7…Gourd Blackening Story

Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village

This is the story referenced in last week’s post about PRACTICE, the 4th P of the ACL Learning Cycle.  It just might be the first story ever written in this language and then translated into English, folks.  And you get to read it.  History in the making. 

Rubbing ashes into the gourd

Gourd Blackening Story

The day before yesterday, in the morning, Kanxig blackened drinking gourds in her kitchen.  I watched her.

While she was sealing the gourds, Kanxig said, “Do you and your people do this in your village?” That is what she asked me.  “No,” I said  to her in response.  “Are there drinking gourds in your village?” she asked me also.  “No.  We don’t have them in our village,” I said to her.  “We don’t know how to make drinking gourds,” I said to her.

She told me about the gulãja tree.  I recorded her voice because I am learning their language.  Kanxig taught me about blackening drinking gourds.  I only watched her.

The day before yesterday in the afternoon, Xibu taught me more about blackening drinking gourds.  First Xibu smoothed the insides of the gourds with sandpaper.  The gourds became pretty that way.  Standing Water (her husband) took a hard knob out of one of the gourd’s necks with a knife.

And then Xibu scraped the inside from the gourd-blackening-tree-bark with a spoon.

“Can I do that?” I said to her.  “I will help you scrape the gourd blackener from the bark.”

Then Xibu poured water into a dish.  And then I put the scraped-out gourd blackener into the dish of water, helping her.  Then we rubbed and kneaded and squeezed the wet bark in our hands to make glue.  Then we rubbed the glue onto the gourds, to make the gulãja stick in the glue.

Xibu charred gulãja wood in the fire.  We crumbled the charred wood into the drinking gourds.  And then we rubbed the ashes to blacken the gourds.  And then we rubbed the gulãja ashes into them.

And then Xibu charred more gulãja wood because it had run out.  “Are you charring even more gulãja wood?” I said to her.  “Yes,” she said to me in response.

Denise and Edika arrived afterwards and helped us.  And then they helped us blacken the gourds.

And then we put the gourds by the side of the fire.  “This is what we do because there is no sunshine, putting them by the fire this way,” Xibu told us.  “If there is sunshine we only put them outside to dry,” she told us.

We glued the gourds and blackened the gourds again after they had dried.  We blackened them three times.  We were almost finished when it was getting dark.

“Another day, we will seal them again with glue, for the last time,” Xibu told us.  “The glue is already gone.  It is getting dark also,” she said to us.  And then we finished, at dusk.  Together, we blackened nine drinking gourds.

“That was a really great learning time for me,” I told Xibu.   “Thank you for teaching me.”  “You’re welcome.  Thank you for helping me,” she said.

Gourds weren’t the only item blackened that afternoon.  My hands were back to normal after a few days (thanks to lots of soap and a sponge), but a certain pair of light blue scrubs will never look the same!  


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


Becoming…The Journey to Lose Myself in an Amazon Village


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.

First Attempt at Public Speaking (in Neno)

It happened one fateful night in July, the first time I had the chance to travel with Neno friends to a celebration in one of the other villages.  One of the traditions at these events is to “give welcomes”.  I am not sure of all of the proper protocol involved, but it seems that people from every village get the chance say something.  As a handful of Neno men went up front to take their turn “giving welcomes” someone called out my name, and the friends sitting on the simple wooden bench beside me said they wanted me to go up and say something too.  As panic froze my mind into a veritable ice cube, they pushed me to my feet and I was walking up front too, wishing we had practiced for this in a language study session.  Thankfully, I was third to last in the line that was arranging itself across the front, in front of the platform instead of on it, so there was a little time to formulate something to say which would hopefully make sense grammatically and be appropriate for the situation.  This is what I came up with:

Sisters, brothers.  How are you all tonight?  Welcome!  I am happy to be here to worship Jesus with all of you.  That’s it.

Pathetic, I admit.  But I would rather give a short, pathetic greeting in the Neno language than talk a lot, in semi-eloquent Portuguese.  It proves that I’m trying, at least, even if my efforts are about as lame as attempting to row a boat across the river using a spoon instead of an oar.  It demonstrates a respect and appreciation for their language and a refusal to rely on Portuguese as a crutch.  At least that’s my perspective on the matter.  Who knows what my Neno friends think?

Actually, they gave me a clue regarding their opinion a couple weeks later, when some friends were visiting from another village who had not been at the celebration where I made my public speaking debut.  The family who took me along to the celebration, and made me go up front, told their friends that I had “given a welcome” the first night we were there.  Although I must relate such observations as speculative because of a very limited understanding of the Neno culture, I will share my conjectures.  From my friends/teachers facial expressions and the way they talked about the event, commenting that I spoke only in Neno, not Portuguese, it seemed like they were bragging about me, proud that their little language learner is making progress.  Their friends seemed impressed and excited by the news.  And I busied myself in studying the dirt floor, letting a combination of embarrasment and reticence prevent my taking the opportunity to ask about proper grammar for that “long sentence,” which I wonder if I butchered…or made mincemeat of, more likely.

And just for the record, it is very normal to end any discourse by saying, “that’s it.”  Actually, that might be the only acceptable conclusion.  In my speech, you could translate it, “That’s all, folks.”  I literally had no more words to say at that point.  Hopefully by next time I get to try my hand (err…mouth and nose and vocal cords) at public speaking, I will have learned a few more phrases suitable to such situations.