Sept 2009 - Issue 12

Sept 2009 - Issue 12 I have to say that language learning is nothing like what I expected. The books I read before I came had me imagining sitting with someone each morning, doing dialogues and language drills and talking about photographs. Then I'd spend the afternoons practicing with people what I had learned in that day.

My language lessons, if you can call them that, look more like lessons in gardening or preparing food - just joining in the daily subsistence life of the family. I learned to follow instructions of "get this or that" in the kitchen, then learned the question "what are you doing?" which opened up a lot more sentences to learn. I sometimes record someone telling a story of what we did that day, which helps me catch more of those annoying little words that aren't verbs or nouns!

My vocabulary and conversation still revolves around planting bananas, chopping wood and going to fetch water. I am learning some religious language too though. My friend has been leading the youth in a Bible study from Genesis, which I can almost follow. We often sing praise songs in language as we go around the bush, and I'm memorising some newly translated Bible verses.

Church is still largely a mystery - I generally make up my own sermon around the Bible text given... I will admit to finding it all rather frustrating at times. My initial requests for some more formal learning time met with agreement but no action. Women who marry into a different language group learn by informally being around people, so that's their experience of teaching. (Incidentally, visitors to the village assume I've married someone here - my friends are getting tired of the questions!)

My years of structured and written-based learning, along with a scientific approach of proven techniques of language learning are really a world away from their expectations of how I'll do things. It's an oral culture. The thing is though, that they look beyond the language. It's a tool for the most important thing in life - relationships.

No matter how slowly I'm starting to talk, that relationship building has already started. Even learning how they teach and learn is important, if I am to be leading people. But I still feel like a new and vulnerable baby, learning how to do and communicate the most basic things and like a baby, getting tired by it all.

I keep having to remind myself what the goal is - to love God and love my neighbour as myself. There's a prayer by Thomas Merton that is making some sense to me.

Thomas Merton said...
"When we stand alone before God in our nothingness without explanation, without theories, (then we are) completely dependent upon his providential care, in dire need of the gift of his grace, his mercy and the light of faith"

It's not just that I'm learning to relate to people, but also learning of Jesus and his dependence and obedience to the Father. And that's time well spent.

Prayer & Praise Praise

  • That our container load of medical supplies has arrived in Port Moresby. Pray they will soon arrive safely in Rumginae.
  • Pray for perseverance and a good sense of humour as I learn to speak.
  • Pray for more friends in Dande who will patiently talk with me.
  • Thank God for progress in translation.


Since you last heard from me, the translation team has gained a table, had an unexpected visit from the Bible Society translation consultant and spent a week translating for the first time in months.

I get the feeling you've been praying, so thanks for being part of God's work!
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