Sunday, February 26, 2012

Soaring




"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that 
the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends 
of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no 
searching of his understanding. He giveth power to 
the faint; and to them that have no might he 
increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be 
weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  But 
they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their 
strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; 
they shall run, and not be weary; and they 
shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40:28-31



While at a friend's house a  storm came up.  Becky called me to come out and look at the lake. The  thick storm clouds  made the  lake dark,  and there were white caps from the boisterous winds. As we were  admiring God's power  in the wind, we saw a  fish eagle  trying to fly. The wind was so strong that even this powerful bird was  finding it difficult.  But he wasn't giving up! We watched on as he spread his wings and  flew victoriously.

Some days  life  can be like that dark storm. Like the wind is pushing us and keeping us from moving forward. It's like the proverbial  "two steps forward, one step back." Some days it can seem like we'll never get anywhere. Like it's time to give up and let the wind have it's way.

As I watched this fish eagle struggle against something   he could not control,   it made me think of the struggles I have in a world that I have no control over. It made me think about  the One who does have control.

Most all of us know  Isaiah 40:31,  but I love the verses that proceed it, too. They remind us of who our God is. It reminds us of His strength   and   wisdom.  PRAISE GOD  I don't have to lean on my own ability. He knows the storm I'm in. He knows I am but dust; a weak vessel.  He is my strength!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What did you say?!

The following post is from Jolene Sloan, missionary to Ukraine. I am posting it here
with her permission.



Did you ever speak "pig latin" as a kid? You know, the "language game" where you take the first letter away from a word, add it to the end of the word and say "ay" with it. (For example, my name would become "olene-Jay.") I played this with my friends and cousins as a kid, and it made me feel smart... like I really knew another language. It sounded so foreign and was just silly, childish fun!

Fast-forward to the adult years and sitting in language school. Let me tell ya, the process of learning a language is not that simple! In fact, the teachers in our language school did not even speak English. (Unless you want to count the word "adjective," that they mispronounced.)

So, how do you go about learning a foreign language when you can not even understand your teacher? From experience, I can tell you that it is complicated!

As a continuation of this series The Missionary Wife's Perspective, I want to list some things I have thought, observed, and taken note of in the last ten years on this topic. These thoughts are not words of wisdom, by any means. They are just a recording of a missionary wife's perspective on surviving learning a new language.


1. How many of our supporters and prayer partners give much thought to the need of the missionary to learn a language? If you silently agreed with me that you are in that category, I can assure you that I was there at one time too. When I thought of becoming a missionary, I thought that language learning would go a lot like this:

Bible college? Check.
Deputation? Check.
Airline tickets? Check.
Learn the language? Check.

It wasn't until I was "in the trenches" that I realized how many missionaries get stuck on that last point. A surprising number of missionaries never do really learn the language of their people. This point alone is such a source of discouragement, that many have packed up their bags and gone home, feeling like failures for never truly adapting to their field. So heartbreaking!

2. To me it seems that the missionary's wife usually faces the biggest discouragement in the area of language learning. This is especially true if she has little ones at home to care for, or if she is homeschooling. While her husband is out mingling with the people, she is home and unable to see much progress in her own language development.

3. For us, we feel it is better to learn a language from someone who does not know your native language. Now, I could have really argued this case with you years ago whenever I truly thought our teachers needed to know English in order to explain themselves to me. However, I have since come to see the benefit of being forced to understand them.

4. Spend your first year on the field dedicated full-time to language learning. Don't jump with two feet first into the ministry that first year (just "one foot" is sufficient in the beginning). The results will be so much better in the long run. We were advised to do this and are so grateful!

5. I remember our first few weeks in Ukraine, sitting in a park, observing people speak Russian. We just could not believe how beautiful the girls were... until they opened their mouths and started speaking. Russian sounded gutteral and harsh to us back then. Obviously, we don't think that anymore now that we speak it. I remember wondering how difficult it must be for mothers to comfort their babies with such rough words. And how did boyfriends propose to their girlfriends with gentleness?! [On the other hand, ask a foreigner what they think English sounds like, and you just might be amused to hear their answer!]

6. What is the hardest language in the world to learn? The one you are studying, of course! I checked with Wikipedia, and their experts claim these languages to be the hardest to learn: Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. I'm pretty sure that Russian was supposed to make that list!

7. Any missionary can tell you that, over time, we seem to forget some of our own native tongue. Not only do I find myself grasping for the right word in Russian, but when I visit "back home," I find myself drawing a blank when I'm looking for the right word in English! Apparently our brain storage for language capacity can only hold so many file folders per language!

8. Learning a new language can be very humbling. Here you are an adult, trying to speak, and you can almost feel someone reach out and pat your head with a sympathetic "good girl, at least you are trying" touch. Just like a baby, you are starting at the bottom, and unfortunately, for even the smartest students (which is not me!), there is the "toddler stage" that we all have to go through. Stringing three or four words together and hoping with all of your heart that they formed an intelligent thought is completely normal!

9. You will never speak with your family the same way. Your words and sentences will always be sprinkled with "flavors" from both languages. How much richer your vocabulary becomes when you have more than one "language dictionary" to choose from!

9. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. For every new word you learn or for every grammatical ending you learn to say correctly, you are that much better because of it. So, little mama who is at home with her little ones most of the day, baby steps are steps. Don't give up! Nearly 10 years into this journey, I am still learning. Like learning to play the piano, it is a long process and we all have different rates at which we learn.

10. Being that "little mama" at home, I learned to face the fact that my home situation was not going to change. I am going to be needed at home for many, many years; therefore, language school was only an option for me for a short while. But, I learned to overcome this setback in a different way. I hired a young lady to come to my home (one who did not know English) and work in the house with me and talk to me as we worked. (The key here is that she is not a maid, but rather someone to work and fellowship with. Busy mamas do not have time to "just" sit and study, but this method is so much more effective anyway.) "This is a broom and right now we are sweeping the floor." "This dough needs to rise for 30 minutes." These are the types of conversations that have taught me to speak Russian.

11. Some of the very dearest friendships I have in this world are with those who do not speak English. All of our conversations take place completely in Russian. And my life is so.much.richer because of these friendships. Was it worth those long, frustrating hours of learning? Oh, you better betcha!

12. When I am "back home," I now have my own secret language. No more childish pig latin for me.... I can speak a real, foreign language! And, best yet, I can share the Gospel in another language!

So, prayer partner, pray fervently for your missionaries who are learning a foreign language. And missionaries, don't get discouraged, even if your language was not on Wikipedia's list either. {smile}


You can do it!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Loving our husbands


Being a pastor's wife is no easy task.  The Bible teaches us in Genesis that God created woman to be her husband's help meet. How a ministry-wife helps her husband is somewhat different than how other wives fulfill that role.  This is why I am focusing in our Pastor's Wives Meetings on what are the responsibilities of the pastor's wife, and how to fulfill that role through walking with the Lord

In Titus 2:4 we learn that the older women are to teach the younger women how to love their husbands. With this month being February, I used the holiday of Valentine's Day to discuss the importance of loving our husbands. (First I had to have some of the city ladies explain what Valentine's Day was to the village ladies.) 

Just as it is common in Western cultures to gripe and complain about our husbands, so it is here. In a society where much of life is communal, there is much opportunity to sit around and gossip. There is always much laughter when I get on this topic because it is so prevalent. (Tanzanians laugh when they get nervous or feel guilty.) So rather than focusing on what we don't like about our husbands, I encouraged them to each tell me something they love/respect about their husbands. I enjoyed hearing the things they said. One wife appreciated how her husband handles money. Another her husband's humility and gentleness. Another her husband's faithfulness to the Lord and his ministry.



As part of our time together I wanted to do something fun that they wouldn't have opportunity to do otherwise. I decided we would make sugar cookies. They had fun rolling out the dough and cutting it into heart shapes. After they cooled we frosted them and put sprinkles on. As we sat and enjoyed some of our labors, I explained that I wanted each of them to take a cookie and give it to their husband and tell him they love him. I encouraged them to find a special way to give it to him. Maybe putting it on his Bible to find when he went to read it. Or perhaps on his pillow to see when he went to bed. Then I told them I would ask them next month what they did. Just today one of the husbands told me thank you for helping his wife make him a cookie. When I asked how she gave it to him he told me, with a big smile on his face, she made a card in the shape of a heart and wrote on it "I love you very much." He not only enjoyed the cookie, but he said this morning he again looked at the card and read it. He said it made him very happy. (Which makes this teacher very happy!)

Next month we'll meet again and continue learning how we can be godly pastor's wives. In the weeks in between we have selected prayer partners to pray and encourage each other. I'm sure they would appreciate your prayers as well. To assist you, I've added the wives names to the list of pastors/churches on the sidebar.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The blessing of a kanga.


You are probably wondering what in the world is a kanga?! Here is the definition from Wikipedia: The kanga which comes from the old Bantu (Kiswahili) verb ku-kanga to wrap or close, is a colorful garment similar to kitenge, worn by women and occasionally by men throughout Eastern Africa. It is a piece of printed cotton fabric, about 1.5m by 1m, often with a border along all four sides (called pindo in Swahili), and a central part (mji) which differs in design from the borders. Kangas are usually very colorful.



I LOVE to wear a kanga! It is just so practical - especially for life here. I often wear one when someone comes to the house and I'm not quite dressed for company. I wear it to the village when I need to protect my clothing. I bring it to church on cool mornings to wrap around my shoulders. And those are just a few of the reasons I wear it. It doesn't even begin to hit on why African women wear them!


Apart from the usefullness of a kanga, there are also sayings (jina) on the bottom of the cloth. These sayings have a wide range of meanings. Some of them are blessings, and some are warnings. Here are a few examples:

   
Chokochoko si njema mchague la kusema
Provocation is not good, you should choose what to say
A warning against those who use their tongues to incite chaos and misunderstanding between people.

Hodi hodi naikome mwaka ujao naolewa
Knock, knock, should stop, as I'm getting married next year
The lady doesn't want any more (male) visitors who drop by her house trying to win her as she has already been engaged and she is actually getting married very soon.

Kama ni ubaya ulianza wewe
If you think I'm bad then you started it!
I'm just giving you the taste of your own bitter pill!

Mke mwema pambo la nyumba
A good wife is a home's adornment
A wife full of love lights up the home with her compassion.
   

A couple of days ago I got a visit from two pastor's wives. They had heard I was not doing well due to a neck injury so they asked to come by. To be honest I was hurting and not really up to visitors, but I knew it was important for them to extend their get-well wishes and for me to be inviting and appreciative. They arrived late - very typical, and stayed for about an hour or so. They were both so kind and encouraging. Before they left they prayed for me and gave me a gift. Let me just say that this is very unusual.  When I opened the gift I found a kanga. As I've mentioned above, it's not just the kanga that is the gift, but the saying (jina) at the bottom.  What a blessing to read: "Nikulipe nini? Kwa wema ulionitendea" which means, "How do I repay you for the good you've done for me?" You know what? I REALLY needed that encouragement that day! The Lord knew exactly what I needed as I struggled through the pain of this neck injury. Those ladies wamenitia moyo (encouraged my heart) through their visit and gift. Thank you Lord!!