Thursday was my last day of formal language classes here and completes a total of 9 months over the course two years of study I’ve been blessed to be in a formal learning environment. I’ve been reflecting alot on the gift of language and all that it brings, or that you lose when you find yourself unable to express the thoughts of the heart. I cannot think how to arrange my thoughts well regarding this journey so you’ll see a variety of things I’ve been thinking about as I complete this formal chapter.
Language opens doors to culture you never would know. There were many times we were completing exercises and I got the wrong answer, not because I didn’t understand the exercise verbatim but because I lacked the cultural understanding to use the word correctly. Do you make that food dish or cook it, do you use a present continuous verb for an action or a state of being word.
I’ve made so many mistakes and even though I’ve hit all my initial language goals I think I could study for years and never be proficient. This is the thing with language you can study and study and each step forward only shows you how much further you have to go. there are some days I walk away so thrilled to express those deep concepts or the stories of my week, with humor in a beautiful language that I have struggled to learn, and then other days where even the simplest idea I cannot find words to express, or where emotions crowd my head and I struggle to find words at all.
I can understand alot of what I hear, but I can express soo much less, some thoughts in my head can be better expressed in @rabic (or sign language) then in English and certain Truths and passages of scripture make more sense when spoken in a different tongue.
I have been super blessed to not just be taught but to be loved as I learned. Both in South Sudan and here in North Africa I have been amazingly blessed by teachers who sat with me and chose to see me for who I was, and not what I didn’t know. My sweet langauge helper from South Sudan is one of my dearest adopted sisters, and communicating with her (now mostly in @rabic via facebook) over this year has been such a blessed hope and peace. Then there are my teachers here. I cannot put into words the gifts they have given to me this year.
We cried when I left, not the delicate type the face puffy, eyes weeping sort of sadness. My dear teachers didn’t just teach they used the learning of the language to let me know them, and allow me to be known. We prayed for each others struggles, we shared parenting stories, we swapped recipes. When Jon was out of the country they called to check in, when a child was sick they offered to bring food. If they had a struggle they shared and we prayed. I celebrated a wedding, mourned a death, celebrated a birthday. So this Thursday was a really hard day, it was hard to say goodbye because through our studies together we went much deeper then words in a book we opened up our lives to each other, we studied scriptures together, we prayed, and we challenged each other to live lives of obedience to God. I said goodbye to sisters on Thursday, sisters whose bond was forged in the hard work of language. Sisters who I cannot find words to describe in English, women whose hearts were knit together with mine. Sitting on my dresser is a wooden coptic cross and a set of earrings and my refrigerator contains some homemade goodies all to remind me of the gift of this season – the gift of knowing and loving, of being known and being loved.
So I guess my final thoughts on language are this, it is the pathway to knowing and being known, it is the tool God gives us to know Him, and it is the gift we use to know each other. My life is so much different for the words I’ve gained, not because learning words in another language carry any great significance, but the people delivering them do. It is riding on these words that we can live life together – a life where we know another and are known, where we love and are loved. This is the grace of language.
We seek to empower our children, our teammates and our Sudanese friends to love and know more of who God is through acts of loving service and biblical teaching.