Neither of us have ever run a marathon. The 50 yard dash, the one mile fitness test in high school, a 2K, several 5K’s – yes. But never a marathon. That kind of sounds like torture to both of us. But running a marathon is exactly what we are doing right now here in Amdu!
Where are we in the race? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Our family moved into Amdu about 3 years ago in May 2013. If you take our 10 months of furlough in 2014 into account, we’ve actually been living in Amdu for a little over 2 years. That means we’ve spent 2 years delving into the culture and language of the Amdu people, working hard to understand not only how they speak but also how they think.
We started out knowing only very basic greetings and have steadily progressed to where now we can tell some stories that are mostly understood by our Amdu friends. But we still can’t understand all that is said to us in conversation. We don’t know how to talk about in-depth, under the surface things.
On the culture side, when we came we observed and experienced that when they shake hands, they follow it with this finger pop thing. It is a daily part of Amdu life. Now we have moved beyond basic cultural observations and have moved into hearing their accounts of seeing spirits on the trails and being afraid of being poisoned by witchcraft. But the intricacies of how they think and what really makes an Amdu person tick are still beyond our understanding.
So, how much farther do we have to go before we officially finish with the culture and language acquisition/learning (CLA) phase? Sometime in late August or early September we are aiming towards having another CLA evaluation. We will know better then how much farther we have to go. While we are nearing the end (at our last evaluation we were both at level 7 out of 9), it isn’t a gentle downhill grade but rather it feels like a steep uphill climb!
And finishing CLA is really only the beginning of the race. Ahead for our team is literacy, writing Bible lessons, translation, Bible teaching, discipleship, writing more Bible lessons, more translation, discipleship, more translation…
We knew that tribal church planting was going to be tough. And daily we are reminded of that. Not only are we in a race, but we are also in a spiritual battle.
Our houses here in Amdu are smack in the middle of this spiritual battleground. We often feel how inadequate we are for this task and only the Lord’s strength can keep us putting one foot in front of the other. We are not the smartest or the bravest or the strongest, but we are comforted by the truth that the Lord’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Lots of people think that missionaries are superstars of some kind. But if you could be a fly on the wall of our house, you’d quickly observe that that is definitely not the case.
Just like a marathon runner has to pace himself to be able to finish the race, so we too are in this race for the long haul. We need endurance to keep trying even when we stumble over verb tenses and conjugations and when we can’t remember the word for some common thing that we should know by now.
We need stamina to keep investigating yet another facet of this culture. We need strength to deal with the regular stream of people coming to our door to talk or ask for things. We need balance as we juggle the demands of language learning and church planting as well as the needs of our family.
We need wisdom as we try to figure out the patterns and nuances of this unwritten language. We need energy to step out our door each day and live life as representatives of Jesus in this place that is so different from our western culture.
Sometimes it feels like we are moving at a snail’s pace. In reality, we’re probably right about where we should be – based on averages of how long it usually takes to learn an unwritten language and culture. But we long for the day when we can communicate and understand clearly.
Pray for us as we keep pushing on closer and closer toward the goal of sharing God’s Truth with our Amdu friends and seeing the Lord build up a mature church here in Amdu. So many people are a part of the larger Amdu team. Thank you for praying for us and for the Amdu people as well!