Chandler and I were given the opportunity to attend an ALW (Advanced Language Workshop) that Ethnos360, founded in 1942 as New Tribes Mission, offers periodically in different parts of the world. The purpose of the workshop is to learn about discourse analysis. Discourse analysis is how we organize what we say so that people can follow our thoughts. This is vital when it comes to teaching and translating the Bible.
As I sat in our classroom and looked around me I saw faces of missionaries from different countries in West Africa, East Africa and even Asia. Many are already allocated into tribes and are in desperate need for this discourse analysis training. They are getting ready to prepare material to teach through the Bible chronologically and also to begin the daunting task of translating God’s Word, and even some have already been doing this for years.
I couldn’t help but feel like I was the wrong girl to sit in that classroom. I almost feel guilty to have had the privilege of attending such a workshop, seeing that so much was over my head. The honest truth is the information was not having the same effect on me that it was having on others. Seriously, there were points where it seemed like the instructors were speaking in another language (ironic, right?).
Here is what I did learn though. I learned that language is absolutely amazing – so complicated, yet fascinating. As missionaries, we have a HUGE task to not only teach the Bible, but even more simply to JUST speak to people. Communicating is so much more than word-for-word translation but it is understanding the patterns of how people speak, the way they bring emphasis to something, the way they add spice to what they are saying, etc. The work we are doing is a GOD SIZED JOB. I am convinced of this more than ever.
The deeper we get into life here, the more and more aware we are of our need for prayer. This task is too big. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all that has to happen between now and the final goal of seeing a mature church planted. Please pray with us.
Yes, I walked away completely overwhelmed, but I also walked away so excited and encouraged [God is gracious to do that even in the midst of my discouragement]. We had the blessing of sitting with different missionaries during mealtimes and we got to hear their stories, how God led them to the mission field, their joys and hardships, and their hopes and dreams for the people they are working with. This filled my heart with great joy. As we sat with one missionary from West Africa, with a big smile on his face he said, “I am living my dream.”
This spoke volumes to me! Chandler and I were on a 6+ year journey of preparing for the mission field and now, by God’s grace, we are finally here. Can we say that we are “living our dream?” Oh how I pray so. The reality is, this ‘dream’ has good and bad parts to it. It’s not all roses and sunshine. BUT it is so fulfilling knowing that, by God’s rich grace, we will see a tribe, living in darkness and without hope, come to know the incredible salvation of Jesus Christ.
I’ll end with a brief story. During this workshop we have been staying at a mission center with hotel style rooms. Gideon and Chandler have been sharing a room and the girls and I have been together. My alarm went off early one morning and it woke the girls up (way before the light of day) so I decided it would be better for me to just stay in bed, in hopes that they would fall back to sleep. As we laid there, Selah, out of the blue, asked “Why do people talk to another god that isn’t the real God.” She said this because she can often hear the Call to Prayer off in the distance. I explained how that is probably what they grew up learning. I then told her that this is why we are here, learning Swahili, so we can tell people about the one true God. In that moment I was reminded by my 5 year old of the importance of the work that we are doing here.
Thank you, Jesus, for these sweet, innocent, reminders of why you have called our family to serve here in Tanzania.