This is the fourth entry in my series about how God has been at work in the Nahuatl church plant over the last ten years.
Culture and Language Learning
In my last entry, I shared about some hardships our team went through. Just around that time, God provided new coworkers to join the team, allowing us to stay in the village and keep the work going.
In between pounding fence posts, pouring a floor for our coworkers’ new house, and a large list of other chores, we began what would be our main focus of the next two years: learning the language and culture of the Nahuatl in our region.
We were starting from zero, pointing to objects and writing down the sounds we thought we heard in response. We not only had sounds to figure out, but words, phrases, grammar, and then the complicated way all of those are hooked together in Nahuatl communication.
Not only that, but we were living in a culture that was as foreign to us as the language we were struggling with. We began to document what we were seeing–how people greet one another, how food is prepared, how money is dealt with. And as time went on, we investigated more complicated topics–how parents interact with their children, the role of the spirits in everyday life, how people grieve losses, how morality is defined.
I both loved and despised this time of language learning. It would be pointless to pretend otherwise: it was tiring, difficult, and often discouraging. It was hard for me to see progress and hard to feel like we would ever “arrive.” But the love part of that equation built as I saw the fruits of our efforts…not tests passed and kudos from leadership, but relationships built, confidences won, community acceptance, and a paved road for the gospel.
What we were doing during this time was getting up every morning and showing the people some pretty significant things: We want to talk to you. We want to understand your world. We want to be part of this community. We think you have value. And most importantly this: We have something to say to you that is worth all this time and effort.
A veteran missionary I admire often says this when we close our time of talking: Jesus is worth it. If you are a missionary going through language learning right now (admittedly a very niche group) let no other thing be your motivation and let that motivation propel you forward no matter the difficulties. If you are anyone else outside of that group, the exact same thing is true. Jesus is worth it. He deserves it and there will be no great joy than placing the fruits of our efforts at the feet of his Honor.