How many of you remember songs that you learned in elementary school? I may be the exception and not the norm, but I remember quite a few. One about cows chewing their cud for the sesquicentennial of the state of Wisconsin, the Pennsylvania Polka, one about Christmas songs and candy canes from 1st grade, ‘She’s a Star Polisher” from KWAM at church, “Fifty Nifty” about the different states, etc. But the one that has been in my mind a lot these last few weeks is one about Marquette and Joliet, explorers of the New World. Part of the song goes,
“Missionaries, traders and explorers lived their lives on the waterways!
And they took one step forward and one step back,
Put their packs on their shoulders and away they go.”
In this country, I don’t quite feel like I’m living my life on the waterways (though that may change as rainy season picks up and the roads become bigger and bigger puddles), but the second line above really seems to resonate with my life lately – “And they took one step forward and one step back.” Every time that it feels like we’re making a little progress, we take another step or two backwards at the same time. Let me explain . . .
As you know, for so long it’s been on my heart to translate the Word of God into a currently unwritten language for a people group who has never had the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus. I know that even after I move into a village in my people group and start to learn their language, there are still many steps and it will take a long time before that will become a reality, but at the moment I feel like I’m right on the doorstep of being able to finally move into a village and start the next big step towards the long-term goal, and so moving into the village has become my short-term goal that I am aiming for at the moment. However, even though moving into the village is finally in sight, it seems as if it keeps slipping out of my grasp and becoming farther and farther away. For every step forward, there’s another one backwards.
You see, my teammate Jen and I had wanted to already be moved into the village by now, but it took us a long time to find contacts to be able to start making forays into villages in the people group. There were months where we had no new leads. Then all of a sudden, last October, we got two connections and things started happening. Then I was gone on different business trips from November into January, and when I got back to My Country village visits started up slowly again.
Finally they picked up in March and into April and May. The end was in sight, and we were hoping to have visited all the villages before rainy season started, meaning people would be busy in their fields and the roads would turn into mud pits. But then my teammate Jen got sick for three weeks and we had to postpone village trips. As soon as she started feeling better, I headed to the capital for two weeks for some training on how to make a word list and dictionary.
Last Monday I got back home and was looking forward to finishing up the village trips even though rainy season had started and it would be much more difficult, but that day fighting broke out in the main village in my people group because of a new mayor who was elected but unliked. It got bad, and I heard about a few deaths and a few houses burnt to the ground. We were advised not to go back out there yet, but to wait for things to calm down. By the end of the week things were calming down, but they still said to wait a little bit. Today I called out there again, and they again said that things are calm, but that we shouldn’t come yet.
So you see? We’re making progress – I learned about a very helpful computer program to eventually make a dictionary and do a bunch of other useful stuff for us (my dictionary currently has 59 words!); we’re continuing to work on relationships with our friends and neighbors from our people group; Jen’s continuing to learn Jula; I’m writing up notes about each of the different villages to be able to help us figure out which one is most strategic to move into; I’m learning more about their religion to be able to better relate to people there; I’ve started to order things that I’ll need to live in the village (like solar panels); I’m continuing to minister here in the city; etc. But the elusive “being-able-to-move-into-the-village-and-start-learning-language-and-culture”
doesn’t seem like it’s getting any closer. One step forward and one step back.
So, you may ask, “When are you thinking you’ll move into the village?” Good question. I had hoped early this year. Then this spring. Then this summer. Now maybe this fall. But timing doesn’t seem to be going according to my plans, so I can’t really say. Jen and I keep talking about moving before the end of 2016, but really, who knows? It’s a good thing that God’s in control and knows what He’s doing and what timing He wants to work in, since we sure don’t!
Thanks for your continued prayers for our people group and for us. Pray that things will completely settle down and that we’ll be able to make our last few visits soon. Pray that we’ll have wisdom as to which village to move into, and that we’ll be patient and wait for God’s timing.