Sunday, January 12, 2014

Language Learning

I know my last two posts have been a little depressing. Truthful...but kinda sad. Although we have had a tough year some great things did happen this year.

I mean we got an airstrip for cryin' out loud! It isn't exactly the same as getting a Super Wal-Mart near your house, but for us it was along the same lines.

Here is a pic the pilot took on his way in....

Without that airstrip we were seriously remote. No roads. No navigable rivers. Helicopters and legs were the only forms of transportation.

Huge. Major Praise for us and the entire village!

I think the second greatest thing that happened this year was getting our first language evaluation at the beginning of December. We were very worried that between building that airstrip and all the difficulties we faced we were not accomplishing the job we were really supposed to be doing in this point of our ministry, and that is language learning. Our tests went very well, however. I was right about where I was supposed to be and John Michael was ahead of where he was supposed to be. So we were very encouraged that somehow, someway, in spite of all the chaos and setbacks (and in spite of the fact that someone in our house is always sick or injured,) God was helping us learn this language.

For me, it has been especially difficult since my co-worker, Susan, left. She was giving me lessons in the grammatical structure of the language and helping me get stories from the ladies who are mostly monolingual. She is an amazing teacher, and I don't think I would have learned anything without her. Fortunately, she left me a big folder of things to study and memorize and I was able to work on that these last few months.

I do have two Hewa ladies that help with language as much as they can. It is really hard to learn a language without both parties having a common language to act as the "middle man." Since the Hewa ladies do not speak Melanesian Pigin very well, it is hard to try to explain to them what I am looking for in ways of help.

These two do an amazing job though of taking the limited Pigin they have and teaching me the Hewa language. I am very thankful for the time and effort they put into trying to help me when both are very busy taking care of little ones and providing food for their families. They are both, in fact, pregnant right now as well and will be having babies in the next couple months.

Emiyas is Susan's best friend, and was therefore trained by Susan before she left. She is an amazing Christian lady who is brilliant. She is a great language helper!

Tesi has some of the best Pidgin for a lady in the tribe. She really enjoys teaching me, although she catches herself teaching me the wrong dialect sometimes!
So many of the ladies are excited and willing to practice speaking with me even if they don't speak Pidgin and can't answer any questions I might have. I am truly grateful for their willingness to take time out of their very difficult lives and help me learn to communicate with them. It makes me feel like they really want to communicate and have a relationship with me.

John Michael has had difficulty finding the "one" in a language helper since his first language helper (and best friend in the village) died. But, he is working with a few different guys of all ages and each of them are very helpful and eager to teach. They were even willing to allow him to go deep into the jungle on an egg hunting trip and spend two nights in a tiny primitive shelter with them and their families.

Shelter JMG stayed in on his trip. They added the part on the far left when he and another guy got there to make room for them to sleep.
So there you go. It hasn't been all bad. We know that the airstrip and any language progress at all are miracles from God! We are thankful that he sees us and knows our needs and pours out His lavish unfailing love on us even though we don't deserve it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

So long 2013

As I mentioned in my last post, 2013 was a rough year. I still have a hard time scrolling through my iphoto which is full of pictures of the people we loved and lost this year...

A newborn baby girl that (in spite of Susan giving her CPR for an hour) did not survive

Nosem, the boy who committed suicide on July 4th.

Etike, the boy who drowned, with his family (top left in the yellow shirt with red collar and beautiful smile)

Atipz, our sweet friend who committed suicide on August 29th.

Unfortunately, we have so many heart wrenching pictures of this young man because we spent the most time with him. Like this one of him playing with our daughters...

And the absolute worst picture of all- Atipz digging the grave of Nosem. Two months later someone was digging his own grave...

There were so many times this year that we were overwhelmed with grief and loss and confusion. So many days that we had to pray ourselves out of bed in the morning. So many days that we had to remind each other to just breathe.

But each day defined by pain was also drenched in God's tender mercies and loving comfort. Every tragedy brought us closer to our co-workers and closer to our Hewa friends. The cords in the rope of shared suffering are substantial and not easily broken. And I know that is what God wants for all of us. I know He took this ugliness and made something new and beautiful with it. I was once again assured that I can trust all things in His hands even grief, loss, and death.

So I think we as a community were happy to say goodbye to 2013. And the crazy, happy, silly, and very very dirty New Year celebration was just what we all needed to let go of the burdens this past year dumped on our shoulders and look forward to a new phase in our lives and relationships together. To look forward to what God has for all of us in 2014, no matter what that is.

This is a small glimpse of what that looked like...

Thank you Lord that there is a time for joy and a time for pain. And no matter which time we are experiencing, you are there with us.