Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sharper Ears, Looser Tongue

These were a couple of the goals of my recent two-week language acquisition training at Mission Training International. While this training was of a completely different nature than the three-week SPLICE training which preceded it, it certainly was equally worthwhile. Most significantly for me, it gave me a lot of hope, as well as a load of helpful tools, for taking charge of the language learning process I have ahead of me. I'm convinced of the importance of language learning for effective long-term cross cultural ministry, yet the thought of learning a new language, particularly one as unfamiliar as the Khmer language, was a daunting prospect at my age. The PILAT program encourages us to recognize that we are capable of learning a new language just as we so naturally learned our first one, the key is for the learner to take ownership of "pulling the language in." Our instructors intentionally had us practice their techniques on a language that was not our target language. So guess what language I got to practice on..... Mandarin Chinese! This video is of our Mandarin language helper preparing us for learning how to buy noodles in Mandarin. Well, if I could get even a small jump on Mandarin in just a few sessions, I have great expectations for what God can do for His glory in helping me learn Khmer!! That being said, PLEASE PRAY for me in this because, while I know it is doable, I also know it is going to take a lot of hard work and being willing to make "a million mistakes."

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I just finished the SPLICE cultural adaptation training at Mission Training Institute. I was excited to be here both because it is just one more step closer to getting to the field and because I had been anticipating that God had big plans for me in this training. Well, God has, once again, done “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” This training has gone well beyond what I had anticipated in providing helpful tools, it has also broken through to deep heart level issues. One of our sessions was about the paradox that missionaries face. They used a visual illustration of a “pair-o-ducks” with one duck called the “Yay” duck and one duck called the “Yuck” duck. The “Yay” duck represents all of the exciting things the missionary is looking forward to in serving in another context, the “Yuck” duck represents the hard things such as leaving family and friends, letting go of the comfortable, entering into the stresses of language learning and navigating a very unfamiliar environment where things just don’t work the way we’re used to. We have to embrace the paradox. It doesn’t help to pretend that the “yucks” don’t exist but we can keep them in perspective as we appreciate the “yays.” I share this with you because I want all those who care about me to recognize that I am already living in this tension. I can at one moment be in tears thinking about leaving my nephew and nieces behind and the next be excited because of God's having provided me with a great apartment and roommate in Cambodia. If I'm talking with you and I'm all animated about getting to the field, don't for a minute think that I'm not sad about having to leave you. At the same time, if you catch me on a down day, don't think that I'm having second thoughts about leaving. I'm just living with both of these "ducks."