practice

Thirst for culture and language is a large part of who I am. During my time in China, my favorite class was language class and learning the characters of Mandarin. Over the years I have spent some time trying to make sense of Russian. I will never forget the trip to Kurlovo in Russia when I’d picked up enough phrases to make it sound like I spoke fluent Russian. Little Dima got in my face and just kept jabbering. I think I understood every 10th word. When I said in Russian, “I don’t speak Russian!” He told me “Yes, you DO!” And thought I’d created a new game to play. Ha!

And now I find myself having spent enough time learning and submerged in Creole that I can translate small conversations between visiting Americans and the kids in the villages. Emphasis on SMALL conversations. However, definitely at the point the kids think I speak more than I actually speak and tell me all sorts of things I have not a clue what they are really saying. Contractions in Haitian slang will be the death of me!

But the key to all of this is practice. I spent almost seven years learning French in school and university, but could not have kept a conversation going even if someone held a gun to my head!

Really great practice for me is when a lot of the kids like to test me. Lovesonnes is on a color phase, and yesterday he kept at me with saying a color in English and I would tell him the Creole word. Easy. I know my colors well! Then we switched to animals. Not so good there!

One of the things I cherish most at the villages is knowing the kids. One of my friends has been sick for a couple of weeks. Tacura has slowly been healing, and yesterday was the first day in a while that he was completely back to his highly energetic, goofy, lovable self. He was on my back and would shimmy up to where he could rest his head on my shoulder and put his cheek next to mine with our ears pressed together so it sounded like I was in a tunnel when I talked. Then he was acting like he was driving a car and squealing like a horn…in my ear. Good thing we have a good friendship and I know how sick he’s been, or that screaming *might* have been annoying.

At one point he asked to go to the cafeteria and we sat in a quiet corner where he started asking me questions in Creole. He knows my language limits and phrases things so I understand him. It was precious time spent with my friend, but also excellent practice for my language skills.

Before we left last night, a new American friend was holding Onelson…who was almost asleep. Everyone else is getting on the bus and she looked at me with the question of “Do I just put him down?” We took him to his room where he decided he wasn’t that sleepy, as toddlers do, and kept saying, “No!”

Tacura thought this was hilarious, but they live in the same room, so this was not new to him. Soon, Onelson was out and dead weight. Tacura immediately, started pulling the American’s arm while tip toeing making hilarious contortions with his face down the room length, simultaneously holding his finger to his lips…the international sign of please shut up. I hadn’t seen that animation in his face and eyes in weeks, as I stood in the doorway I couldn’t help but smile at this sweet scene that transcended language barriers.

Language barriers have never bothered me, and I fully acknowledge I am unique in that trait. I find myself so thankful for practice with my American friends, and translators who get that I am at the point where I am just going to go for it and say the sentence in Creole that they will need to correct.

But even more so, I love the quiet, memorable moments of when I practice language with the small friends in my life that speak Russian and Creole…all because it leads to a deepening of trust and being known within the relationships God is nurturing.

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layers

Above me is a ceiling made out of a quilted patchwork of multi-colored tarps held together by a myriad of wires, ropes and thanks to some wacky Americans…zip ties.

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*This photo is for ‘sale’ on my photo blog at sojourner4jesusphotography.com. Selling photos is one of the avenues I use to raise money for mission trip travel.

It holds so much beauty in its own right, but then add to it a Holy purpose and all of a sudden it is transformed into one of the most amazing worship areas I’ve ever been honored to worship God under.

The electricity of the Holy Spirit was tangible, and needed no translation among a group of believers speaking multiple languages.

Layers of worship.

What does that mean to you? What do layers of worship look like? If you could peel back every layer it would have the same core of the God we serve, but each of those layers look different based on where you are worshipping.

I’ve worshipped in gilded Russian Orthodox churches to the makeshift sacred space of classrooms in China to mud floors and rusted tin walls in Guatemala.

But layers of worship gained immense meaning for me in Haiti in May.

Our teams’ task the first two days on site at Olivier Methodist Church in Haiti was to transfer the rocky rubble of the earthquake torn church building to the back of the compound where it became Holy ground for the church pews on Sunday morning.

Setting aside my general awe of the beautiful way most other countries use everything while we toss aside things that are perfectly good…God opened my eyes to the layers.

On Haitian ground covered with the earthquake rubble of the past building sat the pews in groupings and rows expectantly waiting for a community to come together under the shade provided by colorful tarps, woven together behind a church building slowly being put back together.

The community could have fallen apart. Haitian community is based around church gathering places. When the church buildings collapsed, the community had nowhere to gather that was protected from rain and sun. Our first night after working there was a major rainstorm…the next morning we found half of the tarps sagging under ponds of water from the rain.

The community could have relocated. Many had lost their homes and others their ability to earn money.

The community could have said ‘There is no God. If there was, why would this have happened?’ But the beauty of the Haitian people is their ability to turn their hope toward eternal life and life beyond this world.

The community could have said it’s not worth it. We have natural disasters all of the time why would be rebuild.

But the community is strong and stubborn in all the areas it should be.

Instead the community holds onto the ‘espwa’ of Jesus. (‘espwa’ is ‘hope’ in Creole.) They cling to the strength community brings as one whole instead of each alone. Their songs of worship are yelled to their Savior as their hands sway in the Holy Spirit saturated air. And they stand together as one community seeking the one true God in layers of worship.

earthly

Have you ever felt liked you couldn’t escape something God was trying to teach you? For example, a word that keeps popping up EVERY. WHERE. In music, scripture, conversations…no matter how far you run. It’s still there!

Well, lately…that word is dust. Ironic…because there is no dust to be found in KC right now. We’ve gotten too much snow to even imagine it’s under there somewhere.

In scripture Jesus sends the disciples out, tells them not take anything with them…and share the message. Tell the story. But…if people refuse to listen, shake the dust off their feet and leave the town.

Seems drastic, right? To shake off that earthly dust in holy protest?

But it begs the question…what if our earthly words are not going to get through? What if we’ve done our part and its time to move on to what God has next…to leave the rest to Him?

It all comes down to what you believe, and what you choose to hear…

Feb 28 - earthlyI tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? [John 3:11-12]

If we cannot believe God’s words about earthly things…we will never understand his Kingdom language. And without Kingdom language…what are we truly living for? This earthly world is not enough for me, and it shouldn’t satisfy you, either.

language

You know you are a mission geek when…

Yah, I’m not going to finish that sentence, mostly, because we all know it to be true already.

I had a mission geek moment last night, and was reminded by how God started adjusting my ‘mission’ definition to a ‘Kingdom’ mindset.

I picked up a book titled, “Surprised by Hope” by N.T. Wright who is Bishop of Durham…yet another Brit teaching Americans theology. And I don’t mean that snarky…there are just so many foreigners that are speaking into a lot of different areas. Quite honestly, his books make my brain hurt, but in a good way. “Surprised by Hope” busted open my view of God’s Kingdom in a way that I’d never imagined.

It all fed into the reason I chose to break down my language about ‘missions’ last Lenten season, and go back to scripture to relearn God’s sending language.

Language is incredibly important. God has been shedding a lot of light lately on how often we are having a conversation with someone about something, yet the way we each define that something is completely different. My friends are noticing lately that I’ve started inserting, ‘Ok, I mean this when I say…’ or ‘What do you mean when you say…’

I think it is because I’ve begun to realize we very rarely speak the same language. And it is even truer when you start talking ‘mission’ language. How many people do you know who balk when they hear the word ‘calling’ or ‘missionary’? These words are not scary when you break them down to the simplest form of God has created you with the specific DNA to love others with compassion for him. It is a calling, and it makes you a missionary in whatever contect God already has you living.

More often than not fights, arguments and miscommunications come from not working from the same definitions of what we are talking about. If we would just be patient enough to stop, listen to how someone else sees something and clarify meaning…so many arguments would dissolved before relationships were lost.

Language is why I appreciate N.T. Wright so much. He speaks Bible, granted using big words, but he is consistently, continually and constantly pointing back to scripture, which is where we should all be getting our language from…when was the last time really you believed what Jesus said, to the point of actually living it? Because there is where the Biblical language comes alive…