What will it be like to be back in the States…the feel of a smooth ride on the road, huge expansive highways, fast food that you can eat in your car, good ketchup, PICKLES!!!! AND, the ability to communicate yourself without any difficulty!
We are in the process of planning our time back home and preparing to be gone from our ‘home’ for about 3 months, but as we come to this milestone I can’t help but look back at the last 3 years. I am not the same person I was stepping off that plane in Costa Rica, as we started language school, and I’m not even the same person that stepped off that plane when we arrived in Argentina 2 years ago. Personally, the challenge of learning a new language has been my biggest hurdle these past 3 years and is what God has used to change me. (the second challenging hurdle that has changed me has to do with learning to work on a Team, but that is post for another day). Somewhere I heard said that
“everyone wants to be humble but no one wants to be humbled.”
On the scale of most difficult things to do in life, learning a new language (and culture) has to be up there. It’s hard, and I don’t mean training for a marathon hard. Every aspect of your person goes in to this process. I’m a proud person. I have strong opinions and like to talk and argue, I can also be somewhat of a control freak. Also, I love having a good time with people, I enjoy meeting knew people and getting to know them, having conversation. Before leaving the U.S. I had a a place to fit in, a role, job to do. I had an expertise that I could work at and do very very well at. I’m well read so I could talk to most people about most topics. People respected me for what I did. When we moved out of the country all that changed, all that got flipped on it’s head.
I no longer had control over anything, wasn’t good at anything, and looked like an imbecile. When you first start to speak a new language you sound like a baby, literally. When once you had command over every sound that came out of your mouth when practically every word is chosen for a reason, now you can’t do that. You sound like an idiot, you don’t even know simple words or expressions and when you do you say them in a way that sounds horribly wrong and unintelligible to the ears of native speakers. It’s kinda like having a relationship with every single word in your head and at your disposal to use, from the very first time you heard and used it. Each word is like a container filled with all the positive and negative emotions of all the experiences you have had using that word in all different types of situations and contexts. When you speak and think those relationships come to mind and you chose carefully what means what you want to say… Now, all that is useless. Useless. You begin anew, with brand-new relationships with brand-new words, but, they are empty containers. They have no meaning, no emotion behind them. Everyday, every week, every month and year that passes by, every person I meet, every different situation or context I’m in, that container slowly is beginning to get filled with history and meaning and emotion. But, right now, for me it pales in comparison to the depth and meaning and history and emotion- the relationship- I have with every English word I know. Oh how I wish I could express myself to the depth that is there inside me. But I can’t, not yet at least, slowly day by day I’m getting there, I wonder if I will ever be able to.
Every day is an exercise in going outside and looking/sounding stupid. What good is my education? It sounds like I didn’t even get past pre-school. That is wearing. Emotionally you get rubbed raw really quick. It’s fun at first and cute, but eventually you just want to talk, but can’t. When once I could have ‘small talk’ about sports or the weather or this or that, now you can’t. When once people respected you for what you knew and what you did, now people have no idea what you know and what you do–you’re just there. On top of that, given our work, you can’t really measure results , you can’t put a finger on what you’ve done or produced or accomplished, you plant seeds and plant seeds in people’s lives and pray that God moves. This is a life intensely personal and internal. A life of isolation and war to not give up. Everyday reminds me that I’m not here for vacation, I’m not here for a ‘good time’, I’m not here because I feel good here, I’m not here because I don’t like there, I’m not here….If it were, I wouldn’t be here. I’m here because this is the mission God put me on, and it’s freakin hard!
I wanted to be humble, but I never wanted to be humbled. Never before have I had to trust in God as I do now. Before I could depend on the ‘system’ (our culture, expectations, relationships, established societal norms, the language) to get by when push came to shove. But when you are in another culture learning a new language, you are without all that (except in our case we have our team to rely on as well). God is my only refuge, I keep coming back to that, and that is what gives me courage and strength. Life is hard and really not all that fun, but my Joy is found in the Lord and his promise that one day all this will be worth it.
Our travels will follow a path around Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, Virgina, and Pennsylvania (with a quick hop to Sebring Florida, I hope), where most of all our supporting teammates and churches are. Along the way we’ll be spending much needed and looked forward to time with our family and friends. I can’t even begin to express to you how much we’ve missed our friends and family, missed our kids playing with cousins and the children of our close friends, missed our kids getting to know their grandparents, uncles and aunts. We’re looking forward to our time with everyone. We know it will be short, we know it will be sweet. We miss you. We can’t wait to see you.