This summer, we are starting something new. It’s something I have dreamed about for years.
You see, last year, I hunched over my laptop for too long and finished this thing called a MA in Teaching of Languages. And then, I sat back and wondered how God was going to put it to use or if it was even worth it at all.
His plans are always above ours though.
Those years of studying culture, words, linguistics, and learning languages shaped me. I logged off my university student site and opened the door to my classroom. It isn’t what I expected, but it’s where I’m called to work – in my community, among speakers of various languages, to the glory of God.
This summer, we’ve started language classes for Nuer and Maban speakers (both are African languages) at Seneca Center. Research and our experience shows the importance of people becoming literate (basic reading and writing skills) in their native language, yet most children and adults around us haven’t had this opportunity.
What is our aim in this?
1. Improve communication and enrich relationships between parents (native speakers) and children (who are typically losing their native language skills).
“The biggest benefit is being able to communicate with my parents. As simple as that sounds, I’ve seen many first generation immigrant families struggle with this -– the parents never fully assimilate and the children grow up ‘Americanized,’ resulting in almost an internal culture clash within families.” — Cindy, New York, English & Korean
2. Aid young people in embracing their cultural identity and heritage.
“It gives me a sense of pride and connection to my heritage. I honestly believe the fact that I can speak another language with my family brings us closer together. It reminds us where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come.” — Bryant, Chicago, English & Korean
3. Provide a way for adult native-speakers to read their Bibles in their native languages. Both of these groups have at least portions of the Bible translated in their languages, yet many adult speakers can’t read it.
An article by Rick Brown (2009) in the International Journal of Frontier Missions provides an excellent summary of this point. It can be found here.
As quoted by Brown of an individual from the Philippines, “Now that I am reading the Bible in my own language, I have a clearer grasp of Christian doctrine. My confidence in the truth of God’s Word is stronger because it is as if God is speaking directly to me.”
So, we’ve located some of the only written materials in Nuer and Maban, made a lot of copies, and recruited some community members to teach as well as our own Summer Team workers.
It is typically a slow process starting anything new but we’ve taken some first steps by God’s grace. Pray with us for God to accomplish His purposes in this effort!