Flaming Tongues Above

Training Part 3
I have pictures posted up now, so if you want to view them they are on my links section on the right, and for your convenience I named the link ¨Pictures¨.

There were many hard things about training. It actually was the theme of my life during this time, but the most difficult part for me was the language. For this I thought I would dedicate a portion to describe the road that I traveled in this area.

Spanish was so important because none of the Latins going through the training spoke English and the training was totally in Spanish. As mentioned before, every English word was five push ups, and for the Indigenous it was the same for their language. I basically had to live the language because it was the only way to function. All the classes were in Spanish. From asking for a bowl of rice to explaining my favorite part of the Bible I had to learn how to express myself. I really had no classes and no formal training of any kind, but they really just threw me into the situation and learned by survival.

So many times I felt like a child and was even viewed as being less intelligent at times because I could not articulate what I wanted to say in their language. At one point we had to read Genesis in Spanish and after seeing what chapter everyone was on most of them were done and I was one of the last. One of the guys made fun of me for being so slow, and I threw my Bible in English at him and told him to read one sentence from Genesis in English and he could not. It took some of them awhile to understand the struggle because they never had to learn a foreign language. But for most of them they were so patient with me and were the greatest teachers and still are.

Even at the beginning I felt like I hit a wall with the language and ever so slowly pushed it forward the whole time. The vicious cycle of it all is that the more I learned the more the native speakers would use more complicated sentences because they assumed I understood more. It was as if I felt that I was never moving. At one point my boss, J told me that I was really struggling in the language. Then he told me that my dictionary was my new novia (girlfriend), named Dixie (after ¨dictionary…still not laughing). I had to have it on me at all times, sleep with it, run with it, do everything with it and if I was caught without it I had to do twenty-five push ups. Then if I said ¨no entiendo¨ (I don´t understand) then I would have to do twenty-five push ups. Another addition to these requirements was that if I could not speak Spanish at the end of training no one would graduate, which gave my Latin brothers the responsibility of teaching me.

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This whole process was such a struggle in so many ways. Because we were living Spanish it affected all areas of my life, from building relationships with the guys, learning all the stories in Spanish, and trying to process all the classes. I got so discouraged at one point that I really challenge God on my calling to this place. I felt as if He really wanted me to do this He would supply all I needed, including being able to speak the language. I cried out to God after many weeks of struggling, and just told Him that if He did not give me the language then maybe I was not called to be a missionary. The next day I was able to roll my r´s, which I had never been able to do. It was like a small gift of confidence as if He was telling me it was not going to be easy but I would get through it. From the point of hitting the rock bottom and just being at the place I knew that I just could not do it, I believe was the turning point and it slowly but surely gave me the ear to hear and the tongue to speak.

The entire journey was so difficult but led to truly beautiful pastures. Some of the amazing things were when I would remember something my boss had told me but not remembering if he had told me in English or Spanish. Many times I would just sit and listen to hours of Spanish being spoken without knowing what was really being said but only picking up things here and there. As time went, however, things became clearer and I was able to understand more. It was like the rising sun revealing all of creation and everything slowly appears with more clarity. So it was with the conversations that I was listening to.

I have grown to appreciate many languages because we would sing songs in Chayahuita, Aguaruna, Spanish, and English. It seemed like a foreshadow of the beauty we will be able to experience in Heaven. Learning the story of the Tower of Babel in Spanish I found ironic and even cursed those people blaming them for my problems. But even though it was a punishment by God, in His goodness, by turning one language into many He made it possible for Him to be praised in so many different ways all beautiful.

I am blessed to say that I am functional in Spanish. In all we learned over thirty stories in Spanish. I probably memorized more of the Bible in Spanish than English. Both of my partners working with me in Bolivia are Latin, and one of them is Quechua, and so all our communication is in Spanish. And now I am learning Quechua through the medium of Spanish. I would never have imagined. Please pray that I can learn this language fast and efficiently and thank you for all your prayers for Spanish because I knew the LORD heard them.

¨Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by Flaming Tongues above.¨
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7 Responses to Flaming Tongues Above

  1. Anonymous says:

    You no doubt will be a true linguist in due course. Keep up the good work — the due diligence will pay off. Love you, Dad.

  2. Hi Graham,Jane Beougher here telling you how much I enjoyed reading your updated log. How God is blessing you, teaching you, and using you. We know He will be using you in a mighty way and we’ll continue praying for your confidence in Him, your ministry through His power and your safety.We have so many more creature comforts here in America that we stay busy with them and don’t take the time to listen to God as you’ve had and been honored to do. A lesson for all of us I’m sure.Love to you, and we’re praying MANY blessings for you as you spread God word in 2008!

  3. Stephen says:

    “Many times I would just sit and listen to hours of Spanish being spoken without knowing what was really being said but only picking up things here and there. As time went, however, things became clearer and I was able to understand more. It was like the rising sun revealing all of creation and everything slowly appears with more clarity. So it was with the conversations that I was listening to.”Sounds just like the scene in “The 13th Warrior” (1999) where Antonio Banderas’s exiled Arabic-speaking character is traveling with a party of Vikings, and bit by bit their language starts coming through intelligibly to him–dramatized in the movie by substituting an English word here and there in their Norse dialog, increasing quickly and eventually switching entirely over to English. As for myself, when I was taking an introductory Russian class several years ago, I found that there were days when it just clicked, and there were days when everything was a struggle–largely depending, I expect, on how tired or distracted I was on a given day, etc.Greetings from Norte Carolina, btw, where Spanish has already become a useful second language. We don’t know each other, but I attended First Baptist Sweetwater in Longwood, FL, through middle and high schools, back when the church was still entirely on the south side of the road, and my mother pointed me to your blog. (Since those years ago I have become what you’d call Russian Orthodox, but I’m enjoying and edified by your postings. We all speak and worship in English in my parish, but some visitors from the Old Country don’t do so quite as well, so I figured I should at least be able to offer them some coffee–hence the language class mentioned above. Plus I’ve always enjoyed exploring different languages, scripts, codes, etc.)

  4. brother graham. what a journey. i empathize with you in many ways and then in many others i honestly cannot imagine how difficult a time that was. praise our God that He is the God of gods and gives liberally to those who ask. how incredible that He uses the lowly to shame the wise, eh? (right there with ya) blessings and prayers as you continue your journey.

  5. Sue says:

    so thinking that you were quoting the flaming lips on first glance…is that a bad thing? or is it worse that you don’t know who the flaming lips are. miss you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Graham!Our Family of Austria is wishing You a wonderful NEW YEAR 2008!!! The LORD will bless You and it´s good to know, that You are learning the Spanish language with the help of our Lord Jesus! Ask the Holy Spirit for help and wisdom, he always gives when we ask him (James letter)So we are Praying for You, hold on in Your prayer and God will answer during the night through dreams! He is amazing!! We Thank our heavenly Father for You and he will take care on You!! Be blessed in Jesus Name! Love from the Austrian Sisters and Brothers!!!You are doing good!! SMILE!! 🙂

  7. Matthew says:

    Sir Graham of the JungleI miss you bro! Your smile and amazing faith and spirit were daily encouragements. I trust that will continue to bless you in your journey and endeavor, and remember to always lean on Father when your ‘Calling’ is questioned by human nature, both ours and the worlds! I will talk to you later, and I will let Sir Jaime of the Sandbox give you a hug for me since you adore his so much! Father’s blessings!!!!Teach

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