22 November 2013

“Much study wearies the body”! (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

Preparing our Tanzanian
Well, we’ve just about made it!  The time for evaluation approaches as we draw near to the end of our three month language course here in Iringa.  But how does one evaluate or quantify how ‘successful’ one has been on a three month language course?  Simples!  Can we speak Swahili?!  And the answer to that would be ‘yes’ - to varying degrees!  Bearing in mind we couldn’t speak much Swahili before we came we’re now able to translate simple stories and engage in short conversations.  The other day I went to a duka (small shed-type shop!) to buy a few mobile phone vouchers and was able to carry out the whole conversation in Swahili.  Mind you, on the same day I also thanked our cook for the frog he had cooked!

There have been some up’s and down’s.  In fact, the last month has been the hardest and I can verify Solomon’s statement that ‘much study wearies the body’!  But there have also been some victories along the way and we’ve definitely made progress.  Ruth has excelled and thrived in this pool of learning and is certainly swimming towards the deep end faster than I am.  I’m definitely a slower swimmer and still progressing out of the shallows!  Once or twice I’ve gone under and come up coughing and spluttering, but am now beginning to tread water - with the help of some arm-bands!  We’re both aware that this is simply the start and that learning a language is an on-going process but we’ve now got a good foundation in place and we’re looking forward (tentatively!) to mixing it up out there on the scary streets of Swahili-ville!   
Steve finally cracks with the chortling security guard!
When learning a language, be prepared to get laughed at! There is a security guard here at Rivervalley who greets me in Swahili and I think that my response is sufficiently understandable, but at the end of our short conversation he often wanders off chuckling loudly to himself. I’ve even measured the length of time he takes to stop chortling – and it’s a good eight seconds of chuckle time! Mind you, it’s a two-way thing because we often chuckle (politely!) with our language teachers at some of their English word usage! E.g. on seeing a couple of teachers deep in conversation, I asked my teacher what she thought they were talking about. Her reply was: “I don’t know what they’re disgusting”!  So, when learning another language don’t get precious about being laughed at, just join in!

Remember learning language is ministry!  There’s a temptation to consider learning a language simply as preparation for our future ministry, and there is of course some truth in that.  But in coming here we were encouraged to think of language learning as ministry – and I hope that has been the case.  There are seven teachers at Rivervalley and half of them are nominal Muslims and the others are nominal Christians.  As we learn, and as they teach, a relationship is built and lives are shared.  I find it fascinating that the Muslim teachers here seem to have no problem in preparing their missionary students in how to reach out to Tanzanians with the gospel!  And last Sunday, having been invited to preach at a church in Iringa, I invited my Swahili teacher to come along and was pleasantly surprised to see her sitting there on the back row.  She’s a nominal Christian who tends to mix her Christianity with some ancestral beliefs but during our class time she’s been asking some questions, so I hope that I’ve shared Christ with her as I’ve learnt Swahili. Language learning is ministry!   

Words & phrases that sum-up our stay here at Rivervalley: challenging, inspiring, frustrating, beautiful scenery, decent birding, early morning quiet times on the mountain, lots of Swahili, the hardest thing I’ve done for years, clear night skies, insects a-plenty, those pesky falling sausages, fires and more fires, friendships, blood tests & antibiotics, quiet walks with Polly the campsite dog, lots more Swahili, quiz night fun, too much food, and watching live premiership football in the bush! 

Eastern Region AIM Conference: You’ll see from the diary below that we’re heading to Kenya towards the end of the month for AIM’s Eastern Region conference which is taking place at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe.  As newly-arrived bods it will be a great opportunity for us to meet up with many other AIM folk who are working here in Tanzania and Kenya.  Ruth and I are especially looking forward to this event because the Bible teacher this year is none other than our own pastor from Corsham – Eddie Larkman!  And not only that, but he’s bringing a team of fourteen from the church who will be helping out in various ways during the conference.  We marvel at the way that God brings things together and are very thankful for this opportunity to spend time with these friends. 

Prayer Points: We’ve certainly been aware of folks praying for us as we’ve been here learning Swahili, so thank you muchly.  We expected it to be hard and it has been, but we’ve enjoyed our time here (on the whole!) and its gone well.  We’d value your prayer as we turn the page and head into the next phase of life here in East Africa; for the items listed below in our diary.  As you’ll see we have a lot of travelling to do – please pray for safety in the air and on the road; for Ruth’s check-up on 29th; that we’d learn a huge amount at the AIM conference; that we would settle down well into our house in Morogoro and begin to get a feel for our future ministries.  Thank you so very much.   

Diary Dates:

22nd Nov:      Finish our three month study period
25th Nov:       Leave Iringa and travel to Morogoro
27th Nov:       Travel from Morogoro to Dar es Salaam
28th Nov:       Flight from Dar to Nairobi
29th Nov:       Ruth has a Dr’s appointment for a check-up on her DVT
1st-5th Dec:   AIM Eastern Region Conference at Kijabe, Kenya
7th Dec:         Flight back to Dar
10th Dec:       Move into our Morogoro house and finally unpack those suitcases!

Random photo of the month! At a trade fair,
one stand offered a giant locust, a kangaroo
and Mary for sale!