Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Further Thoughts on Language Learning

Last semester, I acquired an old book from the free cart at school entitled Missionary Life and Work by Harold Cook of Moody Bible Institute. I haven't had the chance to read it until now, and oh, what a gem of a book I'm finding it to be! Even though parts of it are outdated (since it was written in the era when most missionaries sailed to their destination on a ship), there is still a great deal of wisdom to be found in its pages. I am underlining important things to remember all the time! You will probably see some of these portions of the book make their way onto the blog in the coming weeks as they are too good not to share.

But for today, I simply wanted to post a few quotes from Missionary Life and Work as pertains to language learning, for they have been an encouragement to me to keep persevering in this department.

"You must learn to speak to others in their language. Unless you do, you can never really communicate the Gospel to them. A message in an unknown tongue benefits nobody. Even a message in a language that is comprehended with difficulty is largely ineffective.

For example, you may have studied French in school. Then if you go and hear a message given in French, you may be able to grasp some of the facts that the speaker presents. You may gain a small amount of information, but the speaker will not move you to action. You spend all your effort in trying to understand what he says. There is no time to think of the implications of his statements. It is the message in our own familiar tongue that stirs us to action. What we hear then are not just words whose meaning we have to puzzle out. We are scarcely conscious of the words. We are hearing ideas, ideas with overtones of feeling that stir up a response within us.

Language is the missionary's major tool."

"Grammar alone is not enough. It will help you puzzle out the meaning of what is written. But until it becomes so much a part of you that you will apply it without conscious effort, you have not really learned the language. You haven't learned to talk until you cease to think of each separate word. What many people seem to fail to realize is that language is a matter of habits. You learn to express a though a certain way. You repeat it that way over and over until that form of words comes spontaneously to your lips whenever the thought calls for expression...Grammar is the skeleton, vocabulary provides the flesh to cover it, but only constant practice can make the language a living, working body."

"Practice what you have already learned on every possible occasion. This is one of the secrets of the rapid learning of little children. They don't hesitate to repeat what they hear in every conceivable situation. A new word is like a new toy. By practice they find out what they can do with it and what they can't. And they don't worry about their laughable mistakes. This is part of the learning process. If you wait until you can speak faultlessly, you will never speak. It is the one who isn't afraid to talk, in spite of mistakes, who makes the most rapid progress."

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Look who I found in my home city...

...a traveling music group from RGBI!

Even better, they were performing at the Brookwood Community, "where adults with special needs contribute to the world." It just so happened that I had the privilege of growing up at Brookwood since my parents worked there as home teachers. It was a great blessing not only to re-connect with my friends from school but also with some of the residents and staff at Brookwood that knew me when I was a little bitty girl! Great music, delightful fellowship, the meshing of two special worlds...it just doesn't get any better than that!

The Wedding of Bridgette and Aaron

Yesterday, our long time family friend, Bridgette Clark, got married to the love of her life, Aaron Schutte. I am so happy for them both! Bridgette and I are the same age and went to church together for many years. She and I also went on a mission trip to Haiti back in 2009 which was a great delight! What a joy to see her so radiant on her special day! Aaron has truly married a jewel of a young woman.

The wedding was held at the Antique Rose Emporium out in Brenham, Texas. Much to our surprise, despite the fact that the date was May 28 and therefore afternoon temperatures hovered around 100 degrees, the ceremony and reception took place outdoors. A strong breeze helped to cool things off, although it did make for a windy wedding. At least Bridgette realized her dream of a beautiful, outdoor garden wedding!

The quaint chapel in the background.

Bridesmaid Elissa and her brother, Christopher.

Here comes the bride!

Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

The Wedding Party


Special Music

The Pronouncement

The moment they've been waiting for.

Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Schutte!

Married at last!

The miniature Prince and Princess.

Stacy on the go!

The lovely cake.

Catching up with long-time friends is always such a blessing!

Praising the Lord for love stories written by God.

Friday, May 27, 2011


There is so much to think about and do as one prepares to move to another country. Since coming home from language school, while relaxing and full of restful periods, my days have not lacked for projects.

After countless hours spent combing the Internet for the best priced airline tickets available, I was ecstatic to find an international ticket for nearly HALF the going rate that all other websites and travel agencies were offering. Truly, God's provision is faithful! However, as that ticket is for a flight departing from Miami, I still had yet another search on my hands for domestic tickets to complete the round trip itinerary. Yesterday, at long last, I was finally able to check off from my To-Do List, "Buy Airline Tickets." Progress!

Another item on the to-be-done-as-far-in-advance-as-possible list was the obtaining of the dreaded yellow fever vaccine. I have not received any immunizations since I was a baby, having grown up in a family that prefers all things natural. However, a yellow fever vaccine is an absolute must for the issuance of a tourist visa in Bolivia...and without this visa, I would not be permitted to stay in the country. So, there was nothing for it but to march into Passport Health offices and get the shot. I have no recollection of ever having gotten a shot in my life (even though I am told it happened when I was little) so I'll admit, I was a tiny bit nervous. How badly was this going to hurt?

Thankfully, I was blessed with a wonderfully kind nurse who did a fabulous job. I hardly felt a prick! (Although when she squeezed the vaccine into my arm I did feel about 5 seconds of pain.) Amazingly, I have not had any side effects except for a slightly swollen and bruised feeling spot on my arm. And I'm alive to tell the story!

Other preparations have included researching all the natural supplements and essential oils I will be taking with me, figuring out what I'm going to do about contact lenses, catching up on correspondence, mailing off prayer cards, organizing and cleaning out junk, reading up on the country of Bolivia, and enjoying all the social catch-ups that come with this season of life.

Oh yes! And I've also been trying to incorporate Spanish into each day in some way so as not to lose the language during this break period before heading off to South America. I try to read in the language, watch a movie in Spanish, listen to sermon, or have a conversation with someone in Spanish day every day....or better yet - a combination thereof! I even dusted off one of my grammar books yesterday and did a few exercises in it to keep things fresh.

It's not always an easy discipline to maintain, but it is very important to me not to lose what I just poured 9 months of effort into learning. Thankfully, it seems these little connections with the language on a daily basis are paying off.

God is so good and I am so grateful to Him for this quiet period of life in which to prepare for the next adventure while also catching up on much needed sleep and home time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Niece Makes Me Smile

Hope she has the same affect on you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May Newsletter

Adventures with Jesus

May 2011

Year in Review at RGBI

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the goodness of God?

The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Well, this past year, God’s goodness has been poured forth so abundantly upon my life, I feel like I have done much more than simply taste it...I have been feasting upon it!

Priceless friendships. Growth in Spanish abilities. Laughter around the meal tables. Evening prayer walks. Glorious sunsets. Music ministry. Weekend volleyball. Excellent classes. Street evangelism. Wednesday night devotions with the dorm girls. Prayer times with kindred spirits. Heartache and tears. Trials and tests. Spiritual enrichment. Discipleship of teenage girls. Dancing butterflies. Drama presentations. Rich Latino worship. Flute lessons. Babysitting precious little ones. A campout. Youth rallies. Grateful church members. Surprise parties. Cookouts. Sundays with special people. Answered prayer. Palm trees. Puppet shows. A mission trip. Long phone calls home. Packages received. Soccer games. Riding the waves at South Padre Island. Graduations and weddings. Unforgettable memories.

How amazing that one school year could hold so much! I entered the missionary language program at RGBI in August with great excitement and high hopes for a wonderful year of learning and growth. This past weekend, I left RGBI with profound gratitude for the goodness of God outpoured that made my year there truly one of the best of my life.

Lessons Learned at RGBI

When we arrived at RGBI and had our first orientation with Dr. Manny Gutierrez, the dean of the language school, he informed us that we were not there just to learn Spanish. In reality, studying Spanish would only be a small part of the experience. He was confident that God had brought us there for purposes much deeper than merely learning the grammar and phonetics of another language.

He was right.

In a nutshell, here is just a brief summary of the lessons God had in store for me at RGBI:

~ He taught me to appreciate His amazing intelligence in the creation of different languages and His ability to understand them all at once.

~ He taught me to appreciate and respect the diversity that exists in the Body of Christ and not to judge people on the basis of cultural or personality differences.

~ He taught me to stand firm on the convictions He has built into my life and remain loyal to Him as my first love, even when it meant giving up a certain relationship and all the hopes and dreams connected to it.

~ As a result, He taught me a new dimension of contentment and trust and finding my fulfillment in Jesus Christ alone as a single girl right now.

~ He taught me to hate the pride of my own heart just as He hates it and to embrace the humiliating experiences He allowed to refine my character. Language school is a wonderful place to receive lessons on humility! How I praise the Lord for His patience as He conforms us to the image of His Son.

~ He taught me to cast all my cares upon Him in the midst of stress and pressure and to take life one day at a time.

~ He taught me (at long last!) through sheer necessity with the Spanish language to think before I speak.

~ He taught me through many necessary reminders that grades are not everything, but that honesty and diligent effort are worth more than straight As.

~ Lastly, He taught me just how much I desperately need Him in every area of my life, to be my strength, my wisdom, my delight!

Announcing... the Next Adventure!

It was December, 2010. My family was in Ukraine, visiting my sister and brother-in-law, and welcoming my new little niece into the world. As I cuddled Melissa close and observed five doting adults tending to her every need, I couldn’t help but think of precious babies just like her who lay in overcrowded state-run institutions or dirty alleyways with no one to love them, care for them, stimulate them, or teach them about Jesus. What will become of them?

God had put a burden on my heart for the orphaned, poor, and abandoned several years ago and one of the reasons I had signed up for language school was so that I might be better equipped to serve as Christ’s hands and feet to such little ones somewhere in South America. Now, Melissa’s tiny, helpless frame snuggled in my arms caused the thought to flit across my mind... "What about the babies? How I would love to join forces with a ministry that cares for abandoned babies!”

A New Arrival at Casa de Amor

Fast forward two weeks. I was on the computer doing a search for a particular book that I wanted to use for a teen girls’ Bible study back on campus when I “stumbled” (read: providentially encountered) across a website that caught my attention. Casa de Amor. A children’s home ministry caring for orphaned and abandoned street babies. Located in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Founded and directed by a young woman with a very similar background to my own: home educated and involved in mission work from an early age. Currently operating four homes and in need of more volunteers. I sat back from the computer with eyes as wide as saucers. In that moment, God seemed to say, “This ministry is for you.” I began praying about the possibility and felt continued peace that this was of Him. So, in February, I began the application process and was officially accepted last month.

Founder and Director, Jennifer Thompson

My plans at this point are to stay in Bolivia for a minimum of six months, starting July 1st. In addition to caring for precious little ones at Casa de Amor, I will also have the opportunity to get involved with a local church ministry and participate in music, evangelism, street outreach, or whatever the need may be. At the end of my six month term, I will have the option to extend my commitment there or move to Peru and join forces with my good friends, the Earnharts, in missionary work that will hopefully include the start of an orphanage. But of course, the Lord is in control, and for all I know, He may have something completely different in mind! I am just excited to be His and to be living these adventures with Him!

Thank you all for being such faithful prayer partners each step of the way! Please keep praying, and please stay in touch!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Last Days at RGBI - part 2!

Photos compliments of Alma Varela:

Recital Time

Voice and Flute students of Alma

Bible Reading at Graduation Ceremony

I'm finished!

It was really fun to introduce Mom and Dad to the Varelas and have lunch with them right before leaving.

Lots of laughter in this household!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last Days at RGBI

Buddies: Nathaly and Katrina

Lovebirds: Samuel and Lidia

My favorite campus couple: Julio and Alma

Queridas Amigas: Katrina and Alma

Tuning up!

Backyard Garden Wedding

Vows by Sunset

Very cool tree decorations

Sandwiches for all!

Bridesmaid Angela

Friends: Pakis and Katrina

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Glimpses of Graduation

I'm sorry the video clips are a little fuzzy! I think the zoom was on just a bit too strong. Nevertheless, hope you enjoy this small window into our celebration!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Music Chapel Montage

Our last chapel service at school was all music! Here is a sampling of the various musical numbers that were shared!

Graduation Hall of Fame

Well, I'm officially graduated from the Rio Grande Bible Institute's missionary language program! It feels great to be finished and on to the next adventure in South America (which I'll be telling about soon)! First, though, I am home for the time being where I am unpacking and catching up on blogs posts. Hope you enjoy these pictures of the dear friends from my life at RGBI!

Luis, my adopted brother and ping-pong buddy.

Alma, my beloved teacher, friend, and mentor.

Pao, one of the girls in my Bible study whose love for the Lord blessed my life!

Nathaly, my dear friend and tutor from Ecuador.

Shajid, a brotherly type of friend and inspiration when it came to sharing the Gospel.

Noel, a really good friend and fellow Houstonian with whom I shared many meal-time theological discussions, evangelism on the streets, and volleyball on the weekends.

Johanna and Yanerling, two of my dorm buddies.

SofĂ­a, my suite-mate and tutor - a true joy-bug!

Samantha, my wonderful roommate.

Satsuki, my dear friend and study buddy.

Satsuki, Jessica, and Alondra - a circle of good friends!

Lidia, a married friend who was my prayer partner on many occasions and who nursed me back to health when I was sick.

Lorena, my first friend at RGBI and one of the closest!

Sarah and Jada, two of my classmates and partners in all things language school!

Jada was like a sister to me in so many ways and true friend!

Jada's little brother, Justus - a new little friend for the weekend who always made me smile!

Mom and Dad - my best cheerleaders ever!