Friday, October 26, 2012

Our first week in Lusaka

Mulu bwanje! It is a beautiful day in Lusaka. It is sunny, as usual, and the clear blue sky is wide above green trees with orange and pink blossoms. I am sitting on the patio in our front yard, and as I glance over to my shoulder, I can see one of our three mango trees. The fruit is not yet ripe, but I can’t wait to pick mangos from our yard! I think in a couple of weeks they will be ready.

The boys are at the playground right across from our house, playing with their many new friends. Frankie is especially loving the soccer games, and is learning some good moves from his Zambian friends. Johnny has met a little boy named Alec, and they walk around the seminary campus holding hands and giggling at just about everything. Alec is only three years old and he has an enormous smile and mischievous eyes. Yesterday, Joel taught all the children how to do thumb wars. It was a hit!

On Monday, we were able to visit one of the community schools in Mandevu, run by CCAP-Zambia. While there, we saw almost 200 children in school, who would otherwise not be able to have an education. Rev. Kondwani Nkhoma, who runs the community school program for the synod, explained that the children are able to stay at the school until 4pm, so that they can have a good education, and more than one nutritious meal. It was pure joy to see this excellent school, to meet the dedicated teachers, and to speak with the gifted administrators. Rev. Nkhoma is a committed servant of God, sharing Christ’s love with many children and families. She radiates love, joy, and hope, and it was a great pleasure to spend the day with her. There are twenty-two community schools run by CCAP-Zambia, and there are plans to start more in the upcoming year. 

Yesterday, we traveled to Chumba, where the offices of CCAP-Zambia are located. They run an organic farm outside the offices and it was really fun to take a tour of this project. They have wonderful plans to expand this farm, as a way to generate income to fund their many ministries. They are also in the process of building a school for ex-prisoners on the grounds, where they can learn agricultural skills and experience the love of Christ in a community of faithful, caring people. While we were there, we ate the most delicious meal! We are really enjoying Zambian food and hospitality!

Joel and I are excited about the work we are going to do; we have been asked to develop videos, highlighting the Community Schools program, the HIV/AIDS department, the Evangelism department, Community Health Evangelism, and the remaining CCAP-Zambia departments. Joel will add these to the website, and help update CCAP’s web presence. We will also create evangelism and discipleship curriculum, as we partner with CCAP-Zambia to deepen the faith of this vibrant Christian community. In addition, Joel will do video and technology training, and I will help with evaluating on-going Community Health Evangelism programs. In a couple weeks, I will start doing home visits to people in the HIV/AIDS home care program. Right now, I am in the midst of language learning, and look forward to the time when I can preach, teach and converse in Chichewa!

Thank you, again, for your prayers and partnership. Zikomo kwambiri!

May God bless you,

The boys picking mulberries on campus

Our home

Friday, October 19, 2012

We're here!

We have arrived in Lusaka! After a long wait in London, (Joel is actually sleeping here, whereas Frankie and Johnny are just pretending!) we arrived yesterday morning in Zambia. We are delighted to be here and our first few days have been full of happy surprises!

Our home is on the seminary campus at Justo Mwale Theological College, and Frankie and Johnny have already been playing with the children here, enjoying footraces with other kids, climbing in one boy's tree house, and discovering mulberry bushes on campus. They came home with stained faces, but very big smiles!

When we arrived at the airport, my colleagues from Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia, were there to welcome us, and they are remarkably kind. I am very excited to work with a group of gifted, faithful Christians, and I am so grateful for their warm welcome. They even stocked our kitchen with food in advance of our arrival!

Today, we went to Lusaka International Community School, where Frankie and Johnny will be attending. They had their Zambian Independence Day celebration, and the former First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Maureen Mwanawasa, was the honored guest and speaker. It was great to hear her reflections on independence and the future of Zambia. It was the 48th anniversary of independence, and she spoke about the freedom from colonial oppression that was gained when the country achieved independence. But then she also reflected on the oppression of poverty and disease, and how Zambia must continue to move forward towards freedom from those things, as well. She spoke of how those who worked for independence had to struggle and fight, and how this generation needs to struggle against the forces that oppress Zambia today. It was so nice to be able to hear her thoughts on our very first full day here!

The children also did traditional songs and dances. It was incredibly fun. The 3-5 year olds were especially amusing, and very into their dancing! The school is 50% Zambian, and the other half represent 37 different countries. So, it was a wonderful demonstration of unity and diversity, and we really enjoyed it!
This is a photo of Dr. Mwanawasa at the school assembly. We are now ready for some rest, as we are still adjusting to the time change.

Thank you for the prayers. We feel so blessed to be here, and excited to start our ministry in Zambia, as we are ministered to, as well!

(We will post more photos soon!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Language learning is for children

I studied Spanish at the University of Michigan. I studied Greek at Harvard. I studied Mandarin in China. In Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, I preached in Spanish, translated for mission teams, and sang songs in Mayan. I am not unfamiliar with the joys and challenges of language learning. However, over the years, the only language that really stuck with me is Spanish. Mandarin and Greek are still Greek to me...

But here, in Colorado Springs, I am learning not just a new language, but a new way of learning language, based on the idea that language learning is for children. It seeks to explore language acquisition: methods for "acquiring" a language more naturally, rather than "learning" a language in a classroom.

As a child, language learning is all input. Babies hear and learn the meaning of words, as well as the ways in which syllables are shaped and formed. They do not speak it, read it, or write it, until they have absorbed it through listening. For children, language acquisition is done in a multi-generational setting, usually in a safe, family environment, not among strangers in a classroom. Language is learned relationally, and ideally includes encouragement from loved ones. It is learned in context, in the process of daily living, not in a secluded environment. It does not have a specific time frame, but comes as the child is ready. When a baby is learning a language, she does not ask to "see it in writing."  

PILAT (Program in Language Acquisition Techniques) is based upon these theories. Listening is of primary importance. Today, I learned no grammar, no vocabulary, not even basic greetings. Instead, we are immersed in phonetics, hearing new sounds, listening to syllables, paying attention to tones I have never noticed before. I get to watch people move their mouths and tongues at very close range. In fact, our instructor encouraged us to hear, see, and even smell his pronunciation! It is remarkably interesting, and it is a good thing I don't have huge issues with personal space.

The main idea here is that I am not learning to speak Chichewa; I am learning to listen to Chichewa. And while I hope that this is an effective language acquisition technique, it seems like a very good way to approach our upcoming journey. A lot more listening than speaking. Using my ears and my eyes, instead of my mouth. Children learn so much by listening; certainly, we adults could benefit from listening a lot more.

So, hopefully, I can learn like a ten month old baby, really hearing and listening and looking for awhile. And possibly crying like a baby every once in awhile, too! But mostly, this is great fun, and very interesting. Full of joy, expectation, and excitement. I am so grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn.

We leave exactly two weeks from today for Zambia, and I have eleven days left of language acquisition training here in Colorado Springs. While I am here, Joel, Frankie, and Johnny are in Michigan, and we do appreciate prayers for the family as we are separated during these last, hectic weeks. As I spend time listening and learning, Joel has his hands full with the children, and a lot of packing! So, thanks for the prayers, and for journeying with us!