One of countless stunning views from the training center.
I’m finally back in California after spending the past four weeks at language and cross-cultural training in Colorado! I can hardly believe how quickly the time seemed to fly by. It would be impossible to relay the entire experience in this newsletter, but I’ve included the highlights.
Living in Paradox
The program was trying, encouraging, exhausting, and refreshing all at once. A confusing way to describe the experience, perhaps, but the contrast is fitting. One of our very first lessons was about two ducks, Yay Duck and Yuck Duck. Yay Duck focuses on the positive and exciting, while Yuck Duck sees the negative and difficult. Just like the good and the bad nearly always exist together, so does this pair of ducks – paradox! 😉 We are often uncomfortable with Yuck Duck’s presence, so we may ignore or downplay the “yuck” in our lives or someone else’s. But both represent valid feelings and reactions to what is happening in our lives. Healthy coping requires that we learn to let both “ducks” swim side by side together. In the past I’ve often been hesitant to acknowledge the negative to myself, much less out loud. I’m making an effort to be more honest about my own perspectives and accepting the negative along with the positive. I can be grieved to leave behind my home, family, and friends, while at the same time I am out-of-my-mind excited to return to Ecuador and do the work God has laid before me.
It snowed several times during the program!
The first two weeks of the program focused on principles and methods for language acquisition. The English languages utilizes about 44 unique sounds, but there are so many more sounds in other languages across the globe! During phonetics drills, we learned to identify where various sounds are made in the mouth and how to form unfamiliar sounds from other languages. After practicing about two dozen different vowel sounds, I am profoundly grateful that Spanish has only five!
My greatest linguistics challenge was learning to trill my “r.” For years I’ve been getting away with using a “d” sound instead of trilling, but after a coaching session I can actually do it properly! We were assigned to various language groups to help us practice different activities for language learning. I had a ton of fun learning some Bulgarian with my group, and came away with a brand-new excitement for learning Spanish.
The second half of the program dealt with deeply emotional and spiritual topics. We talked about managing conflict and stress, maintaining spiritual vitality, and the realities of moving into a new culture. Some of that reality includes grief, loss, and the necessity of saying good “goodbyes.” I’ve never thought of most goodbyes as being good. As a relationship-oriented person, even some temporary goodbyes are hard for me. A good “goodbye,” though, means that those involved are able to find satisfaction and peace – even if nobody is happy about the process. Another paradox. A healthy goodbye seeks to celebrate the relationship and allow each person to express their feelings.
That lesson was incredibly poignant. The very next day, we all had an opportunity to practice saying healthy goodbyes to each other. Several people have asked me about my favorite part of the training – without a doubt, it was the relationships I formed with the other missionaries and our trainers. I was surprised to find that I bonded with these strangers so quickly! Our shared faith and similar experiences of giving up everything familiar to say yes to God’s calling gave us common ground that needed no explanation. I felt safe enough to be open and vulnerable in our conversations, something that rarely comes easily for me. That risk was richly rewarded with love and support. I was challenged and encouraged in ways that I know will help better prepare me for Ecuador. If painful goodbyes truly are evidence of having loved and been loved well, then I am deeply grateful for them.
I received some very exciting news this month – my visa application was accepted! Thank you to everyone who prayed over this process. The last step is an in-person appointment at the Ecuadorian Consulate in Los Angeles on May 20 where I will (hopefully) be granted the actual visa. Please continue to pray that God will bless this process and ensure that the rest of it goes smoothly!
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Prayer Requests for May
- That God would continue to bless and guide my support raising journey!
- For safety as I travel to meet with potential supporters.
- For good “goodbyes” with family members and friends.