“Entiendes la pregunta?” Amanda asked me as I stared back at her with the look that I’m sure my chemistry professor saw a lot when he looked into my face. Out little world has somewhat flipped upside-down, as Eben, our good friend who asked us to come serve in Peru, informed us that he would be stepping down from his role as President of Peru Projects. There have been many struggles since that announcement, but one of the struggles that became very apparent is that Jess and my Spanish is going to need to get better, and fast. With Eben having stepped down from the role as president of Peru Projects, and Amanda having stepped into that position, she and I have interacted a lot more. I had accepted the invitation of becoming vice president, recognizing that there would be a lot of challenges, and also knowing that my life would be consumed with a translator. Overall, it has been a very time consuming, but good process. My learning of Spanish is going more quickly, although there are still times that I must admit, I can feel completely lost.
People will look at me and ask something, and I’ll have absolutely no idea how to respond. There can be good times, like when someone asks you a simple question and you can actually understand what they are asking, and the cherry-on-top is when you can even respond. Then there are times that it has been rough, where we feel totally lost. But God has been good, and we have been blessed by having a lot of patient people around us. For me personally, I am often in meetings, listening to people discuss different topics, and to begin with, I can usually follow what the conversation is about. I can’t tell you the details, but I can explain what the broad concept is. When I am in a situation where I need to know the finer detail, I whip out my handy-dandy computer, and open my life-line, DeepL or Google Translate.
One of the things that you need to take into consideration when you are using a translator though, is that you don’t use idioms. An idiom is a phrase that we use or say in everyday language and that people within your culture will understand, but that if you were to take the phrase literally, would make no sense. For instance, some common idioms in English include: “That’s a piece of cake!”, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” or “We need to pick up the house.”
Then, to add to the confusion, all cultures have idioms, so just because we are aware that we need to avoid using them, does not mean that people who you are trying to talk to are taking that into consideration. For example, I was talking with the cook here on the base, her name is Caty, and she told me that she was going to need to “sleep like a chicken”. I was totally lost… I started laughing because I was trying to envision what a chicken sleeps like. After laughing a bit, I asked her what she meant that she was, “going to sleep like a chicken,” and she explained that she was going to need to wake up early, like a rooster does, so that she could get done what she needed to. There are times like that where idioms can bring a smile, and other times when you can’t figure out what people are talking about, that cause you to question your sanity in leaving a country where you could communicate well.
As I’ve thought about feeling lost, translators and idioms, it has caused me to consider how I communicate with people who are outside of both the Christian, and the Adventist, culture. Even if I speak the same language as someone, are they understanding my references? Am I communicating in a way that makes them feel lost, and like they will never be able to understand, or am I taking the time to make sure that I am using language that they know. Am I using Adventist idioms? Am I quickly referencing topics like the sanctuary service, justification or many other specific and important items, or am I talking about them in a way that allows people to follow the concepts. We have a message to share. We have a God who is desiring to have a relationship with people, and who wants people to grow in Him. Are we using language in a way that fosters people’s desire to grow that relationship, or are we confusing them by using words and phrases that cause them to feel lost and confused?
The past couple of months have had a lot more bustle here on the base. Starting in late August, the missionary training program started, and so there are 10 new faces wandering around campus. The students are mostly busy with classes, both theory and practical, in everything from how to study your Bible, gardening, community outreach and many other subjects. With the students here, the cafeteria has been in full swing, so Jess and I have been able to enjoy (and sometimes not enjoy) many new vegan Peruvian dishes from Caty, the cook The times that we don’t enjoy Caty’s cooking, it is not because she is a bad cook, but it is our American palettes getting used to a different taste or texture.
There are also two young ladies, Elga and Cheriss, who have come down from Oklahoma Academy. They both had the opportunity to study mission aviation at the academy, and they both acquired their private pilot licenses. While Eben has stepped down as the President of Peru Projects, he and his family took a well deserved break, before they will come back and Eben will continue supporting Peru Projects as our main pilot. Until Eben comes back in January, the airplanes will not be flying. With that being said, Elga and Cheriss have been helping me with getting both airplanes ready. There is a LOT to do, especially on the Lake Amphibian, and having Elga and Cheriss here has helped me to focus more time on working on the airplanes. We have been troubleshooting some issues in the landing gear system and the hydraulic systems. Jessica has been keeping busy with compiling a Christmas catalog of needs that Peru Projects has. It’s easy to have so much of a focus on serving the jungle and spreading the gospel, that needs here on the base are forgotten, even though having a properly running base is critical in our abilities to serving the community at large.
It’s also mango season!!! So, we have been enjoying a TON of mangoes! With the mangos here, so are the monkeys! They usually are very quiet (both the mangos and the monkeys), but if you sit quietly and look closely, you will see them sitting around in the tops of the trees (once again, both the mangos and the monkeys…)