Jamie* attended Camp Wycliffe, a stay-in introductory programme run by Wycliffe Thailand in May 2016. The experience obviously inspired her because she left on a 6-month attachment in another Asian country in early 2017. During this period, she has been attached to the Alpine Meadow* (AM) project, enjoying an up-close-and-personal view of a real language project, and also helping out in various ways. She sent back an account of some of her early impressions:
As for any new person in the field, one of the first things she has had to do is to learn some of the local language. She embarked on learning the AM language from a local person, and since there is no established “course” or textbook, she had to plan her own lessons! She reports, “It’s a steep learning curve but it’s going great!”
Sheep or cat?
She is also sitting in on some of the translation sessions, and gives an example of some of the issues that crop up: “At the time of writing, we are trying to separate ‘sheep’ from ‘goats’ (Mt 25:32-33). In the AM language, the word for ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ is the same, which is causing a bit of a problem!” To complicate matters, in some AM varieties spoken in other countries, there is a different word for ‘sheep’ – but unfortunately it translates to ‘cat’ in the local AM variety!
Singing in the heart language
Music is a big part of Jamie’s life, and she is thrilled to report that five worship songs in the AM language were recorded recently, two of which are original compositions. It is always wonderful for any people group to be able to worship and sing in their own heart language instead of the national language which many may not understand perfectly. She also participated in a workshop on recording and editing audio files together with workers from other language groups. This will be useful for making audio recordings of scripture, stories and testimonies etc., which are very important for the AM group because many are not literate in their mother tongue.
Here’s an English translation of part of an original AM song (written by a local person):
Even though the tears don’t stop falling, Child, don’t you cry, Child, don’t you cry. Abba Father is leading you, The road ahead will be better, Will be better.
Anyone can serve!
The needs in any language group involve much more than language work. She notes:
“It’s been really interesting to learn about all the possible ways to serve. Some of the foreigners are working on the language, but others are involved in other things like teaching English, music, sports, running businesses, and working among different minority people groups and different age groups ranging from kindergarteners and special needs children to college students. There are so many ways to serve and so many needs to be filled, and every time I learn about one, I think of someone I know who could fill that need!”
She tells of a foreign English teacher in the local college. Apart from just teaching lessons, she also hangs out with students, sometimes one on one, and also organises movie nights and games nights at her house. And also, once a week, they play frisbee and everyone is invited. Students can join in and practise English and also enjoy good clean fun (instead of going out drinking or playing computer games). She says, “Anyone can serve; you don’t need any specialised training, just turn up/participate/make friends/let your light shine.”
* Not real names