We have settled in a bit. We have unpacked and know our way to various markets around. The kids are registered for school. Jetlag seems to be behind us. So, now this is the breath before the dive. Our first task is a half-day of placement tests on Tuesday. We're all fairly beginners, but we'll find out for sure, and then the classes start.
How do you think we would approach this? I'm guessing a lot of people would think "Six doctors, near a century of post-secondary education between you, what's French to you? I mean, kids learn this, right?" Well, that's not exactly the sentiments I've been hearing from our team.
Carlan and Rachel are concerned that they have to simultaneously study for their oral medical boards this coming fall. How can they keep up? Rachel has the added fear that her general language aptitude isn't as great as the rest of the team's. John think the same, but he grew up in Togo, so he has a headstart, right? Maybe, but John is hoping it will start to come back quickly, because he's quite out of practice, and maybe it won't and he'll disappoint everyone and himself. Jason thinks he'll be slipping behind. But Jason, your Swahili was probably the best in our whole team! Well, sure, but I grew up in Kenya and had years of it as a kid. This is different.
And on it goes. Is this just our uber-achiever natures? Probably to some extent, but not "just". There is a big unknown here. We really need a high level of French functioning for our work in Burundi. And learning a language is a different type of learning from learning how to do a C-section, or memorizing various antimicrobial spectra, or learning the Kreb's Cycle for the fifth time (though I don't remember that either).
What about me? I'm not allowed to just air everyone else's insecurities, right? I don't have oral boards to study for, and I think my language abilities are fine, though they are largely untried. But I fear my great pride and it's effect on my language learning. It seems that learning a language means being viewed as a little kid again in society, and being OK with it. Going up to strangers and butchering a simple statement and all that. That's where your learning takes place at its best. And it scares me and I'm afraid I'll resist it to my detriment. I don't know if that sounds like a big deal, but I think that it should, because it's not just my insecurity, but it's the sin of my heart, and quite deep at that.
So pray for us. And encourage us as you unfailingly do. But I don't think what we really need is the "oh, you'll be fine" encouragement. For one, it doesn't seem to help that much, as you probably know from your own experiences. But more importantly, I believe that Christ wants to bring his good news, his Gospel, to bear on our insecurities. If it's really true that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness, then these insecurities are turned-up soil for the Kingdom of our gracious King to grow.
It means Rachel and Carlan knowing the strength and provision of God when there is stretched and disparate demands on their attention. It means the death of our worth lying in the fulfillment of other's expectations for us or our own expectations for ourselves. It means learning to trust in God's goodness and faithfulness when staring into the unknown. And that is glory to God now, and the application of that lesson later in Burundi will surely be the same.
And for me, it is sanctification. It could even be the life-generating power that comes as mortal wounds chip slowly away at my pride and the Spirit of Christ is glorified through my weakness.
May it be.