Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Native Language

 I have a number of International students in class this year. The high school kids do fine but my two in middle school are struggling with English. They will survive- they always do. Language is so important in all of our lives, as this entry, from August 13, 2006, confirms.

I've been on the road for five of the past six Sundays and as a result, I'm a little behind on the news of our church. Every other Sunday, those of us who worship in the Chinese language eat lunch together. This was one of those Sundays. One of the Chinese brothers, James, cooked for the group, a number of roughly thirty. Our menu.... fajitas! Although we normally don't associate fajitas with Asian cooks, the food was excellent. As we ate, I learned we are beginning a new ministry. Three of our brothers- Yirong, Shi-Min, and the aforementioned James- are going to be teaching a class on the Chinese language. The students will be Chinese young people born in the United States. Many second generation Americans from Asia and other parts of the world are losing the ability to communicate in the language of their ancestors. Many might be able to understand the dialect from their motherland but cannot read or speak it themselves. The hope is that by working with youngsters, we might create an avenue with the parents and use this opening to spread the message of Jesus Christ.

I can't say that the situation was any different in my family. My great grandparents on Dad's side were immigrants from Denmark. My grandmother, Minnie Petersen Hawley, spoke Danish as a little girl but not as an adult. The language was never passed on to my father or his brother. Needless to say, I speak no Danish and would not recognize a word in the language should I hear it. That's the way it is in our relationship with the Lord. I love the old hymn, Faith Of Our Fathers. It speaks to the strength of the convictions of preceding generations. But, that faith must be taught and modeled, and ultimately be embraced to make it valid. I can't claim my parents' Christianity based simply on my relationship to their DNA. They had to make sure I was exposed daily to the teachings of Jesus Christ. I thank God they did. Now, through the teaching of Mandarin to American-born Asian children, we are hopeful that multiple generations of Chinese can share both a common language and a belief in the risen Savior.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I also grew up, thankfully, with a love of language. That may have happened because I was bilingual at an early age. I stopped speaking Chinese when I was five but I loved words."
Amy Tan

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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