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Where everybody knows your name (and that’s about all they can say in your language)

Language school is an interesting beast. On day one you are placed in a classroom with a group of 15-20 other people and you know absolutely nothing about them. It’s not until they write their name on a placard that you even know their name and then you might not be able to pronounce it.

Then class starts and it is completely, 100% in the new language. So in the first day you learn how to say what your name is, where you are from, where you live, etc. So now you know a little bit about each other, but can you ask them anything in specific? Nope, sure can’t! If you want to ask what city they come from in their country, that might be a stretch. Maybe a little more info about their family? Well, you haven’t even learned the word for family yet, so good luck!

As the days go on you begin to learn more and more words and you can piece together, what I am sure sounds like some of the worst sentences ever to native German speakers. You get to kind of know the other people in your class and yet something is happening. You are becoming friends. You are suddenly involved in these people’s lives and yet you barely can have a decent conversation with them. You spend more time stumbling over remembering the little vocabulary that you have that it takes 10 minutes to have a 2 minute conversation. And yet, you take those 10 minutes to have that conversation.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

I am Yacob in class (German way to pronounce Jacob with a short a, not a long a) and I sit next to Olga and Denis. Denis comes from France and Olga comes from Portugal. They both speak about as much of English and I speak of Portuguese and French (pretty much none). Every day, we talk though. We talk about our family, we talk about the classwork and we talk about anything that we have the vocabulary for. Five weeks into class we are beginning to be able to have decent conversations, but it is still uncomfortable.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We want to say so much more to each other. We want to share what we care about with our new-found friends. But so far, it is a slow process. So we take it day-by-day and every day it gets a little bit easier to communicate. Every day we get to know each other more and more. Every day we get closer to a point where we no longer have to use the Google translate app to translate something from our native language to German and then the native language of the person next to us.

There is a bond, a bond between people who do not speak the same language, but are trying to learn a new language together.

We have struggled together, we have had victories together, we have had fun together and we have laughed together. Soon, we will be invested in each other’s lives and hopefully my life will shine with the light of Christ so that they might now Him more.

I haven’t seen for you like 10 years (insert awkward pause here)

Right before I left Toledo I ran into an old friend and it was one of the most awkward things I have experienced in a long time. This guy and I used to be really good friends. The two of us and one other guy were practically inseparable during high school and then we even lived on the same hall for part of college. My last year in college we lived together in a town house with two other guys and yet here we were in an awkward conversation a few (ok, more than a few) years later.

We literally just kind of stared at each other not really knowing what to say. I asked him what he has been up to (you know, for the last 10 years, nothing like throwing him an easy to answer question) and he did the same. We struggled to find any question that could sustain a question for more than a minute or so and yet…we failed.

I left that conversation, or lack-thereof, and had this immediate sense of sadness. We were friends, good friends and yet I barely knew who he was any more. He barely knew who I was either. We didn’t do it intentionally, we just kind of stopped talking to each other, we stopped investing time in each other. Sadly I can look back on my life and see that as a recurring experience.

I have had many friends over the course of my life and it seems like every time one of us moves on we lose track completely. Have you found that to be true for you? Do you have friends with which you wish you would have kept in contact? I can’t help but wonder why I do this, why so many of use lose track of people we once considered possibly as close as family. I have many regrets in my life and this is definitely one of them.

I think this hit me more than normal because I was moving to Germany and it would be harder to connect with my current friends. I have to actually make an effort. I’m hoping my friends will to, but regardless, if I value these relationships (which I do) then I need to act, not just wait for others to act.

Thank goodness for Skype and Google Voice which allow me to text, call and see my friends and family. Now I just need to remember the 6 hour time difference so I don’t wake my brother up again before 6:00 AM. Oops! Sorry Ben!

Let’s Catch Up! Oh, it’s been 9 years? Awkward!

 

“Let’s catch up!” I said, not completely realizing what that would entail. I didn’t realize that the two people I had said this to, would take me up on the offer and then catching up meant covering the last 9 or 10 years. Yeah, that’s the kind of friend I am and yeah, that’s the kind of humor God is using during this time of ministry partner development.

I am pretty darn horrible at keep up with friends. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s mostly because I just forget to call people or e-mail people, or hand write a letter to people, or carrier pigeon people or even smoke signal people. Ok, now I see the problem, I suck, plain and simple, but that is not the point.

The point is that while planning my current MPD (ministry partner development AKA support raising) trip I was not sure who I could meet with on my circuitous route. I felt God impress on me that I should reach out to people that I hadn’t thought about reaching out to before because it had been “too long.” I started to look at facebook and checked to see who lived somewhere near my route. I found nine different people, all of which I had not talked to in at least 3 years with the majority being 9 or 10 years and a few being since I graduated high school 13 years ago (Yikes!).

Here comes the awesome part! I contacted a bunch of people to see if we could catch up and/or if they wanted to start receiving my newsletter. A few got back and said they would love the newsletter and a few said they would love to meet with me and catch up. Last Friday I met with a girl I went to college with and hadn’t talk to her in 9 years and we had a great time catching up. The other girl I only knew through volunteering for a month at a Young Life camp 10 years ago next month. I met with her and her husband and it was amazing!

God was definitely in both of those meetings. I don’t know what the results of those meetings are quite yet as far as support goes, but I do know that I have a new found appreciation for catching up with people and being more intentional about my relationships with other people.

Thanks God, I needed that!