Friday, May 29, 2015

Harvest Season

Part of my daily routine is turning on praise and worship music in the morning after breakfast. Baby-Now-Toddler J (I'll just refer to him as Mr. J from now on) really likes music, and it helps keep my mind focused on the Lord while "my assistant" and I do our morning chores. "Desert Song" by Hillsong is a favorite and aptly describes praising God in the midst of different seasons: dry deserts, tests of fire, battles not yet won, and harvests of abundant blessing.

In many ways, this first part of 2015 has been a time of harvest; words that come to mind are "joy," "peace," "answered prayers," "unexpected gifts," "hope," and "undeserved favor." Here are a few examples:

Health and Pregnancy

Some of you know I have some health problems that can make it difficult to get pregnant. In spite of that, I not only am expecting another baby, but this pregnancy has been calm and enjoyable. I braced myself for the uncomfortable symptoms I had throughout my first pregnancy, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I had typical first trimester sickness, but I was able to rest at home as I needed, and I've had lots of energy in this second trimester.

In addition, I feel notably better than I usually do when I'm not pregnant, both physically and emotionally. What a gift to wake up in the morning without pain and discomfort after a restful night of sleep! Maybe this partly why it's been much easier to be in a good mood. Whatever the reason, it's been an unexpected blessing in addition to the joy of having another baby.


Last year was a difficult year for our families; people we love dealt with illness and other challenges, and I was unable to be physically present with my loved ones in those moments. Right now both sides of our family are doing very well, and it means much more now than it did a few years ago.

Vision and Stability

Fernando and I have talked about how this year has been a time of clearer vision and a greater sense of establishment in ministry. We look back on the past few years and see how God has provided solutions and resources for specific needs in ways we couldn't have predicted or fabricated, and always at the right time. We are young and have a long road ahead of us with much to learn, but God has strengthened our confidence in His sovereignty and grace beyond our own limited abilities and knowledge. We are happy to see goals met, progress made, and hearts changed, but we know there is also more ahead.


We praise God for bringing us to the neighborhood where we have been living for almost a year, a home that can serve as a kind of "base" as we prepare to spend more time in "Wageira," a rural Garífuna community, in the future. (Our village house is in the construction process right now.) We love living where we get to know our neighbors, can take Mr. J for walks, and feel like we are in just the right place for our family. Our house now really feels like our home and where we belong.

The last lyric of "Desert Song" says, "I know I'm filled to be emptied again; this seed I've received I will sow." As we receive God's blessings with open hands, I am mindful that only God knows what will happen tomorrow or next month or in 2016 and that everything He gives us ultimately is His. As it says in Job 1:21b, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

We know some of you are in deserts, fires, and battles now, and we pray for God's perfect peace, comfort, and provision in whatever season you find yourself. We also thank you, our friends, for standing with us through good and bad times!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Does Beautiful Look Like to You?

It's been ten years since I've experienced spring in the Northwest, and I have magically escaped the April showers and vicariously "smelled" the flowers through pictures friends share on social media. While most would agree springtime flowers are pleasing to the eye, as a linguist I find things like suffixes, phonological rules, and grammar charts equally beautiful!

Most Bible translation projects involve, in addition to translated portions of Scripture:
  1. A dictionary
  2. Literacy materials
  3. A descriptive grammar (an explanation of the structure of words, sentences, and texts)

A few years ago I began encountering perplexing questions while trying to learn the Garífuna language, and this prompted me to use my linguistics background to seek explanations. I shared some of my discoveries with the couple who had coordinated the translation project, and they encouraged me to work toward the last missing piece in the Garífuna project: a description of the grammar. Although linguists have published articles on specific aspects of the language, a more complete description has been lacking.

With Fernando's help, I began researching and documenting everything I could. It might sound funny, but some of those "a-ha" moments were full of praise to God in response to suddenly understanding complex structures that make this language unique and reflect its history. Although I'm still far from fluent, what used to seem like a chaotic jumble is now an awe-inspiring system I'm able to assimilate and use a little more easily.

Eventually, though, I needed others' expertise and feedback in order to actually produce something concrete with what I'd documented. Through mutual contacts, I began to correspond with a consultant who helps linguists produce descriptive grammars for Bible translation projects. He has provided feedback and showed me how to work with software programs designed to create grammar papers. His patience, willingness, encouragement, and expertise have been invaluable!

My goals are:
  • To make steady progress as I'm able (instead of rushing to publish), depending on time I have available.
  • To share the beauty of the language, as it is one of thousands that are less documented and at risk of extinction in the future.
  • Most importantly, to offer a framework for designing pedagogical materials for those interested in preserving the language or for Garífunas who have not had the opportunity to learn the language as their mother tongue.
Of course, I also hope to draw this foundation in my own language learning in the future.

Each of us finds beauty in the countless areas of life God has generously given us to enjoy and use for His glory. Timely feedback, gracious instruction, linguistics software, "crazy" verbs -- this is what beautiful looks like to me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Learning to Ride a Bike Again

Hello, friends! It's been a long time since I (Alison) have ridden a bike. If I tried, it probably would feel funny at first, but I'm sure it wouldn't take long for my legs and arms to remember what to do.

A few weeks ago I was invited to teach at two different women's events -- for the first time in about two years! This time in 2013 we were about to go to the U.S. for furlough and support raising, and when we returned I had Baby J (now Toddler J!). Since then, my ministry contributions have been mostly behind-the-scenes, until this past month.

I didn't realize how much I missed teaching! When I first began to prepare, it felt strange and bit awkward; it probably took me much longer than it used to. However, I enjoyed the process of praying about what God would have me share, digging into Scripture, and brainstorming creative activities for participants to learn from. I also forgot how much I like to interact with groups of women and spontaneously adapt a teaching plan to specific circumstances in the moment.

I ended up sharing from 1 King 19, when the prophet Elijah had just experienced the greatest victory in his calling but suddently found himself exhausted and depressed. We looked at God's provisions to him and patience with him in that situation. In Honduras, we also celebrate Mother's Day in May, and the focus was on how this text teaches us about God's character and care for us when, as mothers, we find ourselves worn out, lonely, or disappointed.

I would look very ungraceful if I tried to ride a bike right now, and my teaching plan was certainly not flawless, but God's Word and the Holy Spirit are beautifully powerful in spite of human weakness. How good it is to know that we can do our best and rely on God to work beyond our own plans and abilities.

I've also started inviting women in our neighborhood to get together for Bible study once a week. We are using the BILD First Principles materials, which some of the Garífuna seminary students have been using in their churches. We look at passages that address basic principles of the Christian faith and discuss key points as a group.

What I love the most so far is that the women have raised questions and controversial issues they want to understand better. I also am happy to have teaching visuals gracing our living room wall! Praise God for the opportunity to share His Word with other women using our home as a welcoming place to gather.

In the next post I'll share about another activity I've resumed and God's gracious timing in it. Thanks for reading and praying for us!