Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Evidentiality and Being a "Missionary Wife"

One of my favorite features of the Garífuna language is what linguists call "evidentiality," which indicates that information is reported but not witnessed first-hand. In Garífuna, nege ("neh-geh") is added to a word or phrase.

láhuyahuba   nege
it.will.rain     evidential
'they say it will rain'

chülügietu            nege          lúguchu
she.arrived.early  evidential  his.mother
'they say his mother arrived early'

Sometimes Garífuna speakers add nege to utterances in Spanish:

él  quiere  trabajar  en  Tegucigalpa  nege
he wants   to.work   in   Tegucigalpa  evidential
'supposedly he wants to work in Tegucigalpa'

A common characteristic of Amerindian languages, some languages have specific distinctions of how information was received: sight, sound, common knowledge, etc. (Here is an article on how one Arawakan language does this.)

So what in the world does this have to do with being a "missionary wife"? In a nutshell, these days I find myself adding nege to ideas about missions and to information about our ministry work. I am not directly involved, and this has been a big change for me. What has led to less direct involvement in hands-on ministry, and is this a good thing or not?

A Winding Road

The start: A kindergarten Sunday school class about missions sparked my interest, and at age six I felt led to become a missionary in another country.

Going to church with my grandpa at that age

Rekindling the flame: In college my dream of learning Spanish came true, and involvement in a campus ministry group revived that initial spark from when I was little.

Testing it out: Wanting a "trial by fire," I spent one year in Colombia in a missions school with outreaches, immersed in Spanish and surrounded by Latinos who loved Jesus. (I still really miss Colombia!) I wondered if I would stay single, so I focused on my relationship with God and what I felt He was calling me to do.

Outreach trip to Panama

Unexpected outcome: After preparation to be a Bible translator in Mexico, I ended up working in linguistics training for Spanish speakers and other support roles. I traveled, lived with other single girls and with families, and discovered I did best in academics, encouraging others, and administrative helps.

Linguistics students

Marriage and a new culture: I married Fernando! My focus became learning a third language and adjusting to a third culture (Garífuna), supporting his work in theological training, and helping out at our local church.

Becoming a mom: I knew that I ever had children I would want to spend their early years at home with them, and He has allowed me to do that with Mr. J and Baby A, while still helping Fernando with adminstrative tasks and learning how to take care of a house in this part of the world.


As a single, my focus was outward, and I was very social. In my 20s, God allowed me to meet many kinds of people in very diverse places, participating in a wide variety of activities. A decade later, He has directed my attention to those closest to me and to the everyday tasks of our home.

The assistant chef

Official "ministry" looks like emails, online banking, and newsletters, while unofficial "ministry" is playing peek-a-boo, giving a cup of water to the garbage collectors, and showing kindness to our neighbors of all backgrounds (even if they don't always interact among each other).

In the meantime, Fernando has led people to Christ (nege), visits people grieving lost loved ones or caring for relatives in hospitals (nege), and preaches and teaches several times a week (nege), among many other wonderful things (nege).

The Final Word

Opinions abound when it comes to women's roles in family and ministry, either as a "pastor's wife" or "missionary wife." (I'm not opening that can of worms on this blog!) Here is what I do know:
  • God gave me the desire and opportunity to serve in missions in Latin America; this is part of who I am and always will be, regardless of the specific tasks I do or the corresponding titles.
 I love being her mommy!
  • God has graciously blessed me in different seasons, each with their purposes and characteristics -- as a young single, newlywed, and now a mom of little ones -- and He is preparing what is yet to come.

  • It’s all about His glory and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven; my joy is being faithful to whatever He calls me to and cheering on others as they do the same, without competition or comparison.

Much more could be said, but the main point is that I have peace about what God has called me to do now and want to live it to the fullest. I don’t need to be directly involved to praise Him for what He is doing beyond my current scope of ministry. I am happy hearing Fernando tell me about what he is doing (nege), and I wouldn’t change where He has me now, deeply investing in those closest to me. I also am looking forward to what He has prepared for the future and know that faithfulness in the present everyday details will directly affect whatever lies ahead.

Praise God for being our unchanging Rock (Is. 26:4), for being the Father who rewards what His children do in secret (Mt. 6:4, 6, 18), and for including even imperfect and limited people in His plan (1 Cor. 3:6-9)!

(And now off to fold the laundry.) :)

1 comment:

  1. I am quite certain you will never regret this decision, Allison. Blessing on you, dearest, as you faithfully serve at home and in your neighborhood.