earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — September 2012

October 2012 Prayer Update

We recorded a short video as our monthly update for October. Watch it here if you can or follow the link below to see it at Vimeo.com.

Praises:
  1. God has been extraordinarily gracious to us through the kindness and support of our families and sending/partnering churches. Our last months in the States were richly blessed with good conversation and timely reminders of God’s truth. These things were especially pronounced in our commissioning service on September 9.
  2. We arrived safely at our new home in Shadi village on the South side of Mwanza. All of our baggage arrived with us intact. And, Ian did well throughout the long journey.
  3. Everyone is adjusting to our new situation very well. We are well aware that there is a long road ahead, but we are grateful for God’s grace through progress thus far.
Requests:
  1. That we would build meaningful relationships with our new Tanzanian neighbors that would be used by God to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
  2. That we would handle the stress of cultural adjustment in a way that honors God.
  3. That we would have wisdom and patience as we approach the language learning process.

September 30, 2012   4 Comments

Language Learning by Immersion

One of the most regularly asked question we received over the past year was “How well do you know Swahili?” Most are not expecting to hear that we haven’t put much effort into learning the language. We have intentionally waited to begin the process until we can be learn from native Swahili speakers. Most missionaries now say the most effective way to learn a language is to be forced to use it in real life settings. Books and lectures are merely supplements. After all, children, the best language learners in the world, learn by listening, mimicking, and readjusting. In order to hold a conversation with our neighbors in a way that doesn’t make them cringe, we’ll need to go beyond the grammars and stumble through situations where we can’t fall back on English. This is learning by immersion, aka barefooting.

The two weeks we spent in Toronto last month were the first big step in our language learning process. In that course we were introduced to the language learning techniques that missionaries and linguists have been fine tuning for the past 40 years or so. In practice this involves exercises that are not too different from Pictionary, charades, and Simon says. If we know what the Swahili speaker is talking about, we can listen and repeat after them. The goal is to skip translating back into English and instead associate the Swahili word with the object, idea, or action we are considering in the exercises.

At any rate, we still know very little Swahili. We are, however, learning one mistake at a time. The instructor made it clear that success in language learning will depend on our willingness to push through our own mistakes and build meaningful relationships with our new Tanzanian friends. Those relationships are the incentives that a grammar book can never provide. You can pray with us that God will give us strength to persevere through the language learning process and build relationships with Tanzanians.

September 27, 2012   3 Comments

T+6 Days and Counting

Laura, Ian, and I landed safely in Nairobi on the evening of September 12. Dan Eads was kind enough to meet us at the airport and chauffeur us around the city to run errands over the next couple days. When we left for Tanzania last Saturday, the Land Cruiser was stuffed with our luggage, some groceries, and baskets to furnish our “new” home. The packing process took a few hours and pushed back our departure until late morning. At any rate, we arrived in Mwanza after midnight on Sunday morning, September 16.

The Gass Family in front of Dan’s loaded Land Cruiser at the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi, Kenya, Sep 15, 2012

Whenever you move into a new situation the days seem extraordinarily long, but everyone is adjusting well. Ian has shifted his sleeping schedule. Laura is already starting to get used to the new sounds. And, I am beginning to find a new routine. Thank you for interceding on our behalf.

September 22, 2012   6 Comments