Published on: 06/12/2019

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Sharon's News from Chad - December 2019

Dear Friend

One of the things I was taught back in 2016 as I was preparing to come abroad is that language learning always requires a cultural frame of reference to ensure that the language learner learns to communicate effectively. In talking about 'communication', the intention is not to highlight speech alone but also, other aspects such as non-verbal communication, conduct and a people's way of thinking. Understanding the cultural framework ensures that the learner behaves in culturally appropriate ways. (Imagine learning to speak Kyrgyz for example, yet, interacting with the Kyrgyz people, in their country, as if they were British). More to the point, how will they view your God - if there is not a 'joining of hands' at the cultural interface?

Learning the culture

In October I spent ten days living in my language assistant's home. The aim was to shadow her as she went about her life, asking questions, living as she does.

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Making beignets(a bit like ring doughnuts) to sell.
One of the ways my language assistant has of earning a living.

 

Although I was not able to be as socially engaged as had been anticipated, I saw, for example, that social relations carry great weight and are demanding in terms of time and other resources. For example, someone is sick or dies, you take a gift and go to see the family. This is true for all the events of life. To do otherwise is to exclude yourself from your community and to deprive yourself of needed support for all life's eventualities.

 

Gathering in the Harvest

Another cultural 'event' that I was permitted to view from 'close up' was seeing a family gathering in their crops. It's time for the harvest, you don't have the necessary machinery and you can't afford to engage people - what would you do?

I discovered that the common practice is to ask people from your village to come and help you. In return you provide them with food (a good meal) and beverages. When it's their harvest, you will go and help them and they will provide the food.

It's a whole-day affair and recently I had fun as I spent time with a family who were in the throes of harvesting. The daughters oversaw the food preparation, whilst mum and dad were out in the fields with the helpers. We even managed to watch a few videos such as 'The Prophet's story'. Hezekiah Walker's 'Every Praise' seemed to rhyme with the teenagers, even though they couldn't understand the lyrics!

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Pounding millet to make a beverage to serve to the workers

 

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Lunch is served: Boule - getting ready to take it to the workers in the field.
It is usually eaten with fish a or meat 'sauce'.

 

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Finally, sitting down to eat.

 

Translating Materials

We are so used to having commentaries and other Biblical aids to help us develop in our walk with God and in our understanding of his Word. For believers whose languages have relatively recently acquired a Bible, such materials are not readily available. One of the ways in which we deal with this problem is to translate already existing apposite Scripture Use materials into the language in need of the resource.

My supervisor works with Kenga speakers. Finding culturally appropriate Sunday school material has been difficult. Recently she came across a book that was being used in another language community. After discussions with the church leaders of the community she works with, it was agreed that this book would be an invaluable resource so, with help from mother-tongue speakers, she set about putting it into Kenga. Once a text is translated into atarget language, it is then translated back into the source language by another translator, to ensure that 'nothing has been lost in translation!'

Below are some pictures of my supervisor working with the back translator(putting back into the original language).

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Back-translating

 

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Text: French (left) Kenga (right)

 

Scripture Engagement Team

So, why all this emphasis on culture? We need the message to resonate with the culture and in order for this to be the case, messengers need to understand their 'work environment'.

One of the things that we were asked to consider in our recent team meeting was the nature of the 3D gospel. This is an approach which recognises that there are three broad worldviews: guilt and innocence; honour and shame; fear and power. It is posited that all three worldviews are to be found in a given culture but one usually dominates.

In the UK for example, the culture does not fear the unknown; there is always a rational explanation for phenomena. Equally, in making choices, we do not consider whether our decision will bring honour or shame to our family and our social group but we strongly adhere to the principle that lawbreakers should be punished. We understand guilt and punishment. Thus, for us, what is most likely to resonate is understanding that we are guilty before God but cleared of this because of Jesus' death. In a culture based on shame, the need is to show how God is able to replace shame with honour, whilst in a culture dominated by fear, showing Jesus' power over everything is more meaningful than talking about guilt.

Reflections aside, much time was spent on planning strategically for the next few years. We are a small team and the population is approximately twelve million.

Prayer Points

Praise God for

  • some of the small, seemingly insignificant ways He has used to assure me of His presence with me.
  • people who come alongside and help me to develop linguistically and culturally.
  • progress in my language learning.
  • continuing good health
  • technology.

Please pray

  • that I will find somewhere suitable to live, long term, next year
  • that the ideas that are being presented regarding my role will become clearer.
  • that I will develop good relationships with the churches in the area that will be assigned to me
  • for wisdom and understanding in my role
  • for good cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Signing Off

I hope this you find this little cultural foray insightful and interesting. Thank you for your prayers and on-going support!
Sharon

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