Stop for a second and think about going to the grocery store or a market. Think about a visit to the doctor or to your child's school. Now think about how those everyday errands would be impacted if you did not speak the language of the place where you were living.
I remember once, when my mom (Patricia) came to Spain to stay with Sarah while Billy and I were away for 5 weeks. My mom does not speak any Spanish. I think her entire vocabulary exists of 2 or 3 greeting words and that's it. I remember getting a text from her as she was trying to buy groceries. "I have no idea what this meat is that I'm buying. I know that it is meat. I can't read the label and I can't ask anyone because I can't speak Spanish. So, I'm just trying to look for any pictures or clues. One has a pig on it... we'll assume that it is pork. Whatever. We're going to eat it." They survived their inventive meals and Mom learned to take Sarah with her as a translator (Sarah was 10 or 11 then).
Language learning is vital to learning how to live and build relationships when you are new to a community. It's a crucial first step in learning how to handle daily life and all of the everyday things that happen. The majority of the people who come to La Mesa Turquesa are not native Spanish speakers. They come to us with Arabic, Twi, Farsi, Urdu, Polish, French, and many other native languages. So one of the biggest needs that our new neighbors need is language help.
We have Spanish language help every day. Small groups come for language support, encouragement, and new lessons. Learning looks different on every day, because our people come with many different levels and many different needs. Some come with very little knowledge at all, and they need to start at the very beginning with learning nouns and verbs and vocabulary. Others have been coming for awhile and they are honing skills and learning to put together more complex sentences and conversations. And still others come with very specific needs... how to fill out an application or how to register their kids for school.
Language learning is very hard work and exhausting! Your brain is doing new things and it takes a lot of mental energy to fine tune your ears and listen to accents and letter sounds, to hear the subtle differences in how verbs change as you build a sentence, and to remember all of the new vocabulary and teaching. An hour or two of that and you are toast!
Now try all of that while wearing the government-mandated masks for Covid! No lip reading now!
We make it fun! We play language games. We cheer each other on. We play with babies while mothers take classes. The fun makes it a lot less difficult!
We also have conversation groups at La Mesa. Every day, we have a time for people to come in and practice English and have conversation time. Lots of Spaniards have learned some English, but they aren't confident or practiced in speaking it. Again, games and fun conversation makes the learning go so much faster and easier. Many of our asylum seekers also come from countries where English was taught or where English was a second-language, so it is a great time to sit with those friends and relax and speak in a language that is less "foreign" for them.
Continue to pray for the work of La Mesa Turquesa and our team as we connect to friends and neighbors and help people build language skills that will help them foster new relationships. Pray that we find creative ways to navigate restrictions and safety protocols, and that we continue to foster connection and love our neighbors well.
In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a soccer mom, a horsewoman, and the neighborhood hospitality queen. I did "Joanna Gaines farmhouse style" before Chip and JoJo were even a thing - we restored an 1884 Victorian farmhouse in small town Texas and did shiplap walls until I thought I'd go crazy. I taught at NASA, scuba dived with astronauts in training, and studied animals at Sea World for educational purposes. I've tried just about everything, because I have an insatiable need to know if I can do it! Never underestimate a Texas girl in cowboy boots!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers via teaching and training and care, and helping displaced people to navigate their new reality in Europe.
I'm passionate about fostering personal growth, growth in community, and growth in The Kingdom. Walking alongside others and helping them to use their unique design, their gifts and strengths and maximize their abilities to fulfill their God-given purpose - that's what makes my heart sing!