Friday, December 30, 2011

Ick


I love traveling. I really do. I love seeing new places. Tasting new foods. Learning bits and pieces of new languages. I love watching how people interact and finding out what is taboo and what is normal.

I think, initially, my wanderlust was born from a deep desire to escape all the messed up feelings from when I was much younger. I wanted to move, move out, move away, move afar, move anywhere. Now I see I was the same person away as I was at home. But it’s human to think that a new place is a new chance. The only problem is that you inevitably bring yourself whenever and wherever you move. (Understanding this piece of navel-gazing revelation is probably why I really resonate with Alain de Botton’s ‘The Art of Travel.’)

The only thing I just cannot cope with wherever I am, but particularly in places where my appearance makes me stick out, is the unwanted attention from men. Now, don’t hear me wrong. I’m not fooled into believing that men will fall at my feet in every country I visit, and honestly, they don’t. But I have received my fair share on uncomfortably stares, full body leers (I mean the ones where the imbecilic man looks at me from head to toe and then back up again), wolf-whistles, really gross sexual comments, being cornered in between strange men on a street, and even a boob grab.
 
Please, please hear me out. Every Australian has in inbuilt sense of recognising when someone has tickets on themselves, so talking like this and raising this particular issue with me as the example, makes me self-conscious. But really, c’mon. Men are really feral sometimes. And I hate it. And it gets complicated when you’re in a cross-cultural situation. 

I have a pretty high level of cross-cultural tolerance. I’ll cope with a lot of strange, new, even uncomfortable situations quite happily self-placating my rising terror because I know ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.’ Weather, food, dress, language, body language, physical and societal status. Nearly everything.

Except a guy with his hands down his pants leering at me.

Ok, ok. That only happened once. But I really have a very, very low tolerance for gross men. I find it hard to shake off sexual comments and stares. Some people have told me I’m just way too sensitive and probably mis-read signals. Others have told me that gut feelings in this particular area need to be heeded.  But I doubt anyone thinks that my reactions are godly, appropriate or helpful.
 
Because I’m not above giving a guy ‘the finger’, glaring, yelling, swearing, making smart-alec comments or all of the above, all at the same time.  I could just shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Meh, I’m human. I make mistakes’ but I’ve already had at least one person tell me that even if I thought that, it wasn’t appropriate to put it on the internet. That piece of advice obviously hasn’t changed my perspective but I will qualify the ‘meh’ statement.

I know that my over-reactions are over-reactions for a Christian. I’ve never been a victim of a serious sexual assault that would warrant an all out verbal and physical reaction. So I agree with all the voices in my head (well, the Holy Spirit really) who pricks my conscience about these actions. 

But how does one react in a culturally appropriate way?  I’ve been told in some situations it’s perfectly acceptable to yell and shout and berate the man for mistreating his ‘sister’ and how dare he shame her in public.  To not react this way would be to welcome the man’s advances, and actually would be indicating that you were a bit ‘easy’ and keen for more attention.

Glaring at a man in some other situations could get very dangerous, very quickly.

Is ignoring their bad behaviour the better option in most situations? Ignoring it makes me so angry sometimes. Chalking up their behaviour to cross-cultural differences makes me slightly less angry sometimes and even more furious other times.  I guess I react so strongly sometimes because to sweep their actions under the cross-cultural carpet avoids the fact that their behaviour is sin. To disrespect and mistreat a woman because she is a woman is sin, no matter the cultural expectations.

But what avenues are there to address their inappropriate actions in a way that is culturally understood?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Underprepared



The last two Bible translation workshops have been a dream come true. I've finally been able to use so much of my linguistics degree and my theological degree to help, enthuse and encourage a people group who've never written down their own language before. But at the same time I've been challenged about huge gaps in my knowledge both linguistically and theologically. I suppose this is just part and parcel when you move from the theoretical to the practical and actually work in the field you've been training for. It's been a wondrous ride to persevere in being more professional in my work and also remember that Christ's sacrifice and God's plan for the world is really at the heart of all I do.

Linguistically I've been thinking about practical fieldwork. At university I majored in sociolinguistics. At the time I didn't know the difference between the different linguistic fields but was fortunately able to get a taste of descriptive linguistics in my first year, when we briefly covered morphology, phonetics and semantics. During my first year I also did a week-long introductory course to linguistics with Wycliffe. This was a brilliant course and I'm so glad that I did. I was fully immersed in the practicalities of linguistic analysis, language learning and missionary work that I wasn't learning about at uni. But then for the next 4 years I was back to the politics of language, language status, language policies, conversation analysis, the relationship between language and identity, second language acquisition and in my final year, ESL teacher training. I had nothing to do with raw linguistic data and how to collect it, chart it and analyse it. Until now.



I realised how much I still had to learn when I trying to collect data for the beginnings of a Fwe dictionary and grammar. I actually had no idea how to do either. I had studied lexicography (dictionary making) in my fourth year at Moore College so I was familiar with the ideas of semantic domains. That seemed to be the most sensible way to make a dictionary because alphabetically work was impossible since their alphabet was still in draft form. Collecting data for a grammar was like nails on a blackboard. I've never been one for detailed grammatical analysis, and always resist grammar when doing language learning and even when doing language teaching. So I struggled to find patterns and come up with ways to elicit more information from the Fwe.

Theologically I realised that by simply saying, 'I'm a reformed, evangelical, Protestant' only made sense to other reformed, evangelical Protestants. Ecumenicalism is necessary when doing this kind of work since the Bible is denomination-less. But there *are* different denominations. To ignore the differences and say that 'we're all on about Jesus' is quite condescending in many ways. Celebrating differences can also be problematic when one denomination wants different things from different people to the detriment of team unity and team focus.

I think the best way is to really understand what you believe and know how to express it well. I've found numerous situations in which it's been oh, so, clearly, obvious that I'm the only one who thinks the way I think, and I need to explain myself to everyone else. Most times I fail. I then go to my bungalow, think, pray and read and come up with a better explanation that I wish I had known an hour previously. It's all growth, though. A little humiliating at times, but growth nonetheless. I am glad that I'm here again in Mongu but again feel like I'm underprepared and ill-equipped for this job. But I am also glad that God is in control, God is the one who directed me to this task and God is the one who will make all things work to his glory. All I have to do is be faithful and trust him.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wuv, twu wuv. (Love. True Love)

I've always loved 50 First Dates. Right from the first time that I watched it, I recognised that it was the best Hollywood depiction of unconditional love. Seven Pounds, however, was the worst. Worst by far because it lures the viewer into believing that the actions of the main protagonist are born out of deep, pure love when it fact, they're not. Not at all.

If you haven't seen either, let me give you a brief run down

WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD


50 First Dates is a love story between a woman, Lucy, who's lost her short term memory and a man, Henry, who has to woo her every day because she has forgotten their previous dates hence the title; each meeting is a first date for the woman but certainly not for the man. Every day starts with a video reminder of the accident that caused her memory loss and that she is in a relationship with Henry. After the inevitable 'boy loses girl' part of the love story, Lucy eventually starts to form long term, subconscious memories of Henry, and the 'boy gets girl back' part begins. The movie ends with Lucy and Henry a few years later, married and with a little daughter. Lucy is still reminded daily through the video of her accident and her relationship with Henry.

Seven Pounds is about a man, Ben (he uses his brother's identity so really his name is Tim) who causes an car accident in which seven people die. He spends the rest of his life attempting to redeem himself by donating his own body organs (or money) to people. Seven people, in fact. He picks people or is told about people who need organs or help in some way and then conducts investigations to find out if they are worthy. He falls in love with his final organ donation recipient, Emily, but is determined to finish his mission. His final organ donations require his life so he commits suicide and his corneas and heart are donated. Emily receives his heart.

I found 50 First Dates profoundly biblical. Henry's love for Lucy is unconditional. Complete. And never ending. He choses her. Pursues her. Cares for her. Loves her. All of her flaws and even her inability to love him back do not dissuade him. Even at the very end of the movie, she is shocked to find out that she is married and has a daughter. This has meant years of unconditional love on Henry's side. Every day he's had to live with a woman who doesn't remember him and can't understand how she got to where she is.

I understand, of course, that some might view this as quite perverse and an abuse of power. The movie makes clear that there is something changing within Lucy to indicate that she is forming long-term memories of Henry but obviously not at the same rate that he is.

I think God loves us like this. Despite our sinfulness and complete inability to love him, God loves us. It was while were were still enemies that God saved us (Romans 5:10). We have all sinned and fallen short of his glory but it was at this time that God saves those who believe in him (Romans 2:23-24). God chose his children because of his love for them and gave them saving faith (Ephesians 1:3-5) Now I'm nailing my colours to the mast here because that was just a declaration of Calvinist predestination. I don't believe that because I love God I am justified from my sin. I believe that God loved me and so I am justified from my sin. His love for me is not conditional on my love for him.

Seven Pounds has its core that love and sacrifice should only be given to those people who are worthy. Those people who can prove that they will do good with their opportunities and privileges. Those people who deserve love and sacrifice. Ben's whole life is an attempt to atone for his own mistakes. His 'love' for his organ donation recipients is based on their worthiness. He only loves them to help his own need for atonement. At one point in the movie, Ben rejects a man who needed an organ donation because finds out that the man has been mistreating his clients in an aged care home. Ben decides that this man is not worthy of his donation. God doesn't love like that. We know that God loves murderers, drunks and thieves (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) as well as the hard-working doctors, parents and teachers. God's love is not based on our actions or our words. As much as it pains the world, God doesn't love only good people.

I know that you can't make clear cut parallels between movies and life, let alone biblical doctrine. But I was just struck by the polemical ideas of love between these two movies. I'm sure in the eyes of the world 50 First Dates portrays ridiculous love that is ultimately unrequited whereas Seven Pounds is probably seen as more rational - giving to those who deserve it. But I see it completely the opposite. True love is unconditional.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Friendship


Friends are funny things, aren't they? The last few years or so I've thought a lot about friends. What is a good friend? How do I ensure that I am a good friend? I can't really control what kind of friend people are to me but I can determine my actions towards them. I worry a bit about this because I'm such a homebody and love hanging out with my husband that I fear I don't put enough into friendships sometimes.

Moving to Cape Town we knew that the friendships we had with people in Australia had to move into a new way of operating. We also knew that part of our move was to create new friendships and new support networks in Cape Town. To straddle both countries wholeheartedly is too much to expect from anyone. Our move is with our whole selves and friendship is included in this.

The Fwe have a proverb about friendship:

Chizuba cha muenzo kansikwe.

Literally: Your friend's chest is darkness.

I know it's a rather dark perspective on friendship but I understand this proverb deeply when I think about some friends that I've had over the years. People that I thought I really understood but it ended up that I had absolutely no idea about who they thought they were.

It makes Jesus' friendship with me so much more precious. Jesus knows me completely. And with the Holy Spirit I know what I can know about Jesus completely. What I am meant to know, I know. What I am not meant to know, I don't know and it's for my own good. There's no hidden evil in Jesus. No hidden character flaw that will bring me grief at some point in my life. Jesus' chest is not darkness to me.

Kevin De Young's series on friendship was really encouraging to me.


It helped me to think about the types of friends I've had in my life and also challenged me about the kind of friend I am. One of the greatest things that I've struggled with in terms of having and being a good friend is conflict. I've rarely had overt and verbalised conflict with friends. I'm too much of a people-pleaser and find it difficult to assert myself in potentially upsetting situations. But the friends with whom I have experienced conflict have fallen very clearly on either side of the fence: some are still close friends, others are not. That's painful because my people-pleaser self stresses that if only I hadn't said anything we'd still be friends - but what kind of friends when open conversation kills the friendship?

So, I'm determined then, to be a good friend and show those around me the unfailing friendship of Jesus.

(The owl picture reminds me of a fun conversation I had with a good friend. Sometimes there are things that make you smile that no one else gets - it's just for me and my friend.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mongu Musings

(Mercy proudly holding the first printed scripture in Fwe - the first printed piece of prose other than comments on grammar from the first booklet we printed in March.)

This blog post was written when I was in Mongu, Western Province of Zambia a few weeks ago. I completed my second workshop there with The Seed Company. The Fwe now have the first scripture translated into their language EVER! What a privilege! What a milestone! What an honour to be involved in this work.
So, I’m here in Mongu again doing work with the MaFwe, a tribe from the Western Province of Zambia who up until last March had never had their language written down. I’m working with the five MaFwe from last time: Mboozi, Mercy, Innocent, Cosmas and Orbet.
Since the last time we met the little booklet we produced has done its rounds in many MaFwe villages and has been very well received. It’s been wonderful to hear that since the written alphabet has been circulated people have started to pray publicly and preach in Fwe rather than in Lozi (the lingua franca) as they had done before. What a glorious response to God’s goodness in making provision for their language to be written down!
This workshop we have begun to work through translation principles including basic exegesis skills. We’re operating under a 80/20 rule: 80% of the time should be spent in preparation and study and the other 20% is actual translation.
It’s been a real joy to see how much the Fwe themselves are growing in understanding of the Bible as we read different Bible translations together as well as the Translator’s Notes provided by SIL which have been written specifically for mother-tongue translators. The Fwe say that even just this 3 week workshop will make them better preachers let alone turn them into translators.


(Innocent doing a 'back translation' - the translated text is translated again into English so that I, the consultant, can do exegetical checks).
We’ve given them an NIV, NLT, one Bible dictionary and one easy-to-understand regular English dictionary. We’ll also be providing a computer loaded with Paratext - some software that enables you to see a range of translations all on the screen at the same time, and a large number of extra exegetical helps such as commentaries, Translator’s Notes and other books.
It’s difficult for the MaFwe to get together between the workshops. It takes
at least 7hrs walking to get between the closest neighbours let alone the ones who live in a different district. I feel great compassion for them and really wonder how this will all work out. They are required to do translation between the workshops as well. By the next workshop in November they need to have translated Luke 2, 3, and 4.
Looking back now from back home in Cape Town, South Africa, I'm still in that fuzzy world of 'Did that really happen? Do the Fwe really have a little scripture booklet in Fwe for the first time ever?' It just seems so bizarre and yet when people ask me about the project I'm so matter of fact about it. It feels weird and normal at the same time. Of course I'm a Bible translation consultant. Yes, these 2 documents (the Reading and Writing booklet from March and the Good Samaritan translation from July) are the only printed document available in the world in the Fwe language.

(Cosmas, Innocent, Orbet, myself and Mercy holding copies of the Good Samaritan translation in Fwe. Mboozi is missing as he had to return home due to a family emergency.)


So the Fwe finally have the Good Samaritan translated into their language. They also worked really hard to produce a few more traditional stories ('A man, his dog and an antelope' - it's a ripsnorter!!) and a 20+ page beginnings of a semantic domain dictionary (topical dictionary).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our flat is the one on the bottom left.

We’ve arrived! We now LIVE in Cape Town, South Africa. This is now our HOME! It’s been an exciting two weeks centred on 5 days laid up in bed with the ‘flu. That part wasn’t so fun. I guess our bodies just gave up the ghost after being on the go for so long. Our goal has been to just get here so that once we got here our immune system finally enforced a rest.


It’s been interesting finding the differences between Sydney and Cape Town. In so many ways it’s much like living back in Australia but it’s the little things that remind you that ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto’.

  • You can buy milk in bags.
  • Electricity is prepaid
  • Actually a lot of things are prepaid - cell phones (not ‘mobiles’) are more widely used off contracts and even landline accounts are prepaid.
  • Receipts = till slips.
  • Tipping is normal.
  • Car guards: men (I’ve never seen women doing it) ‘guard’ your car and help you load your shopping. In exchange you give them a few rand.
  • Petrol stations are not self-service. You tip the petrol attendant.
  • Roundabouts = circles.
  • Traffic lights = robots.
  • Most traffic signs are in English and Afrikaans.
  • People say ‘shame’ as a verbal acknowledgement of commiseration.
  • People say ‘sho’ as a verbal exclamation of surprise or shock.
  • People say ‘Is it?’ as a verbal confirmation that you said something new or interesting.

That’s just a few of the strange things that happen around here that I’m sure will be so normal in a few months.


We really do hope to make this place our home. We’ve been so transient for a long time that we went nearly giddy at Mr Price Home (a cheapy version of Ikea) buying cushions that match our new couches. It was a bizarre experience to think about decorating our house in a ‘grown up’ and non student fashion. Let me reassure you, we’re still buying cheaply and will DIY a lot but it’s a different feeling than when we were in Sydney and everything was always temporary. Even those four years at Moore were seen as temporary.


George Whitefield College on the beachfront at Muizenberg, Cape Town.


People have been very friendly and welcoming both at George Whitefield College and in society in general. People here are very kind and sympathetic that we are new. (Although, generally, unless people are working in a tipping type industry, they haven’t been *that* friendly!).


Slowly. Slowly. We’re making our way. Constantly grateful that we are here and that we are supported through Christian brothers and sisters both here and in Australia.

Friday, June 3, 2011

New beginnings


We leave for South Africa tomorrow!! Right now we're just chilling out watching Stargate Atlantis, eating TimTams and doing last minute paperwork. It's been a crazy day cleaning and packing. It's amazing how little you can fit into 25kg checked luggage. We've donated the most insane amount of stuff that at some point we thought was necessary but now deemed worth nothing. 
Practicalities aside, I'm not sure I'm quite ready to go. We've had a intense week with two lots of family visiting. It was good to see them and say goodbye (again!) but I really do think that next time no family should visit in the last two weeks of our departure. It's just too stressful. I thought that we had planned things well to say goodbye to people in a timely manner (as we were taught at St Andrew's Hall down in Melbourne) but plans schmaans.
I don't think I'm ready to go because I'm getting a little apprehensive about living in South Africa and Zambia as well as the HUGE responsibilities that my jobs will entail. Who on earth am I to take on helping a people group translate the Bible when I fail so often to just read it myself? Who am I to help Bible college students to write essays when I hate, hate, hate, hate writing essays?
Cold feet? As an aside I never had cold feet the day before we got married. I actually had to convince my dad at the back of the church to walk me down the aisle because I really wanted to get married and he insisted that I could still go home at any point if I wanted to.
But I am ready to go. I've spent YEARS studying, I've had a brief go at it in March, people have prayed over us, we've prayed, we've had the 15 or so requisite interviews, doors have been opened and others shut. We're going.
My dad would have been mighty terrified about us going. I would have either called him tonight (at 6pm so he could miss the dodgy local news but preferably not at 6:30pm when he was watching the slightly better national news) or tomorrow morning (around 6am after he got back from buying the paper and before he went out fishing/shopping/visiting friends). He would have checked that I had my tickets, passport, was getting to the airport hideously early and had checked the weather for Cape Town.

My first international flight from Brisbane to the Philippines when I was 2 years old. 
I posted over on Twitter and Facebook a few things I'm going to miss about Australia and a few things I'm looking forward to about South Africa. I'll put them here as well:
Things I'm looking forward to about South Africa #1: Learning things about God from South Africans Christians that Australian Christians don't know.
Things I'm looking forward to about South Africa #2: Becoming a Muizenberg local. It'll take a while, but I'm determined.
Things I'll miss about Australia #1: Kookaburras going so crazy ape in the morning that they nearly fall out of trees with their belly laughs.
Things I'll miss about Australia #2: The following acceptable dialogue: 'How ya going'? 'Yeah'm good.' 'Dya want something ter eat?' 'Nah'm good.'
Important purchase in prep for move to Cape Town #1: Kath and Kim season 1.
Important purchase in prep for move to Cape Town #2: 17 packets of assorted TimTams.
We're now at the stage where to not go would be just awkward. Everything's packed. Our apartment in Cape Town is ready for us. Actually we've got people to pick us up at the airport as well as bring us a meal on Sunday night and take us out to church (if we're still awake). We got a phone call from Cape Town this afternoon welcoming us. I've got a list of cafes and restaurants I want to visit next week. We're going.
It's been an amazing journey to get us this far and for it and all its ups and downs we're very grateful to God. He's changed us along the way. We're more flexible, durable and multi-useful. Like any missionary worth their salt. We're ready for whatever will come our way.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coping

Please people. Stop telling me that it's a blessing from God and oh, so good that my Dad died before we went to South Africa. He's dead. How can that be good? How can you possible think that I should be grateful that Dad died at a convenient time for me? Morons. Shut your mouths. 

It's been a month since my dad died. Just over a month really. Life is moving as slowly as sticky molasses at times but then life is also rushing past us. How can both of those things happen at once? We only have 3 more weeks before we move to South Africa.

I've found this last month difficult to cope with when dealing with others who I thought should have acted with more compassion or more sympathy. Expectations are funny things. There are things that I just thought would happen, words that I thought would be just said, help that I thought would be just given. But they never eventuated.

And then there has been the unexpected. The kind words, the generosity, the loving acts of thoughtfulness. Unfortunately they have been far and few between.

People seem so awkward about death. My dad is dead. Yours will die too. I'll die. You'll die. We're all going to die. Why are you so uncomfortable and strange around me? Why do you not know what to say? Why do you say nothing? Why, when you do say something, you say the most outrageous, hurtful things? I would never dream of saying those things to you!

I'm sure a lot of this is experience related. If your dad is dead maybe you will understand better how I feel. Maybe if your dad is still alive you're destined to say stupid things to me and others whose dads are dead.

I did a grief counselling course in my third year at Moore College that was offered as an elective after normal class time. The training was specifically for hospital chaplaincy. The key to the training was learning how to listen. How to just be a good ear and hear what people want to say. I thought the course was really good and really wished that everyone did it. I think I'll now email Moore and insist it be part of the degree. Significant aspects that stood out for me were the stages of grief as well as the different types of grief that people experience.

I distinctly remember going through numbness, necessary abstraction from the reality of the death in order to organise and sort through paperwork etc., and remembering good and bad times and general reminiscing. I was never and will never, I think, be angry at dad for dying. I have no regrets. I have no guilt. I truly believe that God was with me every step of the way readying me for the next step and this grief counselling course was part of that preparation to give me the necessary tools to deal and deal well. Originally it was for me to be useful to others but first, it seems, I had to be useful to myself.

The type of grief that I believe I'm experiencing is the grief of dreams and future hopes. Dad won't see my children and spoil them. Dad won't hear my tales about elephants and giraffes. Dad won't be proud of me and my accomplishments. Dad won't hear any more of my fumbling attempts to explain to him the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My own personal pain is one thing to manage but then there's everyone else around me. People say kind things and write nice cards but they won't call me and chat about how awesome Dad was. People need to say 'I'm sorry' and then quickly move on. Death is taboo in our culture. People think that if we can ignore it enough then just maybe it will all just disappear. So of course people won't want to chat to me about my Dad's death or life. It reminds them that they will die too.

Here's my suggestion to those who don't know what to say or do in these situations and want to offer comfort:

Call them.
Ask them how they are.
Ask them about the person who died.
Ask them to tell them a story about them.
LISTEN TO THEM.
Don't give them advice.
Don't quote out of context Bible verses.
Don't tell them that they'll feel better soon.
Don't try to 'fix' the situation.
Don't forget them. The pain will last a long time.

These are just want I think at the moment. I'm still grieving. Different people want different things.

I don't have any close friends who would do the above list for me. I find that so sad and disheartening. There are people who would do it, I'm sure. Contacts from all the link churches we are partnering with as CMS missionaries, CMS staff and maybe some old friends. But no one who is really my bosom buddy. I miss having a bosom buddy. I hope God will give me one in Africa.

I think that Nathan and I have really suffered these last few years with so much instability in that friendships become unstable as well. What we are looking forward to the most about moving to South Africa is the chance to settle down for a few years, make friends and set up our life with the hopes of some measure of stability. That would be nice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Dad

I had wanted my next blog post to be about further reflections on Bible translation, my experience in Zambia and how freaking awesome the whole thing was. I wanted to blog about how much I was looking forward to coming back and having my life be intertwined to the Fwe people, to know and love them and be their sister in Christ.

But less than a week after I returned from Zambia my dad died.



It was sudden. It was horrible. It was heartbreaking.

I got the call on Tuesday morning around 1:30am. My sister had just had a visit from the Brisbane police because it's their (good) policy to tell people in person.

My dad had been found dead at his house that morning but had probably died Monday afternoon. He died of a brain haemorrhage.

We travelled up to Bundaberg, Queensland from where we live in Sydney, New South Wales, as quickly as we could. But that Wednesday we still had all kinds of appointments for our visa application to South Africa that we had to keep. It was a day that passed in a blur and I was numb.

My dad is dead.

I had to keep things together. I'm the oldest. I'm the sensible one. The one who looks after my baby sister. So I did.

We managed the funeral. We sorted through things at my dad's house. We called people. We organised stuff. We did paperwork.

Throughout it all I had hope in God. I know it sounds glib, but I did. I don't know where my dad is now but I do know that he is being dealt with justly and lovingly by a gracious God. I trust God to do what is right with my dad. I'm not under any false, self-mollifying illusions that my dad is in heaven because 'everyone goes to heaven'. No, everyone is judged. Some are saved from hell. Some are not. God is just. I'm happy with that.


At the funeral I said this:

My name is Diane Lovell and today we are burying the body of my dad, Lawrence Ross Walker.

Dad was a good dad to me. He loved me greatly and was interested in what I was doing and was always ready to boast about his children to whomever he could make sit long enough to listen.

I remember once in high school my Granny telling me in a birthday card that Dad had visited her to tell her the marks I received at school. Her words were that he was so proud that he couldn’t keep his hat on.

Dad tried to teach me things that you don’t learn at school:
How to tell tall-tales that know no limits when it comes to exaggeration and veracity in the face of impossibility.
How to give truck drivers a wide berth. Living opposite Lindsay Brothers Trucking Company gave us ample opportunity to practice.
Being almost paranoid about organization and being on time. Dad had no problem turning up an hour early for appointments.
An appreciation for food and where it comes from. I always knew that chicken didn’t come from Coles and that carrots tasted best if they still had a bit of dirt on them. And if you hadn’t ever had the opportunity to eat Dad’s chicken stew then I’m sorry, but you’ve missed the best meal you could have ever eaten.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I’m bicultural. Half Aussie. Half Filipino. Dad didn’t see that divide but I felt it in my heart. I’m not different, just more. What I know about being an Australian comes from my dad: loyalty, honesty, a healthy respect for work and pride in where my country has been and where it will go in the future.

Although my dad didn’t really understand why my husband Nathan and I are moving to South Africa in a month’s time as missionaries, he was able to share in my joy only last week when I returned from Zambia and could tell him about me starting my dream job as a Bible translator. A few months ago when we were last up here he enthusiastically looked at all of the pictures we had of Africa, and asked lots of questions about what we were doing in my new jobs. And showed that he really thought the world of me, and that he was excited by what I was doing. That was one of the things I loved about Dad. He didn’t always understand my life, but he loved me anyway.

Death is something that it seems not many people can deal well with. But for me, I have hope. I have certainty. And I have assurance. I do grieve for my dad. I am sad and will be always. But I have someone in my life who brings meaning even at times like this. That Jesus Christ came and died and was raised again has huge significance for me today.

It can be really easy when something bad happens, like this, to question whether God really is a good God, or if he even cares at all. But then I remember that he is the kind of God who didn’t just stay up there in heaven—he came down here and got his feet muddy, and joined in our suffering, and died. And even though I can’t always answer why these bad things happen, it’s because of Jesus that I know that God does have a plan and a purpose, even when that can seem difficult to believe. And so as I say goodbye today to my Dad, I trust in God that he will bring something good out of this as well.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Greetings from Mongu, Western Province, Zambia


(L-R: Me, Cosmas, Mercy, Innocent, Mboozi, Orbet, Cathy.)



(L-R: Me, Cosmas, Mercy, Innocent, Mboozi, Orbet, Cathy.)

Mbuti! This is how the Fwe tribespeople greet one another. The right response is 'Nenja' ("I'm well"). Clapping your hands with cupped hands twice before and after shaking is also polite and customary.

It has been the most amazing last few days meeting 23 people from all over the Western Province of Zambia who've come together here in Mongu to work together for 3 weeks. The end goal is for each 4 languages to have created a consistent, accurate and clear alphabet with which they can begin to translate the Bible.

Cathy, another consultant from Australia, recorded her thoughts of our first day on her own blog, Babelwise.

The four languages are: Fwe, Mashi, Makoma, Kwanga. Each language has chosen 5 or 6 representatives to come here to Mongu to begin the translation project. These people are members of society highly thought of and well-respected. They are Christians and have been well-educated according to their standards usually having finished primary school with some even completing secondary school.

For the first few days we have been discussing what sounds they use in their languages. To ensure that this process is as hands on and as user-friendly as possible, it all begins with a story. The translators decide on a story that they wish to tell and firstly voice record their story. Then as the recording is played back each translator writes down what they hear in whatever spelling system they like. They are then able to compare their texts and begin to decide which symbols best represent the sounds of their language. This is a great practical way to start that initiates ownership of the alphabet right from the beginning.

The text of the story is then useful for further stages like charting consonants and vowels, deciding on where to break words and understanding tonal systems. Today my group, the Fwe tribe, decided that they had 45 consonants in their language. For comparison's sake, English has 24. We also began to compile a mini dictionary finding nouns for each consonant.

It is very exciting work and the translators are all incredibly dedicated. At present they only have a Bible in Lozi, the local trade language, that uses older language and is thus difficult to understand for today's readers. There is also a lesser used Catholic Bible which does have more modern Lozi but is perceived by non-Catholics as containing suspect theology. It would, of course, be much better to have these people read and understand the Bible in their own language.

It is an amazing privilege to be here with these people at the birth of their alphabet. They know it is going to be a hard slog - at least 4 years to get just the gospel of Luke. But as Mboozi, one of my Fwe translators, said, "God first." Their dedication, conviction and determination is to be admired and puts us English speakers to shame. How much can we say that we would give up work, give up our salary and give up our comfortable homes to see God's word more clearly understandable to those around us in our society?

For the Fwe it is a 'dream come true'.

We, consultants and translators, here in the Western Province of Zambia are God's instruments. May he use us to bring him glory and honour among the Fwe, Mashi, Makoma and Kwangwa.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mac the Knife

I bought a MacBook Pro! I love it!

We'd been ummmming and ahhhhhhing for a quite a while about what we're going to do about computers when we move to South Africa. My Windows laptop is just over 4 years old and doing quite well (although it just starting to shut down at random times). However electronics are about 30% more expensive in South Africa and we were pretty certain that my laptop wouldn't last another 3 years especially with 3 trips a year to Zambia.

So despite the cost difference we could see so many great things about the MacBook Pros (battery life, new O/S, good software, user-friendlyness, ability to run Windows as well with Parallels).

It's been a steep learning curve in some ways especially with setting up Parallels - a program that will allow me to use all the Windows programs I already own as well as the new ones I assume Wycliffe will want me to use in the near future. Fortunately Nathan gets a huge kick out of doing this sort of stuff so he's done it all. He's getting ready for when we get his laptop. We're doing this buying process a little more slowly than we'd like so we can take advantage of duty-free privileges.


I've spent the last day and a half sewing up a little sleeve for the laptop to make travel easier in Zambia next week. I've got a serviceable computer bag which looks just like a computer bag so isn't really travel friendly.

I used this tutorial from Crap I've Made. It was a really good tutorial but I really don't deal very well with zippers so I had to do a bit of dodgy hand sewing to keep things in check around the zipper ends. On the whole though I'm ecstatic with how it turned out. The red fabric was from my mum's stash that I nicked in high school, the batting is made from two layers of my granny's dressing gown that I inherited, and the lining is a vintage pillowcase. I feel really great to use fabric I already had (including the zipper) as well as the fabric having sentimental meaning.


The plan is to slip the laptop with the sleeve into my oversized shoulder bag, have another small piece of hand luggage and check a small (cabin sized) rolling suitcase.

It's only a week now that I'll be going to Africa for the first time in my life. I'll be joining up with a ex-pat team in Lusaka, Zambia. We'll spend a week together getting to know each other and getting ready for the Bible translation workshop. We'll then travel 10hours to Mongu in the south-west of Zambia and set up in a campsite/guesthouse. Representatives from 5 languages will come and live on the campsite with us for 3 weeks. During this time we plan to help each group write down their language's alphabet for the first time and teach them oral stories about Jesus Christ.

It'll be a blast and I'm so excited and blessed!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Origami



This is the most gorgeous thing I've seen recently. I first saw this here and I followed a link to the creator's Flickr set.