Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vocabulary word: "Home"

I've been working on writing 30 full-length ESL lessons on the book of Genesis. It's a fun project I gave myself a while ago, because I find that I learn deeper things from familiar passages when I pick apart the language, one kernel at a time.

Today I was scrounging around in the story of Cain and Abel... When God pronounces the curse on Cain as punishment for his sin, one piece of the curse is that he will be a "restless wanderer on the earth" (Gen 4:12). I'm writing these lessons on a beginner English proficiency level, so trying to limit the vocabulary as much as possible without losing the meaning or significance is a constant (and delightful) challenge.

In this lesson, I was trying to introduce how to express negatives for nouns and verbs. I already introduced the word "rest" in lesson 1 - because God rested on the seventh day, so in this lesson (lesson 4), I was able to say: "You will not rest."

But I prayed for a while about how to express the wandering. I finally decided to say "You will have no home." The interesting thing about the word "home" is that it is somewhat abstract. You can show a picture of a house, a hut, an apartment, or a castle. But home is - dare I use the cliche?? - where the heart is. It isn't confined to a building or geographical location. (That's why we say "Go to school, go to the hospital, go to my house... go home."To is directional, and home does not necessarily have direction.) Think about all those songs that talk about home... it's where your family and loved ones are; it's where you feel comfortable and at peace and welcomed. Home is where you know you belong.

I love teaching this word as an English vocabulary term, because people understand it. Many of the students I've had nod their heads and blink misty eyes as they learn the word, mentally going back to some far away place of love and peace and comfort - sometimes it's a place or time that they don't think they will ever be able to return to, and sometimes it's a new experience that is bringing hope and life to them again. I'm sure as you read this, you know exactly what "home" means to you... I know I do.

Now take that beautiful word, that concept that is universally cherished, and go back to that curse that Cain bore for the rest of his restless life... "no home." I can almost hear his voice quiver and crack as he huddles in the dirt and says, "My punishment is more than I can bear." Take a moment to feel the heartbreaking tragedy of it. Remember that Adam and Eve felt the same way when they were sent out of the garden. And the children of Israel, who lived as refugees and slaves and exiles and strangers in foreign lands for so many years, felt it too. No home to call their own... no home.

Imagine the effect the promise of God must have had on Abram's heart when he heard the words: "I will give you this land... Your descendants will inherit this land." Essentially, I will give you a home where you belong. And he made his home there, but he knew it wasn't his true home...

"...he lived in tents... for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God..." And he left a legacy for those who have followed his example of faith: "All these people... admitted that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own... they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16)

It's one of those bits of eternity that I think God planted in the hearts of Man, a longing for a home. And sometimes we get glimpses of it here on earth, but there is a much better home being prepared for us, if we put our faith in Jesus. I love that it is one of those promises Jesus made to his friends when he said he had to go away... that he would prepare a place - a home - for them and come back for them, so they could be together forever. Home - hallelujah.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How we need each other

I have a new ESL student... a woman from Somalia, who moved to America five months ago. I was thrilled to meet her, because I've been missing my African friends in Fort Wayne and have been praying for some new friends here. So our first "class time" was really just a get-to-know-you visit, and a good time to connect.

I learned two things from her this week that were especially interesting to me... First, she had a daughter in Africa who had a disability. I don't know if she was born with it, or got sick, or something else happened, but for seven years she could not walk or sit up or feed herself, so this woman - her mother - was her full-time caregiver, until she passed away. Because of this background, I felt like I could talk to her about my disability, how I can't walk and I need help to do many things. I pointed to my wheelchair and asked, "Do you know this, what we call this?" She said, "No, I  see this sometimes, but I don't know." So I said, "It is 'wheel-chair,' because..." She smiled and laughed and said, "Oh I know! It is chair and have wheels! Very good!"

The second thing I learned is that she works in a sewing factory, and many of her coworkers are blind. This is a big motivator for her to learn English, because she must be able to use words to communicate with these people - they cannot depend on her nonverbal skills for understanding. I am so excited to help her with this goal!

Near the end of our first class together, she told me, "When I see people who cannot walk, cannot see, cannot do... oh, I very want to help." She put her hand on her heart to emphasize her strong desire to help. She referred to her daughter again, and indicated that she sometimes leads her coworkers by the arm to help them get around. I said, "This is very good! And sometimes I need help, so you can help me, ok?" She smiled and nodded at this. Then I said, "I understand, because I feel this too. When I meet people who cannot speak English, I want to help them very much." I put my hand on my heart as she did, to show the same strong desire. "So maybe I can help you, and you can help me... yes?" She smiled a very big smile and said, "Very good! Yes!"

I like having this kind of relationship with people. There isn't a lot I can offer in the way of practical help, but I can teach English well, and I can understand limited and broken language well, too. And I think many internationals who come to America feel ill-equipped to do very much... but they can open doors and pick up pencils and move chairs - all things that are incredibly helpful to me! And so, although we both feel inadequate and largely incapable of doing many things, we find ourselves in a friendship that is co-dependent in an usual and perfect way.