Speak to the heart and the heart will answer.
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Nothing God does is a coincidence.  At the Tower of Babel He halted man's plan to save himself by confusing the language of the builders (Gen 11:9). But in the wake of the cross, He spoke to each of those language groups with the amazing grace of His plan to save.  So, when each person heard Peter "speaking in his own language," (Acts 2:6) the power of His Spirit was able to turn the world upside down!  

Any plan today to reach "every nation, tribe, language and people" (Rev 14:6) relies on the same Spirit. He is still the only One who can sufficiently explain what God is doing, the only One who can speak to the heart and be understood.  And it is still an act of His grace and power that any of us can ever be equipped to explain to someone else what He's done for us.

Language learning for mission is not just a linguistic exercise, a smart cultural bridge.  It is a spiritual work.  The mother tongue is still the shortest distance to the heart, and the heart is where the Spirit works.
Learning Language Like a Child

Why is learning a new language so challenging?  You gulp in embarrassment as your three-year-old neighbor rattles off French, Turkish or Arabic--and sometimes all three--as easily as he holds his bottle.

How can that be? You’re committed to language learning. You know it’s critical for building meaningful relationships and doing real mission.  But with all the help of tutors and language apps, it's still a stretch for your ear, your tongue, and your memory.  

For sure, a toddler's brain is a better sponge than yours.  Yet a child's learning system is second-to-none and well worth trying:

Every child enters a world that speaks a foreign language to them. They aren't proud; they accept the total immersion learning experience. And they love their teachers!  O Be willing to be a learner.  Accept the help of those who want to teach you.  To learn another language well, you must love those who speak that language.  
Children are anxious to learn how to speak; they don’t wait around for someone to teach them.  They work hard to learn because they live with people who speak the language and they want to communicate with them!  O If you have a great desire to relate to the people around you, you’ll be willing to make great effort to be able to communicate.
Children listen a great deal in order to learn a language.  A baby will watch your mouth closely as you speak.  Sometimes a little hand will even reach out to touch your lips. O If you listen intently and study how the sounds are formed, you will learn to speak the language well too.
Children entertain themselves with language. They repeat their latest discovery over and over until moms and dads are weary of hearing the same word endlessly. I once noticed a little boy standing by a water fountain.  He was chanting to himself, “The water goes up'n down.  Up'n down. Up'n down.  Up'n down.”  I watched him for at least five minutes.  He was obviously enamored with the sounds of his words. In fact, he was still repeating the phrase as I was walking away.  We would call it practice.  I'm sure he thought it was fun!  O Embrace your new language with your heart, and enjoy it like a child.

"Up'n Down: Learning Language Like a Child" is adapted from the booklet How to Learn Another Language and is used by permission of the  Missionary Training Services at based in the United Kingdom.  Download the entire booklet for more language-learning principles that follow a practical, step-by-step plan.  
A Tentmaker's Thoughts: Nobody Knows What I'm Saying
We've only been a few months at this tentmaking business now.  We've made it this far with a lot of prayer and plenty of heart searching.  

That's because this whole process has been overwhelming, bewildering.  Just to navigate through the details of everyday life has taken all our energy. Getting local phone numbers, finding a grocery store, locating a pharmacy, looking for school supplies so my husband can prepare to teach his classes.  Everything has been a major project. 

But our lives are more settled now.  My husband knows how to get to work.  I can find my way to Arabic class.  The grocery store is on a familiar route.  We know where our worship group meets.  These few essentials give us a sense of comfort, of feeling at home.  

But this morning, my fragile sense of security was shaken.  I didn't know where I was. Nobody I talked to knew what I was saying.  And I had no idea what to do.  MORE

Is a foreign language essential to know in order to be an effective tentmaker?


While many in the Middle East and North Africa region speak some level of English, most Middle Easterners grow up speaking Berber, Farsi, French, or a localized version of Arabic.  You can get a job in MENA without learning the mother tongue, but in order to reach out to those around you in the most meaningful way...    MORE


Yesterday morning, as I was walking to work, I was thinking about Paul.  Where did he learn to make tents?  Maybe Ananias knew something about tents.  Or he picked up the skill from Aquila and Priscilla.  Probably tentmaking was the trade he learned as a boy, the practical side of any good Hebrew upbringing.
But I doubt he grew up with a dream to build a flourishing tentmaking business.  In fact, as a young man he was given the best education to prepare him to be a respected leader, the finest of Pharisees.  He was supposed to become the elite among his Jewish countrymen.  A highly credentialed Hebrew!
Instead, his life turned upside down.  Whatever big dreams he had--. Well, he found himself making tents for Gentiles.  Tents.  For Gentiles.  What a waste of a good Hebrew education.
I can identify.  I'm a well-educated professional.  A physician.  Instead . . .      MORE 

A Handbook for International Workers With A Mission

If you're surrounded by a foreign language and realize you still can't say more than a smattering of disconnected words, here's a one-week, phrase-learning intensive. OK, it may take a little longer if you need the time to find so many friends! Vocabulary and grammar are important, but phrase-learning gives you the satisfaction of communicating on some of the necessities of your life.  

Select several short phrases for each step. Write them down, along with the translation. Ask a friend who knows the language well to prompt you until you can say each phrase comfortably.  Practice using them on as many local speakers as you can; 40 to 50 individuals is ideal.  Enjoy their suggestions; they are your new friends!  Be certain of each step before moving on.

Begin using what you know in real life. The few phrases you know will give you the foundation for more phrases.  The phrases will grow into stumbling conversations.  Soon you will find a connection with a whole different world!
Step 1: Expressing simple introductions, social courtesies, greetings, and leave-takings.  

Step 2: Asking and receiving directions, including “Where is the bathroom?” or "Where is a market?" Understanding directional words such as right, left, straight, behind, in front.  

Step 3: Buying in the market. "How much is this?" or "How much does this weigh?"  Identifying common staple foods, such as rice, bread, milk, fruits, vegetables.  Using numbers and local currency.

Step 4: Ordering food in a restaurant, including how to say vegetarian, or what you cannot eat, such as pork, spicy food, gluten products, dairy, etc.  Knowing your favorite dishes and terms like hot, cold, large, small.

Step 5: Communicating with a taxi or bus driver.  "Please take me to --" or "Are you going to--?"   "Stop here," "How much do I pay?"

Step 6: Making appointments, telling time, identifying the days of the week.  

Step 7: Expressing yourself with congratulations, apology, appreciation, or preferences, including "I like--," "I am very sorry--," or "I want--."

For more suggestions on Overcoming Cultural and Language Barriers: Lesson 7, visit the RESOURCE page on MENA's Total Employment website,  

BEYOND BARRIERS: A Handbook for International Workers With A Mission, is a MENA Total Employment training manual for tentmakers that is available on the website. Each lesson is accompanied by suggested activities and suggestions for further reading.
CALLED 2016 Fourth Quarter
Copyright © 2016 MENA Total Employment, All rights reserved.

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Middle East and North Africa Union of Seventh-day Adventists
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Beirut 1107 Lebanon

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MENA Total Employment · Middle East North Africa Union · Ferdous Street, Sabtieh · Beirut 1107 · Lebanon

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