Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sharing the Story

Sinti couple at home; anonymous
Do you have a story your family needs to hear?
   Last Sunday we worshipped with Sinti Romany believers in a village south of here. A number of other Christian Sinti from France and Belgium had joined them for a special evening service. Several of their Sinti guests from Belgium shared what God had done for them. This is one of those stories.
   The middle-aged woman from Belgium, let's call her Monique, had been very depressed. Her husband misused drugs, beginning with legal ones like alcohol and ending . . . well, there didn't seem to be an end. She was so depressed that she thought of making an end--of her own life.
  One evening, when she was seriously thinking of this, her sister and brother-in-law came to visit. They were Christians. They shared the good news about Jesus with her. Perhaps they had done this before, but this time it took root in her heart. They told her that she could pray by herself and ask Jesus to come into her heart. They were praying for her, too.
After they left, she went into her room by herself, got down on her knees, and prayed. "Jesus, please have my husband come home tonight. Then I will know that you exist, that you care for me. Please take my life."
   When she finished praying, she heard the door open. It was her husband. God had heard and immediately answered her prayer. This was end to her life of misery. Instead of the death she had contemplated, Jesus gave her--and her husband*--new life.
  Reading the story of the man restored to his right mind (Mark 5) reminded me of this other story of Jesus healing and restoring life. The man who had lived among the tombs went and told what Jesus had done, first to his family and neighbors, then throughout the entire region.
Jesus told the man to stay at home. People at home need to hear the God-stories you have to tell.

*He shared his story, too. But that's another blog entry.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You won't throw me out, will you?

Mirecek (in Czech this means “little Mirek”) is about 6 ft 2 in tall and has the biggest hands I’ve ever seen.  He is a Roma man who could be anywhere from 25 to 50 – it’s hard to tell. 
Miricek as one of the three kings
Every year Mirecek plays one of the Wise Men as they go around town raising funds for the local Charitas. Though slightly mentally disabled, he is able to function quite well. He attends the Catholic Church and often hangs around there.  That is how he came to be at our Thanksgiving celebration.

We had it at the Catholic parish hall and when he saw that something was going on, he came to see what it was. Most of us were finished eating and were just sitting around and talking.  When he came in he went to our friend Petr (who also goes to the Catholic Church) and said “Hey Petr, you won’t throw me out, will you?” We didn’t.

We fixed him a plate and he liked everything but the sweet potatoes. He didn’t hang around very long, but I was glad that he was there. Some of our friends were a little surprised, but hopefully they understood a little more about the meaning of Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learning to Read

How many times did you learn to read? Most of us who learn to read only learn to read once. My husband Keith learned to read in English, with the type of letters you are looking at right now. Then, later, he learned to read Cyrillic letters (right). He can read street signs in Moscow. He might not know what they say, but he can read them. When he lived in Korea, he learned to read the Korean alphabet. (See below. This, he says, is one of the easiest alphabets in the world to learn. It was created by King Sejong, around 1445.) Again, he does not always know what the Korean signs on the stores in urban New Jersey mean, but he can read them.
He does know what German means when he reads that (usually) as well as Dutch (more often than German) and some Romani languages. And this is not just because he is a linguist.
Dutch and German use the same alphabet, more or less, that English does. However, each of these languages has its own system for assigning sounds to those letters. For example, "nee" in Dutch is pronounced the same as "neigh" in English. Additionally, each language has its own unique system of sounds. There are sounds in English which do not occur in Dutch or German. The beginning of "the" is an excellent example. Keith could learn these other systems without too much trouble. After all, he already knew how to read.
Keith can read three different alphabets. He can read and understand newspaper articles in three different languages (English, German, Dutch). He only learned to read once.
My point? Learning to read is a big deal. Children shouldn't have to learn another language to learn to read. Studies show that people learn to read best in their own language. Then, like Keith, they can transfer that knowledge to other languages, sometimes even to other alphabets. I'm starting a Multilingual Education (MLE) on-line course to learn more about this. Let me know if you'd like to learn more about this, too.