Dear and good friends,
Greetings from lovely, autumnal Ohio. Now that it's about to get cold, Nan and I will leave you to your devices, rakes and snow shovels and head south. We hope to be in Colombia on Wednesday evening and on to Villavicencio a day later. We have a few days of preparation and meetings and classes kick off on Monday. We have around 27 students signed up to join us for the next four months. The classes center on helping students see the value and importance of their native languages as these go mano a mano with the "monster language," Spanish.
In terms of majority and minority languages, we promote bilingualism. It's important for indigenous people to speak the language of greater communication (for them this means Spanish), but it is also important for them to keep their own language for many reasons which i've often talked about in these updates. The main reason is that their native language is what they understand best. One's native language is like comfort food for the mind--times ten. And when what one wants to understand is the Scriptures, these teachings are clearest and most compelling in a person's first language.
So the courses we teach over the next four months are aimed at helping indigenous students to get excited about their language, to create stuff to read--from poetry to drama--to photo-novels (the good kind). As there is more stuff to read, there is greater enthusiasm for reading and for the skills required to read well. And when people read well, they can read the Bible which can make a huge difference in their lives.
We'd appreciate prayer for all the details to get 30 Indians and ten faculty (and a few observers) all to the same place at the same time. There are many details to tend to. We'd also appreciate prayer for safety. I felt pretty good about things until everyone started telling me what they've heard about Colombia. Our colleagues "on the ground" in and around where we'll be have all said that we'll be in a secure area. But we'd appreciate your prayers nonetheless.
Some of our students will be college grads, others will be without formal education. We'd like to help them all. Pray that our 3 professors and 7 TA's (teaching assistants) can personalize the teaching according to what each one needs.
We'll be living in close proximity--a few gringos, a number of latinos, and 30 indigenous students and profs, each with his or her own foibles. Pray for a great experience of community as we work and live together.
Nan and I have had a good break away from teaching, but it's time to climb back in the saddle. The time home has zipped by with lots of visits to our kids and grandkids and to Nan's folks who live about an hour from Ashland. We've visited many friends and partner churches as well. I also did a lot of painting--this is sort of like comfort-work for me. I have considered myself a painter since high school, and I'm really not interested in shaking the "blue collar" moniker and my Cleveland roots--although the Browns and Indians can drive me nuts. Fortunately, our hope is built on greater promises than these.
We may be intermittent in answering e-mails over the next weeks. We aren't exactly sure what awaits us electronically in rural Colombia, although we think it will be business as usual. So keep in touch.
Thanks for your interest and care for us.
Blessings to all.
Wes and Nancy