Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What is Language/Culture Coaching?

I said in an earlier blog that I'd need to explain the coaching, so here goes:

Often when I talk about language/culture coaching, I am met with blank stares or questions.  A Language/Culture Coach can look differently in different contexts; but I’m interested in helping those–specifically missionaries–who are moving to a new country to learn that language and culture so they can be successful and remain on the field.  


Moving to a new country is a major event!  If someone is moving to a location that speaks a different language, basic skills like speaking and listening are no longer possible!  Let’s pause to let that sink in.  Basically every area of life is going to be impacted and hindered–not just practically, but also socially and relationally. 


The reason that missionaries even dare leave behind their family, friends, comforts, and all that is familiar is for the sake of relationship.  Ultimately they want to introduce others to Jesus whose relationship allows people to then get to know God the Father…and let’s not leave out the Holy Spirit who helps reveal Jesus and births the life that is meant to be continually relating to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I started to apologize for the theological detour, but no way! ☺


Imagine going through the blood, sweat, and tears (mostly figurative 😉)  it takes to learn a second language to be able to at least communicate even if there is embarrassment or struggle.  If that were the only hurdle!  Language, however, is intricately tied to culture.  When we don’t understand the culture of a group of people, we can master the linguistics but fail to communicate–or worse, send messages of arrogance or disinterest.  This, of course, closes people off rather than cultivating relationships.  As a coach, one of my roles is to help the learner understand where culture plays into their experiences, relationships, communication, and language-learning so that they can be effective in their mission.


While Jesus supersedes us on so many levels, He Himself is our perfect example.  He humbled Himself to become not just man, but first a baby, unable to talk.  He developed His skills which thankfully do come much more naturally as an infant and child as He learned Aramaic; but He still went through the language acquisition process.  He absorbed the culture of the Bible because this was where He lived and what He experienced on a daily basis.  Olive branches, mustard seeds, farming, fishing, sheep–He grew up with these; so He could communicate with the people of Israel because He spoke the language and knew how to relate to them culturally.  He could also beautifully relate to and bring the Gospel to those outside of his home culture despite the cultural and linguistic challenges, which is the precise role of a missionary.  

  

Even if we were all language gurus and culturally savvy and sensitive to perfection, there is another element that language/culture coaching can address.  Cross-cultural living presents situations and needs that don’t exist or at least look very different from those in our home country.

 

Living in a different culture can be exciting and rewarding, but by nature it is stressful and depleting.   The constant change and different ways of thinking, understanding, and communicating put more demand on everyday tasks, making it difficult to identify the stress.

 

Though not an exhaustive list and maybe a bit repetitive, a coach helps the learner identify their language needs, sets realistic goals, and helps them to stick to or adjust the goals.  (S)he can help them locate resources and discern which ones are suitable for the learner at a particular time.  A coach can help the learner recognize obstacles or challenges and how to address them and encourage the learner each step of the way.  A coach is a fan and source of support, praying for and with the learner.  A coach may help the learner identify cross-cultural stress when it is not obvious.  These are just a few examples because every situation is complex, and each unique person in a particular ministry context will offer its own set of possibilities. 

 

For this reason, I believe that every missionary could benefit from a language/culture coach!  My desire is to come alongside missionaries who are preparing to move to (and are sometimes already in) a new country with a new language and new culture.  I also believe that short-termers would benefit from a coach, but that’s another article for another time. :)

 


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Moving Once, Moving Twice…

‘Tis the season to be moving, it does seem.  As mentioned, I moved into an apartment practically across the street a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t as nice as before, but I wasn’t looking for nice as much as safe, clean, and affordable.  


It seems the downpour on moving day was ominous when my strategic plan of a 6-person moving crew of friends foiled.  We were grateful to move the boxes in that Sunday and the furniture the next day, thanks to the generous help of friends and family.


Tuesday I was dismayed when I realized I couldn’t even go into my bathroom or the laundry area without having to cover my nose and mouth because of the smoke smell, which we later discovered was pouring in from our smoking neighbors’ apartments through the vents every time they smoked.  By Wednesday, we were thankfully let out of our lease and had less than a week to find a new place to live!


We were able to find a place not very far at all, and by the grace of God, signed the lease in time to move in June 1.  This was technically move #3 because we’d temporarily stored our things in my parents’ garage. 


This was all happening the last week of school with two major events, and I had to move out there as well!  It took a few days to get unpacked, but by Tuesday our apartment was starting to feel like home.  That’s when we had to accept the hard truth that we had a bug infestation!


When I called the pest management company, the man told us we had to clear our cabinets out!  Move #3 or 4 depending on how you look at it, as we emptied the kitchen contents which covered our dining/living area!


There is no way to sugar coat this move.  It’s been one for the books! I pray that we are on the other side, and I choose to trust that there is purpose even in this. It may have been before the move (which was preceded by the flu, then 2 weeks of sleeplessness), the Lord reminded me that He trains our hands for war. May I and we allow Him to use the difficulties we face to prepare us for future hardships. May we continue to draw near to Him no matter what. He is for us.


A/V and Chocolate

 Since I last wrote, things have been busy!  To calm the suspense, I did get a car. :). I also unexpectedly joined St. Michael’s staff to help assist with the livestream, right in time for Christmas.  Talk about a major learning curve!  There’s still so much to learn, but we now have an A/V team, yay! I’m making progress and have enjoyed getting to serve the Church in a very different capacity than I have in the past.


As mentioned last post, I taught French at an elementary school this past year. Something that was reiterated this year is that I cannot pursue coaching while I teach. Teaching takes so much time and energy; and the coaching got put on the back burner. As it turned out, the coaching course I mentioned in a previous post wasn't ready for winter/spring; so I've enrolled for the summer. In case it isn't obvious, I did not renew my teaching contract for next year.


With the long-term goal of officially moving into the language/culture coaching role and resuming missionary status, I decided to make a few lifestyle changes to help set me up for the transition.  First, the Lord provided a roommate and apartment to help reduce living costs.  Second, He provided a second part-time job so that I don't have to teach, but will allow me time and energy to devote to the coaching coursework and coaching.


That’s where the chocolate comes in.  Starting July, I will be working at my favorite local French chocolate shop and patissier.  If you’re in Charleston, come see me!  I don’t get free chocolate, but would love to see you!  I’m excited and looking forward to this new season, though there are still many unknowns.  I would appreciate prayers both for SAMS and me as we discern possibilities--whether internally or elsewhere--for me to coach in the future.


Saturday, November 20, 2021

Sidetracked

Coming up for air as I'm officially on break, at least from school.  Hallelujah! :) Since I last posted, I had many goals and set off with high hopes.  I like being productive especially when there's a sense of moving forward.  Sunday, October 10th, I was encouraged not so much with progress in my own life, but in the lives of those I love.  I was literally rejoicing as I was driving home from visiting family.  That's when a deer plowed into my car full speed, knocking my car off the road and left my head spinning, my heart racing, and my car totaled.

Sidetracked is a fitting word because it describes the past 6 weeks quite well.  All of my time has been focused on the cares of the world: to sum up, caring for my back and getting a car.  Doesn't sound so bad when I phrase it that way, but the limitations and things I've had to let go off plus added stresses/responsibilities were certainly not what I would've chosen this past season.

That said, it's incredible all the ways that the Lord takes care of us and more importantly is with us during hard times.  He certainly has been, and I'm humbled and grateful for His provision and care especially through others.  I've had two cars generously lent to me for week(s) at a time from rather new friends!  As I write this, I still haven't bought a car but maybe by the time you're reading this, I will have!

I've been reminded of the importance of listening to the Lord and hearing His voice in this season.  I think that is so important because sometimes the other voices sound comforting, but actually feed our flesh, which is the very opposite of how the Lord wants to work in our trials and put those things to death!  I confess that there was a bit of appreciation for those wanting me to not to be taken advantage of by insurance and to stand up for myself, etc., but it didn't take much time with the Lord to hear a very different message: suffering.  

When I embraced this message, I could more readily accept misfortune and trust Him to be my advocate and ultimately provide for my needs rather than relying on my own efforts.  Instead of focusing on thoughts and feelings of injustice, I actually wanted to be pure and free of the frustration and defensiveness I was feeling every time I spoke with rental (high prices/car shortage), towing (delays in getting my car), body shop, insurance (I won't go there), etc or looked at the inflated prices of used cars.  

A second message was to "reset" which very fittingly came the weekend of Daylight Savings time when our clocks were also resetting. :).  Good word because Jesus has the last word on everything (1 Peter 3:22, Msg) including attempts to gets us off track with discouragement, cares of the world, whatever.  I may have experienced some loss, but I've also gained through this experience, and the Lord is faithful and will fulfill His purpose for me (Psalm 138:8).

I haven't made it to the other side yet, so prayers appreciated.  I'm thankful that God wastes nothing and seems to be developing perseverance as well as these days require it more than normal.  On a positive note, I'm slowly getting back to being more mobile and active which makes me appreciate things I often take for granted like cleaning, ha ha, and walks.  I pray that whatever unexpected trial you may be facing that you may hear the Lord's voice, know His presence and provision, and come out purer and freer than before.  

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Eccl 3:11



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Few Answers

Hello. It’s been a while!  I know that many of you have lots of questions about what's going on. So have I. :). I'm finally at a place where I have something to share and can hopefully answer a few of your questions. Happy reading!

The main reason I've been so silent is that last year was a big blur and took a lot out of me.  I was in survival mode getting through the most brutal, intense year I’ve ever experienced.  I taught French at a new local high school.  Besides being new to the system and being at a new school, we were required to teach hybrid--online and in-person at the same time--the entire year, going fully virtual for a week in the spring.


If I’d had the time or energy, I could’ve shared some stories!  But fast forward to this year where I’m now teaching French at a local elementary school just a mile away from the high school.  I could also share stories, ha.  But what most people are wondering, if not asking, is what are my plans regarding missions.


So, I’ll attempt to share a bit more of my thoughts and potential plans--if the Lord wills. I think we all take that verse in James a bit more seriously now! When the doors closed for me to go to SE Asia in 2020, I had the question in my mind if the “closed doors” included language/culture coaching or not.  


I’ll have to write another blog to describe what a language/culture coach is, but this role was the long-term goal for me if I had gone to SE Asia.  As I’ve prayed and asked some supporters (I have some who continue to give monthly even though I’ve had no plan to go!) to pray with me about this, they have consistently encouraged me to pursue coaching.  I believe my own increased desire is also affirmation from the Lord.


In my mind, even though the “where” has been removed from my assignment, the “what” hasn’t changed.  As I shared in my update, I believe that serving as a language/culture coach is the ministry role I am to be involved in wherever I am in the world.  I know of other LCC’s who raise support as missionaries who live in the US and others who live abroad.  I’m not sure at the moment if I will go abroad; but I must be faithful to take the next steps of becoming a coach. My hope is to be able to serve those who are on the field.


A few weeks ago, I was questioning this and decided to reach out to another language/culture coach I’d spoken with in May 2020.  I knew that she was very experienced and had a platform in the field, but I was surprised as she shared a new business she and another lady have started to train new and existing language/culture coaches specifically for missionaries!  Some of the coursework includes a class I took in 2020.


I couldn’t believe it!  Could this be an answer to prayer and the missing piece and next step I’ve been needing?  I believe it is; and I’m very encouraged and excited to write that I’m planning to do it!  The details are up in the air, but I would very much value your prayers as to which session and to have the time/energy while I teach.  I also hope to network and get connected with coaches as well as those I will be coaching in the future.


That's really all I can say for now, other than I am looking forward to the upcoming New Wineskins Conference in September. I highly recommend attending!


This is a long post, so I’ll stop there; but it’s good to “be back” on the blog.  Thank you so much for your interest, support, friendship, and prayers.  Thankful for you!


Friday, July 3, 2020

Retreat and Reset

So much has happened since my last post!  It was early June that I made the decision with SAMS to shift to associate status.  This means that I'm not actively raising support and do not have any immediate plans to return to the field, but am discerning what the long-term will look like regarding my role in missions.

I had an overwhelming response of love and affirmation, which was an incredible gift since it was a very difficult decision to make.  One of my supporters who happens to be a relative, asked if I'd considered a sabbatical, even a short one, to get away.  Well, I hadn't mainly because I'd barely left the house for months!  But St. Christopher had been on my heart, and I really wanted to support them, so I called to ask about that option.

Later that day, I got an email from the camp inviting me to a retreat that weekend!  That led me to taking almost a week for a personal retreat.  That was not my plan, but how it worked out, and I am so incredibly grateful!  I've never had so much time like that.  I read several books of the Bible, my journal in entirety (which was very helpful), went through a debriefing SAMS had sent, and spent time praying and journaling.  I walked the beach twice a day.  It was just what I needed to gain perspective, and by the last day, I had a sense of direction for next steps.

The very evening I got home, I came across a French teaching position at a local private school, which led to me learning of at least four open French teacher positions in Charleston.  That's unheard of!  I couldn't believe it!  I ended up applying for two and accepted the offer at a brand new public high school in nearby Mount Pleasant.  I'm so incredibly thankful and recognize God's hand of favor and grace, particularly in His impeccable timing!  So now I'm looking for a place to live and have lots to do before we hopefully start on time this August.  That's it for now. :)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Great Expectations

Life has gotten extremely busy all at once!  I’m on Week 3 now of an LCC (Language and Culture Coaching) course I’m taking.  I love it so much!  It’s so wonderful to be back in the world of linguistics with other like-minded people to learn about something I’ve grown very interested in, coaching.   Not only is it useful for my long-term goal of being an LCC on the field, but I’m taking it for credit, which fulfills a requirement to keep my teaching credentials current.  The expectation up to this point has been that I would get a Visa by teaching ESL.

All of this is on the table right now as many things have changed in the world, including ministry plans.  There is so much that I don’t know and can’t answer, but what I do know is that I won’t be partnering with the organization I was intending.  That decision was carefully made with SAMS’ guidance after a series of red flags and some changes in the original expectations.  

On the one hand, the decision frees me and opens me to many possibilities out there, which I am currently discerning with SAMS and invite you to discern with me.  I solicit your prayers and welcome your input if you receive something.  On the other, it places new decisions before me.  I get excited about the possibilities even though there is a sense of loss with this step.  

I am amazed at the Lord’s timing for multiple reasons.  It couldn’t have fallen at a better time—when my family is grieving, when travel is restricted, when (at least for a short while) there was extra time to devote to prayer, worship, and time in the Word.  

I'm especially grateful for the last reason because somehow despite the fog and turbulence of life these past few months, some things have actually become clear.  First, I have confidence that I’m exactly where God wants me for this season: here with family.   Second, He’s helped me realize that location isn’t something to get too set on.  I’m still very open to SE Asia and know of at least one possibility that interests me, but I have accepted that the plan will look differently than I expected and prepared for, though I’m still discerning to what degree.

I’m incredibly grateful to continue to prepare by testing the waters as an LCC.  I have even gotten to practice on a fellow SAMS missionary living in Ethiopia.  While it’s a challenge since I've never even been there or learned the language, I love it and am so very grateful to have a context while I take the course.  (If you're wondering how I could possibly help someone learn a language I don't speak, it's a challenge!  But it's about helping with the overall process and locating resources, not instruction.)

Both in getting back to the language/culture world along with having daily devotions with my family--something new for us--I’ve found myself thanking God for giving me the desires of my heart.  It’s just like Him to bring sweet things during a time of stress, loss, and uncertainty.

I realize that I am not alone when it comes to loss and unpredictability in this season.  While we are all experiencing uncertainty right now and could be tempted to dwell on dashed hopes and frustration of the unknown, I’d like to challenge each of us--me first--to find peace and joy in  the knowledge that God has a plan and is able to orchestrate events in such astonishing, unexpected ways that we could never have anticipated or matched what He is doing to accomplish such great purposes for His kingdom.  Let us walk by faith and not by sight.  


Never doubt God's mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this.  He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination!  He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.  Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ--and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity.  Amen! Ephesians 3:20-21 TPT