Monday, July 30, 2007

jambo sana

There was no place I would have rather been than singing and dancing around a vacant church building this afternoon with a small crowd of African children and grown-ups. It was an odd transition to make from the morning job interview; but it was with gusto that I shed my professional attire, gathered my Swahili books and tapes, and headed to the church to bid my friends “Jambo!”
This made the 4th day I have spent as an informal English teacher for one family group out of the Burundi refugees recently placed in this city. The "lessons" are quite impromptu, considering the language barrier, but I'm happy to see that Swahili comes more easily to me than I expected--and, no doubt due to their extreme immersion, the family is learning quickly. So far I'm relying on picture books and cassettes I found at the library, so our days are consisting of attempts at conversation, repeated phrases, words, & numbers, and, of course, singing and dancing.
It was perhaps presumptuous of me to find out where they were staying, show up, and simply start spending each day with them . . . but I could not help myself ☺ The discovery that African refugees had just arrived when I was returning brought to the surface all my emotions and culture shock from the return; it made me realize that even though I was ready to return, and am glad to be home, I did leave a piece of my heart in Africa. And that has left me with a heart for the African people.
I would like to think I have something great to offer, some grand way to help. The truth is, however, that I have been in a rather needy place in life lately, left with no choice but to rely on my dear friends and family for practical support.
But I want to trust that God can use the little I have in the way of time, and a heart, to make some sort of a difference in the lives of those with whom my own life circle intersects.

4 comments:

Rebecca said...

Anna, which family are you helping? Our church is sponsoring one, and they came to church on Sunday! I'm sure you are helping in ways you can't even imagine, because the folks at our church who have been in charge of our church sponsorship were telling me how very difficult it is to communicate about even basic things without knowing any Swahili. And our family, at least, arrived knowing not a word of English. So they were facing a very significant language barrier. That's exciting!

anna j said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Reb--I appreciate that so very much, as I've been on my own with this project . . .
like those at your church, these know no English--but we're working on it, and learning quickly together :-) today was a humblingly frustrating day, as i realized how draining it is when i struggle to say even the most usually simple things to them . . .

David said...

Anna, This wouldn't happen to be the refugees at East Ridge Pres? I just saw them tonight. What an amazing thing to be completely displaced from everything one knows and transported here. I can imagine that they are still at the beginning of a long process getting accustomed to our culture.

anna j said...

Yes, David--those are the ones you met. It will indeed be a long process for them--the newspaper had an article about the progress a few weeks back. And I've been thinking about them so much that I wrote my latest school paper about them :-)