Merry Christmas!

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One of the things I love about this region are the Christmas decorations.  Even every little village has some kind of Christmas decor.  The main street in the city where we live is always full of Christmas trees and lights.  It’s so beautiful.

IMG_20151215_171102Since we’ve been here we’ve had a real Christmas tree each year.  I love the smell of the evergreen inside.  Thankfully, the cat doesn’t seem at all interested in the tree!

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Another great part of the holiday season here is cheese.  Since we live very close to Switzerland, we also get  fondue and raclette (two different kinds of melted cheese).  Raclette is available at the local Christmas markets, but you can also do it at home.  We haven’t done that, yet.  However we have taken advantage of the prepackaged fondue.  Yum!

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Our own Kleingarten (small garden)

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It’s been years since we’ve had a vegetable garden.  In Germany gardening is very popular, and even if you don’t have your own land, you can rent or borrow a space.  I started a hunt for our own garden spot in February, and it didn’t take long to secure a spot in a surprising place – at my office!  I didn’t know, but they had a small plot behind a shed.  Only one other person is sharing with us.

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Our part includes zucchinis, tomatillos, roma tomatoes and cilantro.  We’re already collecting a good harvest.  My travel has been slow this summer, so I’ve had extra time to water and tend the garden.  Of course I can do it during breaks while I’m at the office which is really nice!

The biggest challenge has been keeping the weeds down.  Thankfully, the garden is mostly hidden from view because people here take pride in having their gardens well manicured. This has been a fun new challenge, and something I’ve enjoyed about being in Germany.

These small gardens are a big thing here.  Click here and here to learn more about them.

 

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Welcome to the tripoint

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 Willkommen im Dreiländereck/Bienvenue au trois frontières 

After meetings and some time near to some of our colleagues further north in Germany, we’ve finally made it to the place where we’ll be living.  We’re now far in the southwest of Germany just 20-30 minutes from the borders of France and Switzerland.  We’re so close to these borders that, yesterday, we visited a friend of ours in Switzerland, and, today, we visited a church in France.

This tripoint border with Germany, Switzerland and France (the three countries’ corner) is one of the many tripoints in Europe, but this is the only one in a major city.  It is a point not only where country borders meet, but also where peoples, cultures and languages all collide.  Within this region, several languages are spoken.  The standard versions of French, Swiss German and German (High German) are used officially in each respective country. These are the languages you’ll find, for example, on the street signs and official documents.

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But, local dialects (languages) like Alemmanic, and perhaps even a little Alsatian or some regional French dialects, are common languages local people in this region speak to each other.  By this region, I mean, generally, the area within about a 65-80 Km (40-50 mile) radius from the tripoint.

640px-Continental_West_Germanic_languagesYes, there are many German dialects (languages) – not just one. And we’re not just talking local accents or a few local words.  These different dialects across the country are actually not all mutually intelligible! Linguists who distinguish languages primarily by mutual intelligibility, would probably classify many of these different German dialects as separate and distinct languages.  The same would apply to the French dialects as well.

This is our new home – the Dreiländereck!

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Saudade – Longing for what was

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It’s been a year since we left South Africa.  It’s been…

…a good year
…a hard year
…a year of reconnecting
…a year of loss
…a long year and a year of longing…

The first three months were the hardest for me.  I felt miserable most of the time, and all I could think about was our friends, our life, our home…in South Africa.  The grief felt so intense one night that I audibly sobbed for a long time.  I’m sure everyone in our apartment complex heard. In between sobs, I just kept saying, “I want to go back; I don’t want to be here.”

That intense flood of sorrowful emotion has subsided, but a sweet sadness remains for our adopted home. In English we might call this homesickness. Portuguese has a better word – saudade.  It is roughly translated a melancholy longing for what was.

There are so many things that I still miss: people, places, foods, activities, routines, even driving on the left. Mostly, I miss the sense of belonging I felt.

I don’t know when I’ll next be in South Africa, and I’ve accepted that our journey has moved us towards a new place.  However, I move forward with saudade, with sweet memories of our old life and a longing to someday return.

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For God So ‘Dvu’d’ the World…

Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people?  What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know Who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”  “Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” “Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?”  Everyone laughed. “Of course not!  If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. “Do you know what this would mean?  This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.”

God had encoded the story of His unconditional love right into their language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable. When the word was finally spoken, it called into question their entire belief system. If God was like that, did they need the spirits of the ancestors to intercede for them? Did they need sorcery to relate to the spirits? Many decided the answer was no, and the number of Christ-followers quickly grew from a few hundred to several thousand.

The New Testament in Hdi is ready to be printed now, and 29,000 speakers will soon be able to feel the impact of passages like Ephesians 5:25:  “Husbands, ‘dvu’ your wives, just as Christ ‘dvu’-d the church…”  I invite you to pray for them as they absorb and seek to model the amazing, unconditional love they have received.

Around the world, community by community, as God’s Word is translated, people are gaining access to this great love story about how God ‘dvu’-d us enough to sacrifice his unique Son for us, so that our relationship with Him can be ordered and oriented correctly. The cross changes everything!  Someday, the last word of the last bit of Scripture for the last community will be done, and everyone will be able to understand the story of God’s unconditional love.

* Article adapted from a letter by Bob Creson titled One Little Vowel, published to staff of Wycliffe USA on 30 July 2012. Click here to see original article

* Photo by Zeke du Plessis – Two women photographed in a city not far from where the Hdi live.

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