Planet Impressions. Encourage. Inkblots in Rainbow Colors. Doing community in the global south and other places. "Higher up and further in!" with an outreach twist.

Posts tagged “Foreign Language and Culture Acquisition

Look at this Quechua 4-word sentence – so cool!

Lately, I’ve been trying to spend a small portion of each day reviewing Quechua language skills.

It’s a funny thing about Quechua, it’s a strange language (it’s “Ancient Incan”!) – easy to learn in a few ways, head-scratchingly challenging in others.

One of the parts about becoming fluent in the Quechua language that I think’s most difficult is absorbing Quechua culture deeply enough to “think in Quechua”.  That’s the part that comes last in the process of conquering it.

I will never forget how God walked close with me during my ten year process of believing He’d CALLED me to learn the Quechua language, and my WORKING to OBEY that CALL, over the course of ten years and more, never being able to study full time, needing to fit my studies and mini-practicums around the edges of caring for our babies, who grew, in the time’s length of a breath and a sigh, into CHILDREN, educating them, at times almost single-handedly, all the while dealing with the stresses and uncertainties of high levels of political and social unrest and repeated crises and dangers from this quarter.  This last characteristic of our life was mainly in the first 15 years after we moved to a much larger city.

I DID have help.  I had incredibly great help and support and facilitation for it from my husband, and I had more of the same in the form of a fantastic young girl and friend, named Sara, who helped me full time in our home with cooking, cleaning and laundry.

Three times, during the ten years, I quit.

Three times, during the ten years, God impressed upon my heart that I was to take it back up again, that He would help me, that I could DO this; I COULD learn Quechua. All the way.  Fluently.

But, what for? To USE it to love on, serve, teach, approach, and walk closely each day with Quechua women. That was my personal call from God.  In this outreacher life, this peculiar, world-wide domain, we don’t all have the same specific call.  Your call probably looks completely different; as different as different can be, in the “daily detail” or “how things look in the pictures” way of things. Although, in a broader sense, it’s all the same call.

This morning, in my little 15 minutes, set aside in the self-scheduling of a busy day, to be going back over my language notes, practicing the forms, speaking the drills, working on pronunciation with the audio, I came across this delightful sentence:




(A FOUR- WORD SENTENCE, MEANING “My child, are your own children also now playing with my children?”)

Welcome to the wonderful world of learning the Quechua language, as a native English-speaker, through the Spanish language!

Why am I talking about this? For the sake of you younger, newer ones out there, WITH me, and especially my fellow women.  You know what?  YOU…..can do it!  You can do your present call.  And your future call. God is with you, HE walks beside you.  He knows you.  He knows what your day is like.  He knows how hard it is.  He’s helping you. He’s more than “helping you” – He is doing it through you, carrying you. YOUR life, you know,  what OUR BELOVED has called you to right now? (Washing those diapers with an old washing machine that keeps breaking down, or with no washing machine at all.)

Making those meals with unfamiliar ingredients and hardly any home appliances, getting up for those night feedings, loving difficult and unlovable people, keeping that spark going in your own heart, studying that (OTHER!) frustrating, difficult foreign language, being laughed at, helping and praying for your own ill child.  Or your own ill self. Suffering a home robbery. Dealing with political tensions and socio-economic unrest.  Our calls, our journeys, are different, one from another. Walking the path of loneliness.  Keeping the faith, through long years. Working a job, that GOD’s called you to work, as part of a team to reach HIS ends, for HIS glory. Trusting through the unexpected, when you don’t yet know what the next step is going to look like. Or, dealing with heart-wrenching crises…

Take the longterm view of things. Set down your goals, your personal goals, in this “outreacher” and stretching life, on paper. Remember, remember always how much God loves you and is working out the best for you if you continue to let Him. Be organized.  Break your goals down into strategies, then into “to do” lists.  Pray over it all.  Trust God.  Then, as your act of believing, stick with it.

Don’t forget to relax and enjoy the funny little things, the outrageous little things, tender little things, intriguing little things,deep little things, along the way.

Along the way…. YES. It’s the “along the way” that turns out, in the end, to be the very best reward of all!

And hold the bar high, trusting, because God can do it, in you.



In church Sunday morning, I was reminded of THIS GOLD NUGGET OF FAMILY TIME, for our family!

This past Sunday morning, sitting in church here in Bolivia, the corporate worship time was about to start and, as I looked forward I saw three rows ahead of me part of a young blond “worker” family whom I know only a little bit.

The husband was gone, the wife explained to me later that morning that he’d had to travel to a different part of the country to get some paperwork done for their family. Their 3 little kids were getting extra hugs and kisses from an, also, blond woman sitting beside the wife throughout the morning. I smiled to myself as I realized the husband’s mother had been able to come here and visit the family for several weeks.

It took me back, to the wonderful time of THIS photo, for OUR family, when my husband’s parents had come to stay with us and help us, for a month, and we’d taken them to this village, to meet this Quechua family with whom we closely worked, at the time! Our two (at the time! then it became three, when our daughter was born in Sucre, but that was a bit after this!) little ones and us parents, too, blossomed and flourished with great satisfaction and a deep sense of abundance and benevolence, for that awesome month that Mom and Dad Bentley traveled all the way to Bolivia and invested in our young family. It was a huge gift from the Lord to my husband’s and my hearts and well-being.  This is Don Atiliano and Donna Carmen, and their family, in front of their home in Rio Chico, with my beloved mom and dad-in-law! Oh how good is God, to us!


Ektachrome scanned slide of Chuquisaca Quechua Boy, @ 1990

“For YOU created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise YOU because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from YOU when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious are YOUR thoughts to me, O God!”  Psalm 139: 13 – 17a.

“Refranes” I am studying as I try to improve Spanish-speaking abilities…

My friend gave me these:


“Pon tu cabeza en funcionamiento antes de poner tu lengua en movimiento.”  (Put your brain in gear before you put your tongue in action.)


“He metido la pata”  (Oops!  Now I’ve messed everything up!)



“Si quieres empobrecer, gasta en lo que no tienes que menester.”  (If you want to get poor, spend on things you don’t need.)



“Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.”  (Eyes that see not, heart that feels not.)



“Cuando el rio suena, piedras trae.”  (Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.) (literally, when the river makes noise, it’s carrying rocks down the riverbed.)IMG_5413

more Keller books gleanings

“The interpretation that suffering in itself brings men nearer to God is far more Greek and Neoplatonic than Christian”. (Scheler in his essay “Meaning of Suffering”) Also, dualism divides the world into the good people and the evil people, with suffering as the badge of virtue and the mark of moral superiority that warrants the demonization of groups that have mistreated you. In stark contrast, Christians believe, as Aleksandr Solzhenistyn wrote famously, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” (The Gulag Archipelago, Harper, 1974.) – Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, p. 29. Tim Keller, Penguin Books, 2013.

The Stranger in our Shower

Good morning, dear world! I saw a post recently about how it’s probably healthier for kids to get a bath only one or two times a week, because their immune systems are still developing and, a certain amount of mostly benign flora and fauna in and on them helps their natural resistance to be strong. I think it has to do with, also, allowing their natural skin oils to accumulate a bit, which provides yet another healthy barrier against infection.

T’was comforting. It made me feel like a better mom, to realize that CERTAINLY I had followed this path with my beloved little ones, as a young mom, sometimes almost by DEFAULT, to be honest. The water and electricity cuts where we lived were so frequent and sometimes so long, that bathing my babies was impossible for days at a time. Except for sponge baths, of course, which are supposed to be super healthy for people anyways.

Reading that post brought back memories of how I would, sometimes, WORRY about the intensity and scope of the thick, light brown dust coverage on their little skins, not to mention deeply rubbed in grime and stains in blue jean knees and shirt elbows, that my happy, healthy little ones popped home with every day from hours playing outdoors with their young Quechua friends.

I remember Paul and me (the parents) actually dusting their clothing off with our hands, while it was still on them, as a matter of course. Visible clouds of fine dirt billowed out, before we lifted our youngsters across the threshold of our small apartment, to go inside with them.  I remember slipping their little shoes off their feet and dumping out CUPFULS of dust and sand! I remember, every once in awhile, a little face being so mud-covered that only the bright, big blue eyes twinkled out at me through the brown grime, under the towhead thatch of fine thick hair!

Digressing a little, but not much, I’m remembering how, one time Paul was away on a ministry trip to a rural area in the highlands. The huge, vibrant and growing loose consortium of all Quechua churches – the one with which we mostly worked, the U.C.E., was hosting a big yearly conference right on the same U.C.E.- owned property where we lived and where there was a Quechua Bible School. Thousands of Quechua people, from all over Bolivia, had arrived at the Bible School and were staying in student rooms, vehicles, and camping. Saturday morning had arrived and I slipped out of the Bible Institute property for a half an hour, striped nylon Bolivia shopping bags over my arms, to buy produce for my family in the Quechua farmer’s market just outside the Bible School gates, right there.  I left my baby and my tiny boys playing happily in the stone-flagged entryway to our apartment, door into our place cracked open, with my Quechua part-time housekeeper, Donya Marcelina, working in our little kitchen and keeping a gimlet eye on our kids, five yards away.

Twenty-five minutes later, walking back in, lugging bagfuls of fresh potatoes, lettuce, papaya, broccoli and Granny Smith apples, I smiled at my three offspring, still in our foreyard playing Legos with the kids of Benedicto and Braulia, and slipped in through our front door. Our place was tiny; distances are small. I turned toward the kitchen, still lugging produce, and called a greeting to Donya Marcelina. At that moment our bathroom door opened and a Quechua stranger, a man, came out, with a towel over his arm.

“Good morning, Senora!”. Huge grin.

I mumbled “Good morning”. I was in shock. I was not grinning.

He smiled ingratiatingly, and slipped past me, made a bee-line for the front door, and disappeared. His hair and skin were all wet.

“Donya Marcelina???” I sputtered.

She looked at me with concern in her warm, deep eyes.

“I know, Donya NinadesusOjos. But, he just walked in here, and started taking a shower, in the bathroom.  I assumed  you had given him permission, before you left! I am so sorry!”

I had the deepest, most intuitive liking, respect and trust for this lady, older than I, in whom I had implicit faith and from whom I had learned dozens of positive, amazing life hacks. I thanked my God for her every single day. I loved her, and her warm, open, authentic smile.

“It’s okay, Donya Marcelina! I’m not blaming you! It’s not your fault!”

And it wasn’t. It was just another example of …. life! I think God was trying to teach me, not only to trust Him more, but to laugh more, along the route.



Intrigue! What is through that black gate and around that corner?


Song of Songs, from God to each of us.

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling.  There is no flaw in you.”  Song of Songs 4:7IMG_0166


After the weekly food marketing…