A Spanhili lesson

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by Linda Manhardt, Major –

When I was first sent to Kenya as the senior training officer at the Training College, I knew very little of the Swahili language. I had listened to some instructional tapes, and could basically say good morning to some guy named “Bwana Juma.”

In my younger days, I had taken a couple years of Spanish at Asbury College, so I was able to almost understand Spanish, as well as almost communicate. This was the sum total of my language study. I figure if you combine the two languages, I am totally fluent in my own private language which I affectionately call “Spanhili”.

One of my jobs at the Kenyan college was to equip a home economics lab. This meant ordering washing machines, so that the cadets could learn how to use them. The big day came, and the washing machines were finally delivered! I was excited to finally get the equipment we needed. So excited, that I took it upon myself to unload them from the truck myself! WRONG!

As I was unloading the first one, I found myself with a sliding washing machine coming toward me from the back of the pickup. I was able to stop its progress, but I could not get it back onto the truck or find a way to get it safely to the ground.

I was totally stuck, holding the thing midstream! My mind raced, and I saw some cadets not far away. I began yelling “Ayudame, ayudame!”

No response.

Again, “Ayudame, ayudame!”

Still no response.

I knew they could hear me. They weren’t that far away. I wondered why they didn’t respond. Could they be this rude and uncaring?

Finally, someone saw my struggle and came to my rescue. It was not, however, a result of my plea for help. Those of you who are familiar with the Spanish language will recognize “ayudame” as Spanish for “help me.”

Over and over again, I have experienced that when placed in a stressful situation, my brain says to itself “foreign language” and comes up with this strange mixture of Swahili and Spanish. No one—except myself—can understand it. But to me, it makes perfect sense.

I began thinking about this phenomenon and realized that in order to be understood, it is necessary to consistently speak the same language. Mixing two of them just doesn’t work.

The same is true in life. Just as we must speak consistently if we wish to communicate, we must live consistently if we wish to communicate Christ.

It is good to ask ourselves questions like:
· Is what I say consistent with how I live?
· Do I live the values that I believe others should live by?
· Is there a disconnect between the ethics I say I value, and the decisions I make in everyday living?
· Do I speak about joy in Christ, and constantly judge others and complain?

May each of us strive to live a life that is pleasing to God and consistent with what we preach and teach. This type of living will communicate the victorious living that is found only in Christ, and earn us the ability to be heard.

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