Monday, April 11, 2011

Using the Language

About thirty-five years ago, 18 missionaries had the opportunity to learn Farsi and preach the gospel in Iran. Then it became a war zone, and the mission was closed.

Yesterday I got to visit with one of those 18 missionaries. We took him some Chinese food and sat and talked for awhile. He doesn't get a lot of visitors and doesn't get out much these days, because two years ago he had multi-visceral failure. He had his small intestine removed, and his liver has zero functionality (he's been on a waiting list to get a new one for almost two years), so he's very susceptible to illness.

He mentioned his mission, and I commented that I doubted he got much chance to use his language skills as an accountant at a university in Utah.

He spent the next hour excitedly telling us stories about all the opportunities he's had to work with the Persian people, whom he obviously loves. He told us about international students coming to the university, and about the group of 30-40 Persians he associates with here in the valley. He told us about doing translation work for the church's General Conference broadcasts. He told us there are some missionaries in Toronto who speak Farsi, and Persians studying the gospel in California, and how he's been working with both groups. He talked about the Persian doctor he met when he went to Pittsburgh for his surgery. Even as sick as he's been, he's been working hard translating church materials into Farsi, waiting for the day when missionary work will again be allowed in Iran.

I was reminded of all the ways that learning a language as a missionary can affect someone's life. I think of my mom tutoring the Chinese middle and high school students who moved to southern Virginia speaking no English. I think about working at the fruit stand a couple years ago with four people who spoke Spanish and one who spoke Portuguese and enough Spanish to get by (I learned Spanish words for many of the vegetables as well). Or about the fact that for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City they did not have to bring in any translators because there were so many returned missionaries wanting to help--instead, for the first time, they were turning translators away.

Because my mom served a mission in Taiwan, I grew up speaking some Chinese. I met my husband in a Chinese class in college. He was there because he did so well with Spanish on his mission that he felt he should learn more languages.

Not every missionary gets to learn a foreign language, but I'm grateful that the chance is offered to so many. And I'm grateful for examples like Brother Kerr, who has continued to use his Farsi in any way possible for 35 years, showing gratitude for the chance he was given. Only 18 missionaries got to go to Iran. Seeing the light in his eyes and hearing the strength in his voice despite the frailness of his body, I glimpsed a piece of why Brother Kerr got to be one of them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Worry Triggers

My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and I were talking today, and my mother-in-law brought up that my father-in-law is so worried about all his kids that he can't sleep at night. He's stressed out because none of his kids have followed the pattern that was common in previous generations of picking a niche career and following it, working for the same company and ensuring a future.

We discussed how that isn't really the way the world works, these days. I don't know anyone who has graduated in the last decade who has worked for one company and is planning on staying with that company until they retire (I'm sure they're out there, I just don't know them).

Ryan's dad is worried about his kids who are joining the military (so far, 2 in the army and Ryan in the Air Force--another is considering army). He frequently reminds us that the military "owns" us now, and that we shouldn't count on anything, or, apparently, hope for anything, because they'll take everything they can get and mess up our lives any way they can.

Okay, I know that happens sometimes. But I also know people in the military who love it, and in this economy I'm grateful that we're going to have a job, insurance, and someone paying for our food and housing. Not only that, I'm looking forward to the possibility of being stationed overseas. Also, I don't buy my father-in-law's attitude of "You've sold your life to them forever," because my husband signed a 6 yr contract, and if we want out, we can get out then. And if we like it, we'll stay.

I honestly haven't been worrying about my husband's career and the future stability of our family. We've prayed hard about this, and we feel that Ryan is going the right direction, and I trust the Lord to take care of the details. These things haven't been a concern for me.

But as we talked about it today, and my mother-in-law expressed her and Dad's fears of insecurity for their children, I began to worry. What if we're wrong? What if the military's not the right choice? What if we end up with no job, no way to take care of our family?

That's when I realized that I'm more of a short-term worrier. If someone else brings up the long-term worries, then maybe they'll bother me, but I'm much more likely to be stressed out by short-term things.

Like living in my in-laws' basement for another two months. That one has me stressed.

But as I thought more about the future issues, I decided they're not worth worrying about right now, which is why I haven't bothered. I really do believe and feel that things will work out, and that as long as we're working hard and doing our best, we'll be taken care of. We may not have everything we'd like, but we'll get by, and that's good enough for me.

I don't know what being an Air Force wife will be like, but after the last few months, I'll just be happy to have a steady income again. So I'm going to choose to be hopeful. We've made our decision, and I think it will be good for us. I even think there will be things I love.