More from 1980
In the beginning of language study, I got tangled up trying to make long sentences, but Barbara wisely pointed out that long sentences are simply a series of short ones strung together. She encouraged me to stick with short ones to get it right and later combine them to make longer sentences. As usual, she was correct, and this approach helped me greatly.
Then the point came where I could no longer understand the explanations of grammar, even if they were given in English (grammar had never been a strong point for me). Here the Lord gave me the idea of getting my language helper to make two or three useful sentences using this new grammar point. I would then memorize them, and begin to use them in every day interactions.
I called these my “pattern sentences” because they provided the template from which I could build other sentences. My work of memorizing and meditating on Scripture had given me the ability to do this memorization work more easily.
As time went on, I found that doing this memorizing not only seeded my mind with the grammar points I was targeting, but also with other new points that these sentences contained. I spontaneously started using them, too. The locals told me that I “talked like a book,” meaning correctly, but a bit stilted.
To increase my vocabulary, I tried to memorize thirty new words a day. I would write these words down on one side of a strip of paper, and the English meaning on the other. Then I would fold the paper down the middle, with the new words on one side, the English on the other and memorize them. Then I would look at just the new language word and try to remember its meaning.
I used my travel time to do this memorization, going to and from work or while shopping, walking or riding on a bus. Once while walking to work, I was focusing on my vocabulary paper, when, for no discernable reason, I looked up and found myself right on the edge of a ten-foot deep hole dug in the sidewalk! There was no railing and no warning, which was a common situation at that time. If I hadn’t looked up at that particular moment, my next step would have been into thin air. The Lord was not only helping me with language learning but protecting me in the process. Another God sighting.
Along with language study, I was teaching English several nights a week. This was tiring and demanding, but necessary in order to have a resident permit. The school provided some training, and combining that with my teaching experience in Alaska, I was able to do a credible job.
My students were all adults seeking to improve their English, mostly for advancement at work. Having paid for the classes, they were motivated and engaged in the learning process. They wanted conversation practice, and that made the class time go quickly.
One night, classes were called off because there had been a bombing at the school during the day. After the explosion, the director of the school went to his office and found a great shard of glass stuck right into his desk chair. If he hadn’t been out of his office at the time, he certainly would have been killed. These were uncertain times.
Terrorists weren’t the only danger. After class one evening I said to Barbara, “There is a good looking woman lawyer in my class. She sits right in the front row and looks at me lovingly. Tonight I noticed that her eye shadow matches the green color of her eyes.”
That got Barbara’s attention. I suggested that she come to class with me the next night, and she was very much in agreement. When my lawyer student saw what a fine, elegant wife I had, she gave up and moved to the back row for the rest of the semester.
This was the first of a long series of female students and teachers who showed an interest in me. This was not because I’m suave and handsome, but because I have an American passport! If a woman could snag me, I’d literally be her passport out of a difficult and dangerous country.
These women were all attractive and intelligent, so it was a thrill to have them signal a desire for a personal relationship with me and there was a temptation to play along.
However, rejecting this and following the leading of the Spirit instead, I would immediately tell Barbara about it. Secret desire and titillation is powerful but confessing this temptation to the proper person takes away a lot of its strength.
I am thankful for a wife who is secure enough in Christ to listen to my struggles and to help me. After telling Barbara about it, I would take her with me to class and that always broke the focus of my “pursuer.” God guides and protects.