The following is a portion of a blog post by Jamie Ulrich, a Global Teams field partner serving with her husband, Luke, and their three children in Malawi.
For the last few years I have been doing a Bible study in a village about one hour away from us. It has been amazing to see what the Lord has done. We have been able to pass out around 80 Bibles in that village and more than 150 women have come through to hear the word of God. We still meet on a weekly basis. These women are continuing to learn about the Lord and grow in their knowledge of him.
I admit that we have lived in Malawi for over five years but at 40 years of age, learning a new language does not come easy. Sometimes the excuse is that I have three children and a busy life. I heard someone once say that in order to really learn a new language you need to speak it often and speak it badly often. It is one thing to practice with your language tutor, but it is a completely different thing to practice with others. And to make a complete fool of yourself by saying “My child is bleeding” or “My child is a donut” when you meant to say “My child is shy”. Because the words magazi, mandazi, and manyazi are very close and I confuse them often.
So even though I have been meeting with these women for years, I never communicate with them in Chichewa, I always just speak English and take a tutor. But it is really hard to be able to really forge a deep relationship with others when you don’t communicate in their same language. In January I felt like the Lord said “You have to get over yourself and your embarrassment that you will make mistakes; you have to try harder.” I made it a goal to do language lessons more often and to really practice more and try to communicate with others even though it is hard. I admit it is still really difficult for me to communicate and I still struggle with it. But oh, how the joy of getting out of my comfort zone has been.
I have been going once every two weeks. Before the Bible study I have been meeting with some women from the Bible study. They have been taking turns asking me questions and I am forming relationships with them. One day I was asking about what they were eating for dinner. They said, “Okay, next week we will make telele (ocra leaves) and nsima (the staple food of Malawi).” So, then the next week, here they come. They brought the pots to cook the food and carried the charcoal on their heads to where we meet and we went to making it. I admit I have made the Malawian food before and when groups have come, we also do this for one of the cultural things. But there are always other people around. This time it was just me and these women. So slowly they started teaching me. I admit I was so nervous but it has been one of my best days here. I wasn’t just that lady that comes and gives soap and Bibles, I was one of them. I was shaking the pot with my bare hands, which they do even when it is boiling. They had to go get leaves so I could hold it because it was way to hot for me. I also cut a tomato not using a knife because there is normally just one knife for several families so they use their hands. And then I had to use a stick to clean the pot afterwards. Then the neatest thing for me was it was time to eat and all the food was put in three bowls and we just eat. Normally I have my own plate to eat, but today I was one of them, I kneeled down and just ate with them withttps://hoperisestogether.wordpress.com/2021/06/30/relationships-that-take-time-and-work/h my hands and all. And they were joking and singing and so happy that I was learning to be with them.
Relationships may not always be easy, they may take work, forgiveness, and even learning a new language. But they are worth it. I am so grateful for my friendships and for stepping out of my comfort zone, even when it is hard and a little uncomfortable.
Read the full blog post here: https://hoperisestogether.wordpress.com/2021/06/30/relationships-that-take-time-and-work/