March 26, 2012

Say that Again

My son and I don’t speak the same language.

He is three years old and is fluent in Amharic and Wolataita. I, like most adult Americans, am limited to English only (since the Greek I took in college got me a husband but not much linguistic proficiency.)

Over the two weeks our new son has been in our home, he has learned some English (mostly names for jungle animals). I have learned a few Amharic words. We supplement with gestures and facial expressions.

I have learned words for food, bathroom, and bedtime. I know how to give him simple directions. I can hold up objects and ask if he wants, for example, crackers or crayons.

It’s exhausting and boring.

We can’t have a conversation about what makes him happy, whether his boots pinch his toes, or why he thinks the green plastic fork is so funny. I have no idea what his favorite color is or what he dreamed about last night.

I just keep repeating ow (yes), aye (no), and yikerta (I’m sorry.) And sometimes I throw in tye (don’t touch) just in case.

With a 30-word Amharic vocabulary, I frequently say the same things.

Repeating yourself is not peculiar to adoptive moms of Ethiopian preschoolers. It’s common in ministry life, too. There are days when I feel as if my ministry vocabulary has been reduced to the following four statements:

• I’m looking for someone to help with this.
• We missed you at church.
• I’ll pray for you.
• You could talk to my husband about that.

I don’t know what your phrases are, but I’m guessing that you’ve got them.

Eventually, I get sick of saying mine. I detect an edge to my voice, an impatience. I start wishing my conversations could expand out, move on, change up. And that’s when I remember the Apostle Paul.

In Philippians 3:1 he says, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”

Patiently and simply, Paul is having a simple review session for the good of the Philippians. The man who was arguably the greatest theologian ever is repeating himself.

Why should I be bored and restless where Paul was not? If the famous author of complex doctrinal arguments is nevertheless tenderly willing to say the same thing again--without impatience--then I should, too. If my words are true and right, they bear gentle repetition.

About 50 times a day, I say in Amharic to my son: “danger,” “wait,” and “hold my hand.” It’s no trouble for me. And it’s safe for him.


  1. One phrase from my ministry vocabulary that I am trying to repeat more is, "I am glad to hear that." There are times when I am aware of many sad things, and I need hearing "aids" to pick out the good things.

  2. to add to that, Patsy, I'm trying to say 'thank you' and even when I don't say it-to have a grateful spirit for whatever comes my way. I AM praying for you, dear Megan, and whatever you need, please don't hesitate to call! I'll check in on you tomorrow :)

    1. The path with your new son is difficult but, you will persevere and the reward with be amazing. You will know his favorite color and what he dreams about. Many are praying for you and your family in this special time of your lives. You will have many fond memories. If you need to talk I am but a phone call away. Remeber Is. 43: 1-3. (Ethiopia is mentioned) Vicki.


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