Language lessons and an Arabic-tuned ukulele

Hey everyone, it’s been a week now and although the work here is emotionally taxing at times, it’s so rewarding to be a light in a dark place. Something that’s really stood out to me is one of the principles of cross-cultural work and interaction that I was taught last year – which still is displayed on my bedroom wall at home, along with a list of other really helpful principles – and this particular principle is, “I will seek to learn before I seek to teach”.

While I’ve been working here in the processing centre in Nauru I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to help teach English classes and form friendships with the amazing people in here. And I’ve been able to take on the aforementioned principle quite literally here as I teach my friends new words in English, and I help them with grammar and pronunciation, and all the while they teach me what the same words are in Persian, Tamil – even some words in Indonesian! I’ve even attempted to write some things in their alphabets, which is interesting in itself because languages such as Arabic and Persian are written right-to-left, completely opposite to the standard English left-to-right writing I’m used to. As you can expect, I’m very clumsy at it, and learning their languages has been such a great way to build a bridge between two cultures – and the best part is we all laugh! Laughter is so important for keeping healthy in here, and I’ve been really thankful to be able to share some joy with my new friends.

In terms of cross-cultural mission this is also so important. Have you ever talked to someone who only wants to get their point across without considering what you think? They talk at length about what they care about, their thoughts on this and that, what they had for breakfast that morning… and when you begin talking about your own views, their eyes glaze over…? I know I’ve been in that situation. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? It’s important in mission to be open to new people and views before you step in on their space and share what you think. You never know, their view may make a lot more sense than yours.

Last night I brought my little ukulele into the centre, and one man in particular picked it up. This man’s friends described the man as very talented, having played a similar instrument very well back in his home country. The man began plucking a few strings and notes out of it, managing to get some scales and even a simple melody or two. It sounded fairly good – better than I could play. Then he began fiddling with the tuning. At first I told him not to touch the tuning, it was correct the way it was. Please, don’t fiddle with it, it’s not meant to do that. But then the man began playing it again, and it sounded incredible. He had tuned it to the Arabic standard, one which he knew well. Suddenly it dawned on me that, just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Sometimes when we shut off things that are different, we’re shutting a door that could’ve ministered to someone and made something average sound really beautiful and relevant to them.

Please keep praying for me as I continue my work over here. Particularly please pray for the men in the centre; pray that they will find hope in each of their situations, and pray that I may have eyes to see what needs to be seen.

Until next time,


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1 Response to Language lessons and an Arabic-tuned ukulele

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi Leesh, Thanks for your blog… we are praying for you. Regards, Michelle

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