I began this blog four years ago in order to chronicle my travels through Europe during my junior year of college. After much thinking, “Traveling Boots” seemed like a fitting title — a friend had given me the nickname “Boots” my freshman year. After Europe, I continued to blog at Furman and then as I moved up I-85 to Duke Divinity School.
Now I find myself traveling once again. In December, I accepted aninvitation from Duke, along with three of my good friends, to participate in an International Field Education placement. We will be spending the first portion of our time in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (more commonly known as Xela)in language school. Then, we will move to El Salvador where we will continue our language studies while working with the Evangelical Methodist Church of El Salvador for six weeks.
Today counts my 12th day in Guatemala, and my 12th day of living in a world dominated by a completely different language and culture than I am accustomed to.
It also counts my 11th day of speaking Spanish to other people. Unfortunately, I was one of those hip kids in high school who thought that it would be more cool to study French than Spanish. After all, the French have the Eiffel Tower, Crepes, and Mt. Saint Michelle. At the time I vastly underestimated the Spanish language and its influence around the world — particularly in my own backyard. In high school I began to think about how the ability to speak Spanish to the Latinos in my school, city, and Church would enable me to love and be loved by them in new ways. Throughout college a desire grew to one day learn Spanish, but I was unsure when or how this would ever occur. Now, God is allowing this desire to come to fruition, and I intend to serve him with my new abilities this summer and throughout my ministry in the future.
However, learning a new language has its challenges. Throughout my spring semester I began learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone. The program moved slowly for me and I found it very comfortable. Now, I am in class for five hours a day with a teacher learning one-on-one. We speak Spanish the entire time. And then I go to my host family’s house where I sit quietly at the table and on the couch formulating sentences in my head, speaking them, and trying to understand the responses. Many times I’m met with blank stares, corrections, and ah-has as people figure out what I’m trying to relay.
I’ve made the classic mistakes. Saying “dog” (perro) instead of “but” (pero). Saying “I am United States” (Yo soy Estados-Unidos) instead of “I am from the United States” (Yo soy de Estados Unidos). And more. The other guys on the trip with me, Brad Hinton, Chad Bowen, and Robert Flowers, all know Spanish better than me so it is easy to feel like we’re a family and I’m the youngest brother. As a college graduate who will have a Master’s degree this time next year, this experience is humbling.
Growing in humility is a good — but tough — path. And as I inhabit this world where I talk and comprehend things like a baby (and yes, people have given me that nickname), I’ve found it helpful to keep in mind Jon Acuff’s recent blog post to keep me from despair or discouragement.
“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, “Mine isn’t as good.” You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, “Mine is nowhere near as great as that.” You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, “I’m not great like that.”
It’s true. You’re not. Yet.
This is just your beginning. Give yourself the gift of time. Love your dream and your adventure enough to allow it to grow slowly.
This is the beginning of a great journey. I’m unsure of how God will use this time and my knowledge of the Spanish language in the future. But I’m excited and hopeful. And the past 11 days have been thrilling.