Learning a Language as a Witness

It is normal for most missionaries around the world to spend most of their time for the first year or so on the field just learning the local language. In our case, this was not required for various reasons. One can get by using just English here.

But one cannot really get to know the people and the culture of the Philippines just speaking English. I can "get by" speaking only English but I cannot "excel".

I have asked myself the question, "How do I properly live as a Christian with and among the Philippine people?" I am convinced that the answer for me starts with learning to speak a Philippine language. Here in the Philippines, it seems that nothing says, "I appreciate and respect you as a person" quite as well as taking the time and effort to learn to speak in the local language.

For example, by learning the Cebuano language I am stepping outside of the natural Christian "ghetto" that we foreigners can so easily find ourselves living within. Instead of mostly associating with people like myself, I start getting to know Filipinos at a deeper level as I try to speak Cebuano and as they patiently help me learn. I develop new friendships and new involvements with people I would have never known by only speaking English. I start to understand more how Filipinos think, what they believe, what struggles they have, and how to better share Christ with them.

So for me, learning to speak Cebuano is synonymous with speaking words of blessing. I learn Cebuano because I care about the people that speak Cebuano and I want them to know that they are important to me and especially to my God.