Janel Nale has spent over a year teaching the children of missionaries who are ministering among the Landuma people. She recently returned to NTM’s training centre in Missouri to jump into a linguistics class.
Her heart is in West Africa, but there is preparation to be done first. And it hasn’t been easy.
Janel says that linguistics study is kind of like a combination of solving sudoku puzzles and writing geometry proofs with letters instead of numbers.
“I enjoy solving puzzles,” she says, “and linguistics is kind of like solving a very large puzzle.”
But the linguistics puzzle is more than a little complicated. “These first couple of weeks have dealt with phoneme interpretation and analysis,” Janel says, hastening to explain, “basically, we have to decide which letters to use to write down a foreign language based on how a native speaker of that language thinks.”
Her instructor advised at the beginning of the class, “Start with the obvious.” It sounded like great advice, but sometimes Janel finds that it is easier said than done.
“There have been times when I have stared at a bunch of letters on my computer screen trying to figure out where I should even start. If I can’t find the obvious, then how am I going to find that which isn’t obvious?”
An over-taxed brain can easily lead to a place where nothing seems to makes sense. Janel confesses, “It’s during those times … when I can’t figure out an answer, or when I don’t understand enough to even ask a question, that I see where I still need to grow. I sometimes forget how much I need to depend on God and ask Him for His help.”
And for that reason, Janel says, she is thankful for linguistics class and for any hard thing in her life that reminds her of her complete dependence upon God’s grace and strength.
Janel prays that, increasingly, she will find her identity in Christ and not lean on her own abilities. And she asks for prayer in this learning and growing phase of her ministry.
By faith, she knows that God is using challenges to increase her trust in Him, which is why she can say, “I am thankful for the difficult problems in linguistics.”
Janel knows that those lessons in dependence are even more valuable than the linguistics class itself. “Because it’s the hard times that remind me yet again that I can’t do anything on my own.”