We’ve all heard the phrase, “No pain, no gain,” and boy does that apply to most aspects of cross-cultural service. My first thought, and maybe yours too, goes to language learning. Without the pain of studying and memorizing and acting like a child in front of total strangers, we never make progress and competency.
Sometimes it seems the pain will never end.
But it does—not just with language learning, but also with adjusting to the culture, food, pollution, traffic, and whatever else differs from your homeland. We finally get to a point of survival and even thriving in this place of service.
When we press through the storm of struggle, we are rewarded. The reward comes in many forms:
- Being able to shop at the grocery or market and come out with what you really wanted.
- Being able to get across town via public transport without getting lost or paying too much.
- Being able to greet your neighbors and have real conversations with them.
- Being able to share the reason for the hope that is in you.
- Being able to walk with another person to the point of salvation and on into discipleship.
- Being able to read the Bible in your new language.
- Being able to comprehend sermons and prayers in church services.
- Being able to sing songs of praise to God in that language and really worship.
From the small to the big accomplishments, the pain of learning and adjustment in a new culture is forgotten in those moments of reward.
When we arrive at these milestones, it’s good to not only cherish the moment but write it down and share it.
- When I let my spouse know that I understood the sermon that day (at least 75% of it), then we encourage each other to press on.
- When I pass a language test and bake a special dessert for my family, my kids are encouraged to press on in their own struggles.
- When I give God glory for using me to lead a national friend to Christ, my team is encouraged to keep their zeal for the work and keep up their language studies as well.
I’ve got letters filled with such moments, as I wrote my parents for over twenty years. I can look back on those letters they kept and be reminded of God’s faithfulness through the hard times and the sweetness of the rewards.
Today, a former colleague posted a video of his father, shortly before he passed from this life at a ripe old age. Though weak in body, he was strong in spirit, as they sang together a chorus in Arabic, the language he used for thirty-five years in service among the Lebanese. As I listened to him sing, I could not help but reflect on the sweetness of the reward in being able to worship in what had become, not his native “heart language” but his adopted “love language.”
What was gained through the pain of study and practice brought a sweet and lasting reward.
What will you remember from these present days of trial and struggle? May we remember as Paul wrote:
For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.2 Corinthians 4:17 CSB
Press on in the pain to know the gain by his
Grace and Peace