Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5000 Coaches

One of my favorite movies is “Akeelah and the Bee”. Akeelah is an amazing speller in a run-down local school, and begins to be coached by a professor for the National Spelling Bee. For one reason or another, though, the coach had to stop just as she was beginning her final training stretch, and she felt totally alone. Her mom, and many others, helped her to see that she had 5000 coaches – people all around her in her community that were all willing to help her learn the words she needed in order to succeed.

Lately, I’ve been realizing I’m in a similar situation. No, I’m not training for the National Spelling Bee. But I am training to be able to communicate with those around me. And though I can often be frustrated with my lack of skills, or feel alone in the process, God is showing me that He’s given me five thousand coaches right around me.

Whether I’m going out of our compound… walking in to school… greeting my househelp at home or cleaner at school… going across the street to the duka… in my classroom with my kids… or talking to new friends at church… I can practice my Swahili anywhere. And there is always someone who’s willing to help me.

Today, our friend Edward (who also happens to teach us Swahili) brought us to Kariyako. This is the place where you can supposedly find EVERYTHING you want or need. On the dala dala (bus) to and from, we practiced our Swahili as we learned the names of trees, plants, places, and things. On the way back, I practiced saying that my younger brother is coming to visit on December 12! It didn’t matter that we were on a bus filled with Tanzanians; he was willing to help, and I had learning in an every-day situation. (And, it made the hour-long trip go by much faster!)

Once again, I’m realizing God did not make us to be alone. Even as He chose to confuse our languages for His glory at the Tower of Babel (something I often wish hadn’t happened…), He is now graciously giving me opportunities to practice a new language – and providing people to teach me – everywhere I go.

Five Thousand Coaches. Though sometimes I feel 5 million miles away from anything that seems right or familiar, I’m once again reminded that I’m surrounded – and that I am not alone.


  1. Hugs and flowers from me, but my Swahili is pretty limited (as you know).

  2. Mary - It was a surprise to me to realize that Kenyan Swahili is different from Tanzanian! The first time I responded "mzuri" to the typical "habari" question, they corrected me... "No, no! That's KENYAN Swahili. We only say "nzuri" here!" So much for coming in knowing a bit of the language!

  3. Great post! Thank you for sharing this. I anticipate that I will be in this similar situation soon!