It is done. It is finished! (But not really.)
Yesterday, I (Ian) finished my formal Khmer classes. (Laura will continue through the end of the year, as her role requires more language proficiency than mine does).
Starting from our second or third week on the ground until now, we have been attending classes, working with language helpers, and studying late into the evenings. All told, that’s over 540 classroom hours (about 35 college credits worth), and thousands of words, phrases and grammar structures learned.
It’s been quite the experience, and there are a lot of good memories along the way. We’ve become close friends with our teachers and fellow students. After all, when you only know how to ask a few questions, you get to know everyone’s responses pretty quickly. I can tell you more quirky details about my friends Mike, Gerjan, and Lucy than I can tell them about some of you.
With the end of language classes, I will start working from the office regularly on Monday. Starting the “real work”, the reason we came to live in Cambodia. At the moment, I’m lined up to help build a new church, facilities for an agricultural NGO, a school, and a few other projects. Personally, I’m really glad to be getting back to engineering — among everything else, this year has confirmed that is what I was built to be! Laura also has some exciting things lined up that she’ll write about soon.
For all we’ve accomplished, it’s easy to see how much more there is to learn. Right now, I can rattle off a lot in a market, and am sometimes able to hold my own on a construction site. But ask me about issues of worldview, or theology, and I run out of Khmer really quickly. It puts the challenges of those famous first missionaries (Hudson, Carmichael, etc) in perspective — those were dedicated, tenacious people, to find the ways to communicate the depths of the Gospel in brand new languages.
So, after a short breather, I’ll be continuing to learn Khmer on the side. There are lots of words still to learn, and lots of concepts to reinforce. It’s a long road — but after this year, I have the tools I’ll need to travel it well. Some day, I’ll be able to fluently share the hope we have in Jesus in both English and Khmer. But in the meantime, I’m thankful to be able to lean on our brothers and sisters.