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Back from Mexico

I have returned from the land of banana trees and iridescent butterflies, the land of the Huastec and Nahuatl-speaking Indians, and I am happy to report that the trip went very well, and that my father and I have returned home safely. If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll surely know that there’s quite a bit of conflict going on along the border of Mexico right now, and although we did see some drug cartel members along the highway in northern Tamaulipas, we got past unscathed, knowing that God was with us the whole time (although it is rather disturbing to see people with guns in Mexico who are neither military or police). As for the Huasteca Potosina, the area where we spent the week, things are much more peaceful there.

As always, a week was not enough, but I was just thankful that I was able to return there again after two and a half years absence. It was a time of renewing old friendships and making new ones, and I was also able to practice speaking Nahuatl. Most of my attempts at carrying on a conversation ended when the person with whom I was speaking uttered a sentence that went past my ears uncomprehended, and then I would resort to Spanish. I probably could have done better, but I am pleased with my progress, and of course everyone was tickled pink that I was learning their language. The Huastec dialect remains a mystery to me, but as we met a good number of Huastec people on this trip, they endeavoured to teach me some of their language as well. It is a Mayan language, entirely different from Nahuatl, and it has a very unique sound, full of glottal stops and ejective consonants. Read More

Hymn of the Week – Sagrado es el amor

We sang this hymn (the Spanish version of “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”) with the church at Lejem in the Huasteca Potosina this past week. I thought it was very appropriate, as we were Christian family, even though this was the first time I had met many of them.

Sagrado es el amor
Que nos ha unido aquí,
A los que creemos del Señor
La voz que llama a sí.

A nuestro Padre Dios
Roguemos con fervor,
Alúmbrenos la misma luz,
Nos una el mismo amor.

Nos vamos a ausentar,
Mas nuestra firme unión
Jamás podráse quebrantar,
Por la separación.

Un día en la eternidad
Nos hemos de reunir,
Que Dios nos lo conceda, hará,
El férvido pedir.

No English Allowed!

This past month I went down to “the valley” for a week–that is, the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and northern Mexico. Most people on the Texas side are bilingual, and I was soon exposed to that interesting phenomenon known to some as “Spanglish.” Start a sentence in Spanish, switch to English in the middle, switch back to Spanish a few phrases later. It changed my perspective a little, since before that time, I always felt a bit discouraged when Spanish speakers talked to me in English–I guess I assumed they thought I couldn’t speak Spanish very well. But hearing how they talk to each other showed me that the language switching is something they just do out of habit.

However, this change in perspective hasn’t been the most positive for my language learning. Read More

Hymn of the Week – Todavía, Señor

Music and lyrics by Robert Brown
Free MP3 recording by Antonio Shappley (more such recordings may be had from

Todavía, Señor, hay un gran conflicto en mí,
Entre lados opuestos de mi ser:
Hay un “yo” egoísta que no se rinde a ti,
Y otro “yo” que te quiere obedecer.

Todavía, Señor, no soy lo que debo ser;
Tú mereces de mi vida lo mejor;
Pero gracias a ti, que por tu poder y amor,
Ya no soy lo que era, Señor.

You may have noticed that this week’s hymn is in Spanish. This is because I am leaving this week to go to a Bible lectureship in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and I thought I would share one of my favourite hymns in Spanish. For those who can’t read Spanish, here’s a translation:

Lord, there is still a great conflict within me,
Between opposite sides of my being:
There’s a selfish “me” that doesn’t submit itself to You,
And another “me” that wants to obey You.

Lord, I’m still not what I should be;
You deserve the best of my life;
But thanks to You, because of Your power and love,
I’m not what I used to be, Lord.

Language change and use

When one reads about language change, and how Latin evolved into its many children over time, it is difficult to see how this is still happening today. The English we speak is essentially the same that was spoken two hundred years ago, and it may seem like little has changed in the language since then. However, change is taking place, and as Spanish speakers have had increasing contact with English speakers in the southwestern United States, loanwords have been exchanged between the two tongues. Words like tortilla and jalapeño have entered the English language because we had no words of our own to describe these things. Read More