Back to School Days

It’s that time of year again when children go back to school. The article below was featured in The Elim Connection and written by Elim Village Fleetwood resident Mary Steegstra. In this article she shares one of her back to school stories.


According to statistics, more than twenty percent of Canadians are immigrants. Perhaps most of them live at Elim, and as such, English is likely your second language.

Alongside a musical array of accents, the idiosyncrasies of tongue twisters, the nuances of pronunciation, Elim residents have adapted shamelessly to an indulgence of idioms and sins of syntax, which in my ethnic experience sounded something like; ‘Throw the cow over the fence some hay.’ Oy veh.

Most of us here at Elim have experienced the frustration articulating our thoughts in a foreign tongue. It was the summer before my first year at school when I became quite anxious. I didn’t want to enter school without even one English word in my grip.

Many children in Yarrow proper ‘absorbed’ the English language via siblings or on the playground. I had neither advantage as I entered the hallowed halls of learning; elementary school. My brother, the first to attend school, was quite proprietary about his lexical superiority. Tenuously I asked him, “Please teach me a word?” “Teach yourself,” he quipped.

First grade for me was a blur at best. Miss Stewart, a wonderful teacher, faced the added challenge of teaching children a language before they could understand the material. An underlying fear that my ignorance would be exposed froze any ability to learn, a fear that even the cast iron, pot-belly stove in the centre of the room could not thaw. And I huddled in my desk to be as inconspicuous as possible.

At one point Miss Stewart stood before a large clipboard; on it was the picture of a bird. With pointer in hand she began to read, “The Robin.” Emphasizing the word, ‘robin’ each time it appeared in the poem, she pointed to the bird. Eureka! I got it. That word began a journey of learning.

A study by Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington D.C. has found that adults who speak two or more languages have more grey matter; that being bilingual increases the size of the part of the brain responsible for attention span and short term memory. There is hope!

And the benefits increase exponentially as we acquire more languages. Whether a papillon, a mariposa, a farfalla, a vlinder, a sommerfugl, a fiorildi, or a Schmetterling, we are enraptured by a kaleidoscope of verbal butterflies fluttering by. There we go, seven more languages under our belts. And in Hawaii the kamehameha alights airily on the bougainvillaea. Yea eight. ‘So, throw to the wind some words with caution.’ Oy vey. ‘Throw caution to the wind with some new words.’

Language generates community; Elim is a model venue for life-sharing opportunities. Moreover, formed in God’s image, we are the only creation that can transcend temporal sanction to communicate directly with Him in any language. But here’s the rub. Is my heavenly communication more from my mouth than from my heart? Do I linger in His presence? Do I worship or whine? Yearn or yawn?

In Deuteronomy 11:18 we are exhorted to “Lay up [God’s] words in our heart and in our soul, and bind them as a sign on our hand, and they shall be as frontlets between our eyes.” We are a living reference for the Word of God! May we translate correctly.

Teach me Your Word.

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