May is often the month that graduates are celebrated and Nicasio was included in SIL’s* May meeting honoring graduates. This is my paraphrase of what he shared during that meeting:
I continue studying because I want the tools to meet the challenges that I face from the bilingual teachers and others. Tools that I can use when I talk about literacy and languages. SIL focuses more on the languages whereas my studies have focused more on the effect that languages have on people, especially when languages are used by those in power or authority and how that affects people.
The first classes in the doctorate program were very difficult and complicated but I wanted to do the doctorate program to help the bilingual teachers. They are in a difficult position: they are often not assigned to teach in a community where their own language is spoken but they are supposed to grade their students on the use of their (the students’) own mother tongue.
I thank God for helping me through the classes, which I’ve finished; I haven’t finished my thesis yet. I also want to thank Valerie for standing with me and encouraging me along the way. And I want to thank SIL folks for inspiring me and giving me room to grow. I hope SIL folks will continue inspiring people, especially the indigenous people since they are the ones who will have the greatest impact on their communities.
A few days later, Nicasio was one of two panelists on a live online program to answer some questions about indigenous languages, culture, and identity. My paraphrase of parts of his answers:
Our culture and language are important and need to be encouraged but even before that we need to be proud of who we are. I say that because we can see from history how we have been treated. The mistreatment that we’ve received over hundreds of years are like wounds that have never been healed. For example, in the year 1537 Pope Paul III declared that the indigenous people of the Americas are humans. All these sorts of things have wounded our forefathers and they have passed those wounds down to us and have not been healed. When our children go to school, it’s like going to a different country since the teachers don’t speak the children’s language. When we go to a doctor, he doesn’t speak our language, either. We indigenous people are like foreigners in our own land. We need to give importance to our language and culture and we can do this best by speaking it with our children and teaching them our culture so they can be proud of who they are.
My greatest achievement is not just my achievement but a team achievement: the writing and publishing of Zekre rkaa diidx zah (This Is How Zapotec Is Written) in 1999, We worked with a group of people, including bilingual teachers and others who were interested in writing our Zapotec, to finalize our Zapotec alphabet. After this book was written, the teachers found funding to have it printed and distributed a copy to each school in the area where Quiatoni Zapotec is spoken. Now many children have learned to read and write in Zapotec and there are teachers using the book to help their students learn to write their own language.
Some might wonder why we spend so much time with the bilingual teachers. We are happy to help them since they are helping us by encouraging their students and their parents to read and write in Quiatoni Zapotec. When God’s Word is available, many people will be able to read it!
Beto has continued revising the Psalms that he’s translated. He and Candi have also been learning a lot—and putting into practice—how to evangelize people. Beto found a method for opening the conversation that he really likes, involving showing two curved pieces which are the same size but don’t look it. On the back, he has printed in Zapotec how to use the pieces to share Jesus with others. He made a lot of them, cutting them all out by hand, and then shared some with the youth group since Nicasio has been teaching them about evangelism. Beto said that he gave some to his brother-in-law to use, too.
We would appreciate your prayers for Rusty’s upcoming CT scan and bloodwork on June 4. He’ll see the doctor on June 11. We are praying that the suspicious lymph node will not have changed or maybe shrunk some and that his bloodwork will show no sign of the cancer. Thank you for holding him up to the Great Physician.
Royan just had his six month check up and is healthy and happy! Tuesday (5/25/21) he was shopping with his momma, and fortunately they were still in the store, when a car hit Mike and Tara’s car in the parking lot. They are still waiting to hear from the insurance company about their car. Thank God with us that Tara and Royan were safely inside the store when this happened and pray that the details about the car will be sorted out quickly.
Mike has decided to change jobs for a position that will allow him to work from home. He starts June 1st and is excited about this new opportunity!
Thank you for making all these things possible with your prayers. Thank you for praying for us, our family and those who work with us as well as the translation itself. You are a blessing to us!
love, Valerie and Nicasio
Update from Nicole & Vincent - 5/16/21
Can you believe it's already been a year since Vincent's mother, Simone, went to her eternal home, on April 29th 2020? A few weeks ago we were able to take a small group of our Parfums de Vie teens to spend the week with Vincent's Dad, Jacques. He needed some help on his property to chop down some trees that had become too tall and potentially dangerous should they fall. He also needed some company as he faced the first anniversary of Simone's passing. It was a very special time of discipleship and blessing, both with Vincent's dad and with our teens. For the first time, Vincent's Dad participated in our Bible study every evening after dinner. He didn't just listen, he engaged, sharing his point of view with the kids. Simone was always very vocal about her faith and Jacques always claimed not to be interested, not to believe, I think partly to try and keep her off his case! So, it was very lovely and encouraging to hear his heart and to see his openness to the scriptures and his willingness to participate in this important time with the kids. Please continue to pray for Jacques, he is still really missing Simone and struggling to adjust...
For the teens, it was also a very special time. Vincent's Dad lives in the heart of the Provençale countryside, surrounded by vineyards, lavender fields and olive groves and far removed from the cramped urban environment of our kids' homes, so as well as the hard work of chopping down trees and splitting timber (and homework of course) we also had time for riding bikes, cooking, baking, building fires and spending many long hours outdoors. So although our April Camp was officially cancelled (for the second year in a row!) because of Covid restrictions, we got to do an "unofficial" camp with Jacques!
This special time away from home in a different context is so important in the healing and transformation of our kids whose family backgrounds are extremely complicated, and where neglect and abuse are far more present than we'd care to admit. Our week at Jacques' home was during Ramadan, the Muslim month of prayer and fasting. Ramadan is always a very difficult time for all of the children and teens of Parfums de Vie, who are under great pressure from their families to observe the tradition of the strict fast from all food and liquid from sunrise until sunset. Muslim children are taught that Ramadan is compulsory for gaining points for Heaven and salvation, and they are encouraged (obliged) to participate from a very young age. Children as young as 8 years old share with us their fears that they will go to Hell if they eat or drink during the fast. (Even accidentally swallowing water when brushing your teeth or taking a shower is considered breaking the fast!) Every year at Parfums de Vie we have to sensitively help kids and teens navigate this complicated season with their families. Many of the kids and teens of Parfums de Vie believe that Jesus has already paid the price for them, they know that they cannot "earn" salvation, but this truth is incompatible with the values and priorities of their families. Many kids and teens also feel that they "need" to eat and drink to get through their long school days, participate in sports, exams and their normal life activities. It's important that they have a safe place to express their questions and concerns, and it requires a lot of wisdom, courage and faith to help kids through this. This year, one of the teens told her mother that she was a Christian, not a Muslim, and would therefore not be observing the fast.....as you can imagine, this news wasn't welcomed by the family, who have continued to put immense pressure on her. This pressure, which is expressed in a harsh manner, only causes kids to feel more distance with the traditions of their parents and to draw closer to the love and grace that they experience in Christ through Parfums de Vie.
We know that God is faithful and at work through all of it, but it's definitely one of the most challenging seasons for our ministry. It's painful to witness the hardships that the kids must endure with their families and we are always thankful and relieved when Ramadan comes to an end.
We truly appreciate your prayers, love and support.
with love & thankfulness,
Nicole, Vincent, Etienne and all of us at Parfums de Vie
UPdate from Valerie & Nicasio - 5/14/21
Our May Quiatoni Crier is attached. We hope it is an encouragement to
you in some way. (If you are a picture lover, there are pictures on the
second page. :) )
If for some reason, you'd rather not receive our newsletters, please let
me know. There'll be no hard feelings!
Thank you for your interest in our ministry of Bible translation in
love, Valerie and Nicasio Martinez