Friday, September 26, 2008

Come with me to Primary

I’m back in primary, currently acting as the secretary, although we haven’t quite hashed out what else I’ll be doing, exactly. There was talk of my being an Activity Days leader. There was talk of my being the chorister. Today I volunteered both Andrew and myself to be nursery leaders for the last 40 minutes of church. We’ve been trying to staff the nursery for a few weeks but haven’t been able to find anyone willing to be in there…

So, I have a hodge-podge calling right now. I assign scriptures, prayers, and talks. I try to help the children sit down and behave all through Sharing Time. I make up lists and charts, take notes, and do all that other secretary stuff. Soon I’ll be sniffing diapers, handing out crackers, and trying to teach a bunch of 2 year olds about being nice.

That’s all usual stuff. Today I did something a little out of the ordinary.

Andrew was teaching Sunday School in Arabic. It was his first Friday teaching in Arabic and he was rather nervous. I, naturally, had Rachel since I can handle her and do my calling at the same time, for the most part. I was holding her and trying to convince the children to sit down and sing. She was holding a doll she borrowed from the Penrods and trying to get the kids all hyper.

I was having trouble with one particular child—a little boy from Sudan named Farayella. He’s probably 3 or 4, never says anything, and really, really wanted his mom. His mother was in the room for a while and we worked in tandem to convince him to sit in his chair. She ran out of the room and Rachel and I retreated to the back.

A few seconds later, Farayella popped out of his chair and walked out of the room. I followed him, trying to talk with him, hold his hand, and guide him back into the primary room. Nothing was really working because he doesn’t speak English and I couldn’t think of anything to say in Arabic that would convince him to go back to primary. Instead I just followed him around. I figured he was looking for his mother, so I started to look for her, too.

We peeked into every classroom upstairs, even though I knew that she wouldn’t be in any of those rooms. We walked downstairs and peeked into a few rooms down there, but we never saw his mom. Farayella opened the front door of the church villa.

“Oh, let’s stay inside, ok, buddy?” I suggested. At this point I still didn’t even know his name.

The only response I got was the screen door shutting.

I ran out after him, but he was nowhere in sight. I ran out of the yard and into the street, scanning around wildly until I spotted Farayella halfway to Boor Said.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this kid ends up in the Olympics one day!

I set off running after him, Rachel bouncing in my arms, the doll bouncing in hers. He had such a head start and was running so fast that I couldn’t catch up with him. All I knew was that I didn’t want him getting to Boor Said. That street is so busy and hard to cross. I didn’t want him to end up like a bird hitting a clean window. I started to run faster. So did he.

White girl can’t run. And she certainly was no match against the three-year old Olympian, Farayella. Running I’d never catch him, so instead I yelled as loud as I could.

“Umik houn!” I called out. That means, “Your mom’s here!” in Jordanian Arabic.

Farayella slammed on his brakes and wheeled around. “Fain!?” he demanded.

“Houn,” I assured him and pointed to the church. I couldn’t think of how to tell him that she was still at church. I was kicking around the word “kanisa” but convinced myself that was Russian for something. Kniga means book in Russian; kanisa means church in Arabic. I always get those two words confused. Even though I have the language ability to say something as simple as, “Your mom is in the church,” I was too frazzled to sort it out in my brain, so when I caught up to him I just repeated myself.

“Umik houn, umik houn,” I said as I put my arm around his shoulders and started to guide him back to the church villa. He came willingly; after all, I purportedly knew where his mother was.

When we got back to church we immediately went to find his mom. She started talking to him…and I didn’t understand a word that she said. Andrew has a theory that they speak Arabic, but only in addition to whatever their native language is. No one seems to understand what they say.

But at least Esta (the mom) also speaks a bit of English. I asked her a few questions.

“So, what language does he understand the best?”

“Arabic,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” I had already figured that out because that’s the only language he responded to me in, “And, uh, what’s his name?”

“Farayella,” she said.

I had no idea what she said, so I just tried to repeat what I thought I heard.


Apparently I said it well enough. If it’s not his name, we’ll just make a trade. I’ll call him Farayella and she can mispronounce Rachel’s name. Rasha? Raychurch? Whatever. I’m flexible.

I wonder what I’ll get to do next Friday…


  1. You are amazing! I especially liked the part where you were trying to quiet the kids and Rachel was trying to get the opposite reaction!

  2. Dialect, dialect, accent, accent... yeah, they speak English in England, right? Same concept - some of them, you'll never understand, not in a million years - even the rest of the people in Great Britain don't understand them... so I know where you're coming from! hee hee