The Surprising First Taste of Spanish {Guest Post}

Christine Nolf is a joyful, encouraging, and inspiring friend. I have always appreciated her insights and perspectives from years of cross-cultural life and ministry. She and her hubby are having a baby next month, but she was still gracious (and rock star!) enough to write this guest post. I'm delighted to share her words with you.

My parents are not a bicultural couple. I didn’t grow up in a very cross-cultural setting and yet I’ve lived most of my adult life cross-culturally. As I reflect on how this happened, one moment in particular sticks out.

My dad sat on the couch embossed with the big blue flowers. The excitement was palpable in our living room as I stood facing him, my four year old body hemmed in by the knees of his long extended legs. 

“I brought you something.” he told me, “but first you have to say your name in Spanish.”

He then leaned forward, his mouth getting wide and slow.

“Repeat after me. Me llamo Crissy.”

“Me llamo Crissy” I said obediently, anxious for my present and intrigued by this game. 

“That means, my name is Crissy in Spanish,” Dad explained. Then we said it again over and over.

He held up a little red t-shirt that said 'New Mexico' and handed it to me. He didn’t travel much for work, and this little exchange was new for us. I liked getting a present when it wasn’t my birthday, and I loved saying, “me llamo Crissy.”

I told my little friends at school, “me llamo Crissy.” And somehow, in that momentary exchange, something took root in my heart. I was hooked. I needed to learn Spanish.

Who knows how passions really start or come about? All I know is that I remember the first time I learned a Spanish phrase, and it is tied to the love of my father and a sense of adventure. It wouldn’t be until college that I became passionate about learning the language, and yet a seed was planted in my little heart that day when Dad came home from his trip.

What makes some moments more significant than others? Why does that memory stand out of so many days and years in that home? I have to believe it is because something important was happening, something that was shaping who I am. 

Fast forward 18 years to my first Sunday in a little church on the hillside of Caracas, Venezuela. I stood before the hermanos of Fuente de Vida and said, “Me llamo Crissy,” introducing myself as the new missionary who would be supporting their efforts to build a community school. As we sang songs in Spanish that day, looking out over the green hillside and giant city in the valley below, a distinct feeling washed over me: I was born for this.

Three years later, I would be back in my hometown, but in a different neighborhood than I grew up knowing. I would introduce myself to my new neighbors in Spanish, “me llamo Crissy,” and from there, we created friendships and networks and projects that are still shaping our city and our own hearts.

In some strange way, who I am has been connected to Spanish. I love it. I love learning it. I love speaking it. I love being around people that speak it. Did all of that start in the one moment with Dad and the surprise t-shirt? Was I born with this latent passion buried in me? 

I’m not sure. But I do trace the root of my passion back to that moment when my dad excitedly shared his adventures with me and challenged me to say something new I had never heard before.

Something of who I am was ignited in that moment.

Something of what I was supposed to be opened up for me as I opened my mouth to say, “me llamo Crissy.” 

The excitement of learning and language was passed on to me in my father’s enthusiasm and challenge. 

Something happened in that moment that is still happening to me - a glimpse at passion, a cracked window to opportunity, a flash of a world much bigger than what I had known. It was all before me as I took my red t-shirt into my little hands.

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