I have a confession to make. I want to learn to speak Welsh. Dw i’n moyn siarad Cymraeg! I can’t really explain why when I live in England, eleven miles from the Welsh border. Apart from my water bills, which are sent out in both English and Welsh, my main interaction with the Welsh language is when changing trains at Newport, where the platform announcements are made in Welsh, followed by the English translation.
To say that learning Welsh is challenging is somewhat of an understatement. It is complicated by the fact that there is a choice between the Welsh spoken in North Wales, and the Welsh spoken in South Wales. I have elected for Southern Welsh and have completed two lessons (several times!), which I downloaded via an application on my phone. Then a few days ago doubts crept in and I checked out the same two lessons in Northern Welsh. There do not seem to be too many differences, but the sentence ‘I want to speak Welsh’ (shown in the first paragraph) changes to ‘Dw i eisiau siarad Cymraeg.’
It is easy to get discouraged when starting something new – especially when trying to learn a language. I haven’t a clue how long it might take to become a confident Welsh speaker, and it will be difficult if I don’t mix with people who are fluent in the language. I could struggle on using the ‘app’ on my phone, but at some point if I am really serious I am going to have to do more. I could delay and leave it until I retire in a few years. I could wait until the last of the children leaves home and move across the border, but I’m not sure my wife will sign up for that.
There could be a comparison here with the way that we develop and grow as followers of Jesus. Too many new Christians either try to struggle on alone, or are not given the support that they need to grow. Some believe that they can learn it from a book. There is a book, and it is a very important book, but just like a Welsh textbook there are parts of the Bible that can prove difficult to understand.
Before Jesus physically departed from Earth he gave his first followers a pep talk (John 14-16) and then He prayed for them, and for us (John 17). In that pep talk Jesus promised that He would send His Holy Spirit to help His followers in various ways. When the Holy Spirit arrived the change in those early followers was so significant that in just one day over 3,000 people committed their lives to following Jesus. These new followers were not left to work the rest out for themselves. The early church was born because followers of Jesus are meant to grow together in community. The only problem is that living as Jesus intended, and following the example of the early church, is almost as difficult as learning to speak Welsh.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)