Lost in Translation

Much was lost in translation when speaking with Latvian moms. But thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, what needed to be said came through loud and clear.

A little more than a year ago, a friend took a few of my books to a special needs family camp in Pelchi, Latvia. Partway through the week, she sent a text. “They love what you write about. Can you come next year to work with the moms?”

“YES!” I immediately texted back. “Count me in.”

From that moment on, my resolve to attend remained firm. It was bolstered when the fundraiser organized by dear friends in my church Connection Group raised the exact amount needed to cover expenses. It grew stronger when someone donated money to purchase copies of A Different Dream for My Child for all the moms attending camp. The only time my resolve wavered was when the little naysayer voice in my head whispered, “How are you going to communicate? They speak Latvian. You speak English.” But my friend, who was attending the camp again, said a translator would be assigned to us for the entire camp.

So I shushed my personal naysayer and packed my bags.

We made it to camp without a hitch. Our personal 24/7 translator, on the other hand, did not. Many people pitched in to fill the gap. A young woman with spina bifida who has attended the camp for several years and just graduated from the university in Riga with a degree in media communication. The pastor who has helped plan and grow the camp for several years. His wife and two teen-aged daughters.

Still, the language barrier made our morning support group slightly awkward.

Some things were lost in translation. Maybe because the moms’ support group translator wasn’t a mom, but a man. Maybe because I overcompensated by talking louder, smiling too much, and gesturing frantically. Maybe because my ability to put faces to names and to pronounce names correctly was an epic failure. Maybe because these Latvian moms had been twice burned by a culture that holds women in low regard and mothers who give birth to children with special needs even lower.

To read the rest of this post, visit Key Ministry’s blog for parents of kids with special needs.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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