One year old,

One year ago, I was in the middle of my sabbatical from serving at church. I also laid some ground rules during July and August 2018. One rule was reducing my TV consumption. No huge loss. Since I do not play that much video games – I’m not a serious gamer, also not a huge loss. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? Nope. Not on those platforms. They too rot your brain. I got off FB back in 2016. The third goal: learn a new language.

I have always wanted to learn German ever since middle school. Back then, I was attending an international school in Hong Kong. We were all required to learn another language. There were 240, 250 students in my year and we were divided into 30-32 classes. That is the same as a home room in an American high school. Most classes (including mine) learned French, but two sections learned German.

When I moved to southern California in 1994, I was able to continue studying French despite the fact that most students studied Spanish. The ironic thing about my French class? My teacher was a German-American. His name was Mr. Neumann from Aachen, Germany. He was a US citizen and had served in the US Army. The next funny thing – he introduced himself using the Anglo-American pronunciation of “Newman” instead of the Germanic “Noy-man”.

Fast forward to 2003. I had a chance to go to Germany on two separate day trips while studying abroad in Strasbourg France. I started to fall in love with Germany – the countryside, the food, and the people.

View of Heidelberg from the Schloss

Back to 2018. I started using Duolingo to teach myself German. Slowly, my vocab grew from basic phrases to sentences. It is very slow but gradual process especially since I have no one to practice German except with coworkers half way around the world.

Besides German, I used the app to review my French. Then I added Swedish, Italian, and Russian. These last three languages are more for fun and laughs than actual fluency.

In February 2019, I had a panic attack at work because I struggle with OCD. Dark, nearly evil, thoughts crept into my mind. I was starting to get overwhelmed by them. In desperation, I did the only thing I could do: cry out to God and ask for his help. How does God help someone whose brain is attacking them? Even though people compare brains and computers, there is one major flaw: you can’t reboot your brain the same way you reboot your PC when it crashes!

I sought professional counsel which helped some. I read blogs written by Christians who suffer from OCD in such a way. Those helped too. It showed that I was not alone. I talked to my pastors who also struggle with such dark thoughts. But the way forward was to memorize Scripture… in German.

I already memorized John 3:16 in German last October. Now it was time to push forward. Next, 2 Corinthians 10:5b – und nehmen gefangen alle Gedanken unter dem Gehorsam Christi – to take every thought captive to Christ.

Next, the Psalms were helpful too. Then throw in Proverbs 3:5 and then Romans 6:23. And to cap it all off, the Lord’s Prayer.

Am I fluent? Of course not. But as one of my German coworker says, you know you are improving when you start correcting yourself. When you say something and realize – “Oops, that’s not right; it should be…”

All of this started during a sabbatical.

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