One expected reality of this trip became very apparent as soon as we landed at the airport in Chad. I am the alien, the non-citizen, the one that looks and sounds different. As warm and welcoming as the Chadian people were – I am a guest and I have a lot to learn if I am going to “fit in.” Suddenly, I didn’t understand what was being said by 99% of the people 99% of the time. This situation connects nicely to our text for this upcoming Sunday. Here are a couple verses from I Corinthians 14 that show us what is needed to bring the Gospel to everyone, whether Fulbe or Minnesotan.
10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
Barb and I were so blessed to see the power of the Gospel spoken in the language of the people. I had the opportunity to watch villages of people hear about Jesus as Savior for the very fist time. It was so humbling to see their receptivity and openness that came through the power of the Word, combined with wells and real caring people speaking the message in their language.
This is Dan Venberg and Pastor Malloum sharing the Gospel In a village with a well that used to take a four hour trip to get water.
I watched kids being taught in the name of Jesus in sacrificial ways by loving teachers. I ate, visited and prayed with our Chadian pastor / missionaries that are choosing the difficult path because they have been called to do this significant work of bringing the Gospel into the villages with the language of the people. I watched Dan and Sonja Narvesen immersing themselves in a new language and a new culture because they are “striving to excel in building up the church.” I could go on and on, but I will leave it there for today.
I want to bring this text back to your personal context today. Part of our congregational calling is to bring the Gospel to the Fulbe people, but another part is to translate it so that your neighbor or friend understands it as well. The work of translating in our context often comes first through listening and loving.
- Do you know what is going on in the hearts, minds and souls of others?
- Do you care and are you willing to enter in if it will cost you time or something else?
- Do you love people first and then…? Jesus did!
- Are we speaking the language that people understand and are interested in? This would be words of course, but also our actions, respecting their traditions, knowing their family and personal histories.