It can look like a Great Barrier Reef, this massive division separating one world from another. To build that bridge and learn that language is so slow and so much work, most people don't bother. But the Body of Christ is to be a symbol of unity across barriers. We have immense chasms of differences and yet we are one Body.
I was sitting in church last week trying really hard to listen to a sermon in Swahili. This past year we have become really comfortable with the young - urban - professional - youthgroup French service, but the life of the church is really conducted in Swahili, so we are trying. My side of the barrier sounded something like this:
... Matthew 11 ... ... ... ... ... ... ready ... ... ... ... he/she/it is praying ... ... ... ... ... first... ... ... Jesus ... ... ... friend of mine from my village ... ... ... ... always said he was really strong (lots of laughter) ... ... ... people look for him when someone doesn't pay them back... ... joy ... ... many people ... ... ... ... ... like that ... ... ... praiseworthy ... ...
Doesn't make much sense, does it? I'd love to claim that I had to take 13 different children at different times out back to the outhouse, but it's not true. The kids occasionally distracted me with a request for water, but in general there were many lost minutes of nothing but noise to me. Hard to subsist on jumbled pieces that don't make sense while you wait for the blanks to be filled with understanding that seeps in at a snail's pace.
Kent was able to fill in most of the meaning I missed on the way home. Apparently, it was a great message about following John the Baptist's example of humility. Ironic.
You may remember the experience I related in of attending Obedi's funeral where his mother, in her early nineties no less, sat in the dirt next to his coffin. I was confused at first that one of the younger sisters was talking right into her ear. I thought maybe she was hard of hearing until I listened for a louder clearer version of Swahili to find the sister was translating into a local language! This grandmother needed a translator to attend her son's funeral.
And left me wondering, how many people in this country are sitting in services hearing messages that are more 'blank' than meaningful? How many grandmothers who come have a limited understanding of Swahili like I do?
Oh that God's Word would bridge the gap and fill in the blanks!
This is why we came.