This is where my mind was prior to my first meeting and message with the local CRU members.
Yeah, I could spout a bunch of Christian-isms to myself but honestly, who among us wouldn’t be even the slightest bit uncertain before speaking to a group of people who do not share your language or culture?
Given a 3 days’ notice, all the information I had was the topic “words of encouragement.”
At first thought it seemed easy enough, it is in my wheel house of topics- as a westerner.
There is the crux of my issue, I am a westerner. I am a westerner being asked to give “words of encouragement about evangelism” to people I have never met, cannot converse with on my own, and do not share a culture with.
Whoa. I do like to try new things but this is really outside the comfy Christian couch box. This was something most have never done or contemplated. I know I hadn’t.
So everyone wants to know how it went. So do I! Some time has past and I am still unsure. I would be lying if I told you anything different.
I arrived on time to the school house where the meeting would take place, with the kids and snacks in tow. There were only a handful of people sitting around outside when I arrived. What we consider late in military circles, or on time in good ol’ civilian life is early around here. I boldly greeted those waiting in the humid shade alone since my translator was no where in sight and made our way in to settle the children in a seat and find a place for myself.
Electricity? What electricity? That is how we roll with a monopoly running the electric service here. Is it just me or does anyone else have cartoon figures manipulating control panels in their head when a company has a monopoly on a service? Maybe humorous cartoons in my head make it all more palatable.
Not many have arrived and the sun is going down. So a gentleman, who appears in charge- at least for the moment, decides we will go ahead with prayer time and hope for more arrivals.
Yup, prayer time is different. It is uh, well, LOUD! One of my daughters said, “It’s vibrating my feet.” That made me laugh. I am not too sure what anyone prayed about but the prayers were definitely passionate. I like passion.
Finally, my CRU counterpart arrives! After a quick discussion it is decided I will speak now-right now. Later, after the meeting, I learned they would normally have done praise and worship time. Due to the on going lack of electricity, they thought it best to speed the meeting up before the sun went down.
I have never spoken to a group with a translator. He did not have my notes prior to the meeting and I did not have time to translate them into French either. 3 days is not enough time for such luxury. So we were pressing forward and hoping for the best! Just jump in feet first, right? That is how I usually do it anyway so why change my method of madness now?
This group is not the most expressive or vocal- or at all while I spoke! I found this interesting since they just thundered the room in prayer. I absolutely get a better read on my American audience since you guys nod or interject. This feed back is helpful; I received zero helpful guidance about how the message was being received this time. I have been spoiled by you guys!
While I spoke, which went on a lot longer than expected due to the translation, many people trickled in. So a sparse room became a packed room before I was done.
Afterwards, I left it open for questions. I anticipated for something to be “lost in translation.” One guys had plenty. He was my “good student,” you know the kind that sit in the front row and take notes. Not sure what he wrote down but I took mental notes along the way when he did. Okay, so I had one guy that was my cheat sheet on how I was doing.
Mid way through questions, translators swapped. A few leaders were working on electricity issues the whole time I was speaking. He had no fear in letting me know if I was not satisfactorily answering questions for him or my good student in the front row. Thankfully, I have had my share of…. let’s say challenging students in the past and did not become rattled because of it. So thank you to all who have given me a hard time in class in the past, it helped me keep my head on and stay cool.
Something we discussed is the importance of being in the Word. I had brought up Galatians 5:22-23 during the message but realized during Q & A time I needed to back up in the scripture. Of course I had forgotten my bible is a hurried state so I had only a French copy laying about. Because I have memorized and studied the word I knew what Galatians 5:16-21 said. I grabbed up a French bible, flipped to the correct passage and asked my translator to read it. Without being able to understand what he read I knew the passage by heart. So, I then made the second point, if you read, study, and memorize God’s Word and pray about what He wants to reveal through you, you can bring Truth to anyone whether you share the same language or culture or not.
Afterward we “shared a little something together.” Which in my point of view meant the children and I getting a cup of something sugary and a plate of chips and something local. I didn’t feel so much as we were sharing in something but more that we were given something to awkwardly eat in front of others.
Gabonese are very polite people. I am a guest and that seems to mean I will be served and I will not help them. That is going to be a tough one for me to get used to. A servants’ heart is of no use in this moment.
Before leaving I spoke with the director and another man who seems in charge but I am not quite sure his position. They have asked me to speak at every meeting which is twice a month and to do conferences. Well, I guess I didn’t bomb then? That is a lot and I could use prayer for God to guide me in this endeavor. I do not see a packed schedule such as that occurring so finding the right balance of how to help them in a way that builds them up and does not rely on me is key to my mission here.
Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.
He is risen; Happy Easter everyone.