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.
Where are my prayer buddies?
You may recall that I became part of the CRU team as International Affiliate Staff. This weekend I have been asked, by the local CRU director, to speak to the local ministry group and other local Christians. This will be my first time speaking to this group and to date I have only met two of the local ministry people. Well, second time really but right after a girl lands in a foreign continent is a little soon to speak. I needed to see straight before trying to put a speech together.
Please keep me in prayers as I prepare these “words of encouragement.”
I simply pray to be a vessel, a mouth piece, of encouragement from the Lord. Nothing I say is of any worth but words of the Father is living water. Let whatever I prepare to speak about be just that.
This is also the first time I will use a translator. Pray with me that the Lord gives him the words also. Translating from english to french is actually difficult.
I truly believe God orchestrated this whole African adventure; although, I feel truly insufficient when I think about the task at hand, I can’t wait to have a front row seat to His mighty work. The place I serve may change but He never does.
They have asked me to come encourage them in their endeavor to serve God and this ministry. It is true that from a westerner in a western culture I have plenty to say on the subject. I understand the struggle to maintain consistent and or committed members. I understand the plight of weariness, being downtrodden, and burdened. I understand so many trials of ministry leadership; however, from a westerner in an African country, all I think is I have much to learn.
I am excited and humbled; I look forward to sharing how the meeting, or “reunion” as we say in french, goes.
It is January and like everyone else, presumably, I am contemplating last year and looking ahead at this coming year.
Where am I? Have I fallen back or have I made great strides in my life? Isn’t that, truly, the whole point of resolutions, to finding something to redeem or improve within ourselves?
I am not going to lie, I do not think I am, or feel like, the woman I was in 2014. I took a beating in 2015, there is no way to get around it or sugar coat it to move forward to 2016. I have no intention of staying stagnant so I have to look it straight in the eye.
I think that will be the theme of my year. Not because I chose it but because that is what I see before me as the option.
What do I mean by this? I mean, fellowship is and is likely to remain slim, anemically so, pickings around here.
I have some things on my mind and I am hard pressed to figure out who to talk to. You know, in regular life, you have a spiritual buddy or two. You have someone you go to when you need to hash out an idea, get a second option, or assist with a problem. So when you are basically the lone protestant Christian and your friends are 6 -9 hour time zone away, where does one turn?
Sure, we know the answer is the Bible, don’t we? It is one of those christian phrases we throw out like, “I’ll pray for you” or “have a blessed day” but do we actually follow our own advice to, “look in the Bible?”
It is not always our first instinct, is it? Many times we just want to curl up on the couch and Netflix binge or have coffee with a trusted friend or mentor. Yeah, you know it true, I know it is true.
It is not wrong to look for a friend or mentor to talk to. In fact it is Biblical (ex. Timothy, Titus) but it should never be our only source. We are not called to follow man but to follow God.
And yet, in 2015, I was so battered the best I could muster was a silent broken cry from my soul. I was definitely in Netflix binge mode. Well, Hulu, but who says that?
I think we all could relate to this at some point in our life. This is what life is, valleys and peaks. To say none of us have felt so weighted down at some time (or two or three) in our life would be flat-out denial.
Isn’t He amazing! As heavy as I felt I always had hope. Why? Because He never leaves us there. He patiently waits for us to climb out with a hand extended. To say His grace is sufficient for me is an understatement! Just writing that sentence makes me tear up because the words are so powerful. How can one not serve such a God that grows us and waits with us even through the storm?
I was not at my best and like any human my least favorite parts of me seep out. You know those parts we all strive to cover and hide from the general public. Those parts of us we strive so hard to bury but God knows all about, regardless of our fruitless efforts. Yup. Not a banner year for me.
Ostrich. Lots of wanting to be an ostrich moments.
Not even Job rode a storm and said, “I sailed through that perfectly. I never made mistake or sinned the whole time!” So, never beat yourself up about it, just get up, dust off, and move forward. Storms in life are meant to mold, shape, and purify. They are not tragic low lowpoints in your life because beauty is going to come from it.
Onward and upward!
Feeling like I may be able to breathe again, I am looking forward. I feel both terrifyied and excited to see what lies ahead in 2016. I will miss the direct and immediate (time zones) conversations with friends and spiritual buddies while I am here; however, I choose to see this as an opportunity to be free from distractions and focus on what matters: God my creator, Jesus my savior, and the Holy Spirit my counselor.
Time to refocus and get back in tune with why I was created with my creator. Time to grow deeper.
I would love to hear what you think this year has in store for you.