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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Language Lessons

“I should note that you will have to work through a translator…”

THAT set my mind spinning.

The e-mail update from Steve Bryan, my friend from Ethiopia, was letting me know about some pastors’ training events I was going to be speaking at. I will have the privilege of working with the Kale Heywet Church, Ethiopia’s largest denomination, in their “Disciple-Making Pastor” project when our team goes to Ethiopia from March 10-22. This denomination has over 7,000 churches and there is a great need for the growth and development of pastoral leadership. I will be going to two different cities – Mizan Teferi and Jemma (check them out on Google Maps!) – and meet with a group of pastors in each city to talk about leadership and discipleship. That is pretty exciting! And then I read those words…

“I should note that you will have to work through a translator…”

As I have thought about this great adventure to Ethiopia, I have wrestled with what I should focus on in my teaching. I am painfully aware that the difference in cultures between Placerville and Ethiopia are vast. It is making me think about whether the things I do and teach in ministry are simply cultural or whether they transcend culture.

All ministry takes place in the context of a particular culture and when you think about Jesus’ church in the world, those cultures are extremely diverse. Yet, even though times, places, languages, cultures and people change the timeless message of the Gospel remains the same. How could that be?

“I should note that you will have to work through a translator…”

I go back to my friend’s words. The thought of speaking using a translator is a bit of a challenge. But I am reminded that it is actually how God speaks to us all the time. I am not left alone to try and figure out how I can contribute to those I will be with in Ethiopia. Long ago God has made a provision for our weakness. He has sent a translator.

John 14:26-27 (NIV)
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.“

Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

It is a great comfort to me to be reminded that in any new, strange or uncomfortable place I might find myself, I am not alone. Through the Holy Spirit, God is speaking my language to encourage me, teach me and lead me.

And you, as well, should take comfort in the truth that you are not on your own. There is one who speaks the very words of God into your heart and mind that is forever with you. He will speak truth and lead you. Trust him.

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