WORDS FROM W.W. July 30, 2012
“The Confusion of Language”
Carol and I are hosting two twelve year old Chinese boys for a week. It’s an organization that matches up host families with the students who are in our area to study the English language, as well as experience American culture. The experience has been…an experience! The boys are very polite, and to help us they’ve been given American names while they are here. Thus, we are hosting “Alan” and “Andy.” Those names are a far cry from their real Chinese names.
Quite often I’ll say something to them, and the response I receive is two confused looks. For instance, how do you explain to a twelve year old Chinese boy that we are having a garage sale? How do you explain garage sales anyway?
How do you explain “Sonic Drive-Ins?” How do you explain “grits?”
How do you explain worship to boys who aren’t familiar with the concept? Since they are learning English the sermon slides on the screen in the front of the sanctuary are a little…advanced! I’m saying one thing, plus the words on the screen are saying something else.
If I was a 58 year old in a Chinese marketplace I might run for my life!
So Carol and I took the easy way out last night. We took them to a Chinese restaurant where the owner speaks Chinese. They had a great conversation. We felt temporarily relieved. The owner did share with us that the boys wanted more rice. I said, “Great! Bring them another bowl!” She replied, “No, I mean they want more rice…everyday!” We quickly scratched mashed potatoes off the dinner menu for the next night and penciled in rice.
I offered yogurt to them for breakfast and they curled up their noses like I was offering possum. Of course, Carol also frowns at me if I offer her yogurt.
We also discovered an app for our iPhones where we can speak a sentence in English and then it will be translated into the written Chinese language. We show the translation to them and are greeted with nods and replies.
So many challenges, so many stories in the making.
It has made me think about my own prayer language. Although I pray there are times in my journey where I tend to think that others will do it. Kind of like yielding the owner of the restaurant to do the conversing…it just seems like it’s the responsibility of someone else. Or perhaps, someone else can do it better so I willingly hand off the duty.
Also, although God knows exactly what I’m saying to him, there are a multitude of times where he is speaking to me, but I’m not hearing him. I’m just not getting it! Sometimes I just don’t want to get it! It’s easier to remain confused! It’s more convenient to only hear certain things being said, to stay within certain language boundaries.
So I’m thankful for Andy and Alan. They’ve taught me a lot even though quite often we miss the connection.