Friday, September 25, 2015

This is not my home...

I had this thought while thinking about our recent trip to Mexico ... This is not my home.
And it came with some interesting observations.

While we were in Mexico, some of the shops had bilingual signs in Spanish and English. Even the small shops made the effort to accommodate English speaking patrons. In the tourist shop areas, it was pretty mixed between those that spoke very little English to those that had a pretty good grasp of the language. One vendor we spoke with listened to American music to help him learn the English language!

In my home town in Southwest Missouri, many stores also have bilingual signs in English and Spanish. However, I doubt that there are many people that work in the stores that are bilingual or that it is much of a priority to make accommodations for Spanish speaking customers. To be fair, it isn't much of an issue here.

At one small shop in Mexico, the worker (that didn't speak much English) went a couple of shops down to bring someone that did speak English (the guy that listens to American music). Nobody told us that we needed to speak "Mexican" if we wanted to shop in their country!

It's true, we were visitors in Mexico; tourists. We had some money to spend and they wanted us to spend it with them, in their stores. It was good business for them to speak English. But it is also true that it was beneficial for us to be able to speak a little Spanish. Even though I had some expectation of being able to find someone that spoke English in a foreign land, I also knew that I might need to be able to speak a little Spanish or at least find some way of being able to communicate with the natives of the land.

At one point, I found myself in a conversation where I was speaking in my broken Spanish while a Mexican man was speaking in his broken English. We were both trying to make ourselves be understood in the other's native language. At one point, he mentioned that it was easier for him to understand my English than to understand Chris' English. She said it was because I did the accent better, but I have a thought.

Because I do speak a little Spanish (Chris does not), I understand a little bit about how the sentence structure differs and try to construct my English accordingly. I also try to refrain from phrases that we understand to mean something that a foreigner may not understand. (For example -- in one conversation, Chris used the statement, "I'll have to keep that in mind." You and I know that she meant, "I need to remember that." I'm not sure that the Mexican did.)

I was thinking that speaking in a different language is more than understanding words and knowing vocabulary.

...And that got me thinking...

...As Christians, we often say that this is not our home; that we are merely travelers in through this world; that we belong to another...and we speak a different language.

Okay, so we speak the same language but that doesn't mean that we are being understood or doing a good job of communicating what we are trying to say. As with most things, in order to best communicate what we are trying to say, somehow we need to understand what others are actually hearing.

Those that believe differently than we do, generally have a completely different perspective than we do. Did you know that Muslims believe in Jesus? It's true that their understanding of who Jesus is may be different from our belief, and that's where the problem comes. We speak of Jesus as Son of God/Savior. They hear Jesus, wonder worker/prophet.

Others may not believe in God at all. We may need to discuss God from scientific perspective...and we should be able to.

Too often, Christians find themselves in the position of the American in a foreign country that believes if you speak English  s l o w l y  enough and LOUDLY enough, eventually they will understand you. We continue with the same message in the same way and no one understands. But rather than try to find a different way to communicate, we just grow frustrated and talk more loudly until we write them off as hopeless and move on to our next frustrating encounter.

If we are going to consider that we are as pilgrims in a foreign land, then we also have to consider that we may have to form our conversation differently if we expect the natives to understand our message.

I always challenge fellow followers of Jesus to share the simple message that God loves you and Jesus died for you, but that is really just the beginning. It is only meant to be a launching pad for a more in depth conversation about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Let's be sure to consider the thought process of unbelievers as we share His message of Salvation.

John <><


Big Sky Heidi said...

A nice, thoughtful post to read, John. I hope you will have a nice weekend!

Mike said...

I took two years of spanish in high school a looong time ago. I remember noooothing!