Friday, May 08, 2015
Today was Senior Chapel at WCS and as I watched, I was struck by how many of our grads are from Asia. This is about how things are not always what they seem to be. I wrote it on December 7, 2008.
This is Melanie. This delightful ten year old was adopted at one year from a Chinese orphanage, being found abandoned shortly after her birth. Her adoptive mother is an American Christian. Last year, Melanie came home from Sunday school and told her mom they had to go to China and help the little children. Melanie and her mom, a school teacher, raised the funds through much hard work and prayer and made their pilgrimage to Shenyang last July. That's where I met them. Melanie and I became big buddies. We spent a great deal of time together as she was the only child on our mission team and my maturity level allows me to relate easily to that age group. Her mom came to me one day and asked if I had any ideas concerning an obstacle she was unexpectedly encountering. People on the streets would see Melanie and this white American woman and assume the Asian-looking girl was her translator. When they began speaking to Melanie in Chinese, she would not respond and those trying to communicate with her thought she was rude. Little did they know she understood no more than her mother. Melanie survived. She is a world class young lady and an aspiring artist- I have one of her framed masterpieces in my classroom. Horses are her specialty and I treasure mine.All this brings me to last Friday. We had tests in all my classes and I encourage my students to add a prayer request to the bottom of their exam. This was penned by one of my sophomore scholars, a young man from Taiwan:
"Thanks to God for letting the Chinese minister come to my school. Sometimes, I didn't understand what American preachers pray. Because of him, I can understand. I can pray together."
You see, on Thursday, Eric Tan, a Chinese-speaking minister from Singapore who is working with our congregation, spoke in a special chapel for our Chinese students. He obviously made a deep impression on this tenth grader. Understanding is everything, isn't it? Just to make a point, I Googled English-Chinese Translations. I found a website and typed in my student's prayer request to be interpreted. Here is his prayer request in Mandarin:
对上帝的感谢让中国部长来到我的学校。 有时我don' t了解什么美国部长祈祷。 由于他，我可以了解。 我可以一起祈祷。
(I'm not sure why the word don't showed up but it did, even after I retyped. Maybe there is no comparable symbol so it makes sense just to put it into English.)
How many of you can comprehend that prayer request when printed in Chinese? Like me, you have no clue... unless you are one of my Chinese readers. Sometimes, we need some assistance and sometimes we need some explanation. Sometimes, we just need someone to speak in our native tongue so concepts make sense to us. In 1st Corinthians 14, Paul, discussing speaking in tongues, stresses the importance of others being able to understand what is going on in worship. Along those lines, maybe I assume my foreign students comprehend more than they actually do when I teach them from God's word. Maybe it took a prayer request and a Chinese preacher to help me re-examine my methods. It is no more plausible to believe that my Chinese students completely understand me than it is to expect Melanie to be able to converse on the streets of Shenyang, China. But, my Chinese students are rapidly improving their English fluency and who knows if Melanie will one day be curious about her native tongue that is now foreign to her. Until then, thank God for the Eric Tans of the world, who can make the Gospel plain in more than one language. I struggle with only one.
Applicable quote of the day:
"There is the fear, common to all English-only speakers, that the chief purpose of foreign languages is to make fun of us. Otherwise, you know, why not just come out and say it?"
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Posted by Steve Hawley at 8:19 PM