Saturday, March 02, 2019

Speed Zone

Often in past years, when I've spoken to adults, it's been through a translator, either in our Chinese congregation in Houston or summers in Vietnam when I preach. In the above picture, I am teaching children in a Christian orphanage in Hunan Province, China aided by my interpreter for the summer, Lavender. The following, from March 25, 2010, is about an odd side effect to being interpreted into another language!

For the past eight years, I've been in charge of the communion service each Sunday in our Chinese worship service. After a passage of Scripture is read, I share some devotional thoughts about the meaning of our celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. I lead our group in prayer for the bread and cup and we partake of the Lord's Supper. Something happened this past Sunday morning that caught me off guard. At the end of each sentence in my remarks and in my prayers, I caught myself pausing. There was a reason. Every word I've spoken to my Asian brothers and sisters over the years has been translated from English to Chinese. On Sunday, though, a number of our Mandarin speaking members whose English skills are not advanced were absent. James, one of our Chinese brothers, suggested that we did not need to translate my thoughts as everyone present was fluent in English. And so, for the first time, my words were only heard in my native tongue.

It takes time to become accustomed to being translated into another language. I've had that privilege in both Chinese and Spanish. I can comprehend some things in Espanol but nothing in Chinese. Sometimes, I kid my Chinese interpreter, Yirong Gu, that he messed up in a few places and he always tolerates my attempts at humor. Truthfully, though, the speaker is at the mercy of the translator. At times with a new translator, I'm not sure whether he is finished with my sentence or if he is fishing for a word to complete the thought. So sometimes I begin my next profound sentiment too quickly. This is what I discovered about myself last Sunday: I found the presence of an interpreter causes me to stop and think about what I'm going to say next. I never blurt out words I regret when I am being channeled into another vernacular because my pauses act as a filter. James, chapter 1, tells me that I should be slow to speak (verse 19) and that I should keep a tight rein on my tongue (verse 26). Maybe it's just easier when I speak to people who can't understand me. If only I could afford a full-time interpreter- I'm sure my life would be simpler.

Applicable quote of the day:
''Jesus Christ is our supreme commander, but He operates only through His word, which is unquestionably a training manual. However, He has many interpreters, and few people see the Bible as a true training manual.''

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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I think you are doing such a worthwhile job, it sort of put a lot of things for me into perspective. I have changed much over the years more positive and for once I have an inner peace that have evaded me for many years.
Sure I had a bad patch in life but one has to expereience the bad to appreciate the good.
Thank you for sharing.

Lynda Young said...

I love the book of James. I have to regularly read it as a reminder to watch my tongue. It's easy to edit when I write because I have the time, but speaking is a whole other thing.

Nalini Hebbar said...

a word once uttered can never be swallowed...'eat your words' is such a wrong usage...reminds me of the boy and the fence story.

hallmark said...

It's hard to believe that it has already been 8 years that you have been working with the Chinese at Westbury. I still remember how excited Xian was when you started working with them. Excellent investment.

Trudy said...

What a blessing to have the interpreters! I think you're right though, we could all benefit from slowing down and really thinking about everything we say!

Blessings to you!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks for the follow :)

Greg said...

Hi, Steve. I noticed you as a new follower on my blog, so I decided to stop by.

Good lesson in public speaking. The whole time I was thinking, "Jesus must have also chosen His words very carefully, for He knew they would be read for generations to come."