No Language Barrier (Visiting Church #20)
There’s a Mandarin service followed by one in English;. We attend both. The worship team leads us. The words to the song are displayed in Mandarin and have the English translation underneath. They sing and I listen to voices of a different tongue. God’s presence engulfs me. When others raise their hands, I wonder if I should too, even though I don’t understand the specific reason why. It’s a question I can’t answer.
A prayer follows. I comprehend not one word until “Amen.” Next is the scripture text, read in unison. The woman in front of me has a parallel bilingual Bible, so I know they’re reading Exodus 19 or 20. Later, the projector displays “20:3-17” surrounded by Chinese characters. I turn to Exodus 20:3-17 and see the Ten Commandments.
The minister is a dynamic speaker, animated, and at times joking. I find myself laughing too, even though I don’t know what’s funny. Laughter is contagious, a universal language. I don’t expect to understand the message, but I do expect the Holy Spirit to speak to me. He doesn’t—or perhaps he did and I missed it. I know the sermon is over when I hear “Amen.”
We sing the “Doxology.” The tune is familiar, but the words are Mandarin. I consider their English equivalents as others sing. The service concludes with the “Threefold Amen.” This time I can join in.
The second service uses a different song set, but the scripture and sermon are the same, albeit in English.
They invite us to stay for lunch, something they do every Sunday. “Sharing a meal is important to us,” one lady explains. We gratefully accept and sit down to eat, making new connections as we enjoy the food.
Today is a great day at church. Although our only language is not their primary one, we manage just fine.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.