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. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of manmade traditions and practices. Read more in his blog, books, and personal weekly email updates.