>Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying…

>The road from Santiago, D.R. to Quanaminth, Haiti is a bumpy one. Up and down mountains. Past huts and towns. It’s quite the journey.

I was on my way with a bunch of Dominican ministers to build a school. But they had other plans. Here’s a conversation from the van as we were jostled along…

“Hey, when we get there we’ll need someone to cook for us.”

“Yup.”

“Well, who’s going to make our meals?”

“Uh, why do you think we brought Susie?”

What? They wanted me to cook? I laughed it off. Just because I was the only female on the trip didn’t mean they expected me to cook. Right? RIGHT? Seriously…

Well, I was sent straight away to the dark, Haitian kitchen. I was given the groceries: chicken (with feathers, talons and head), beans (not in a can, mind you), plantains and the biggest vat of oil you can imagine. I had no clue what I was supposed to do.

And the lady in the kitchen only spoke Creole. All I could say in her tongue was “I don’t speak Creole” and “avocado”. She tried. Poor lady. She talked to me almost non-stop. And I smiled, trying to communicate through charades. She understood by my inability to pluck the chicken that she needed to do that. And when I nearly chopped off my thumb, well, she showed me how to peal the plantain. Somehow a meal was made. A dinner that didn’t cause explosive diarrhea or death. And even after all that time, I still had no idea what the woman was trying to say to me.

Sometimes I feel that way about denominational differences. Thrust into a debate, unfamiliar territory for me, I get all tensed up. I make a fool out of myself. I get all nervous and sweaty and I break out in hives. It’s not pretty. Not at all. I don’t want to be there. I’m not wanted there. And nothing much is accomplished when all involved refuse to communicate, choosing only to rant and rave. Using Scripture (often far out of context) and self-righteousness (not the good kind) we plow over each other when, really, we probably agree on more than we know. We just don’t take the time to understand one another.

I was raised in a United Methodist church. I attended a predominately Christian Reformed private school. I went to a Restoration Movement Bible college (Church of Christ/Christian Church). I took what I was taught in my Sunday School, Bible and Theology classes and believed everything I heard (oops). I didn’t allow myself to doubt. I looked down on Catholics and Charismatics (equal opportunity snobbery). And I refused to think of things differently. I thought I was the bomb diggidy. (do people even say that anymore?)

But then, life happened. I was hurt. I saw how damaging it is when the Body of Christ tears at its own flesh. And it broke me. I realized that I dismissed others simply because I didn’t understand them. I couldn’t speak their language and didn’t know that I should try.

It was only when I watched them moving, when I looked into the fruit of my brothers and sisters that I saw something amazing and beautiful. I saw that we all, deep down, desire the same thing. We desire to be the people of Jesus. We want to emulate Him, shining from our core with His love. We are family. Jesus’ blood covers all of us.

Honestly, I still don’t know what a lot of you are saying. I have to admit, I disagree with some of you. Regardless, we have a link to one another. And we’ve got to figure out how to spend the rest of forever together. So, let’s at least play a game of charades and learn how to work together!

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15 thoughts on “>Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying…

  1. >I agree very much with what you're saying. I too was raised Methodist (with some Presbyterian thrown in for flavor). As an aspiring linguist, I can relate to not understanding what someone is saying (and to people not understanding me when I start talking about fricatives and participles).I've educated myself in the doctrine debates as much as I can, but there is still a lot that goes over my head. Thanks for the post.

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  2. Trying to catch up will be difficult, but it looked like this was where I should start.
    “And we’ve got to figure out how to spend the rest of forever together.” – Love this!

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  3. Alan and I have had our own experiences of learning in this area. Even taken time off from paid ministry to ‘experience the church at large’. I, too, dislike confrontations. But I’m getting better (and hopefully wiser by doing so) at opening up and taking time to find the correct, loving, truthful words that God needs to be spoken in those situations. Even something as trivial as chatting has shown me that if I have (give myself) just those few extra seconds, I am able to sift through and find words that hopefully won’t leave me feeling foolish or full of regret. But just being in those situations are so against my nature.

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