Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who's my interpreter?!

As you can imagine, I was quite excited to arrive in Geita, Tanzania this past February after months of preparation and prayer.  That first Monday morning I was ready to jump into teaching the ministry classes with great enthusiasm.  Looking around at those who were coming together, I asked, “Who will be translating for me?”  “We are expecting Ezra, the young man who assisted Fr. Francis last year, to be coming to work with you,” was the reply.  “So, where is he?”  “Oh, he is in Mwanza finishing up some university exams.  He will be here next week.”

Ahhh!  After all my careful preparation, I show up for the two weeks of classes in this town only to be told my interpreter is coming next week!  I did not have very charitable thoughts at that moment.  I began praying silently, “Oh Lord, you know what is going on; you know what we need.  Help!”  I thought to myself, “Don’t get overwrought, this is a different culture, let’s see what happens.”  After a couple minutes I cautiously inquired, “Who will be helping me this week?”  “Well, we know this English teacher from a village around here who has agreed to come help you this first week.”

Again, not very charitable thoughts!  Some English teacher from a little village!  And I am supposed to be teaching important theological material!  What if he is not a Christian and doesn’t know the right words in Swahili?  “Lord, are you sure this is your will?  I said I would trust you with every detail of this trip, but you have to admit this doesn’t sound too good.  What should I do?”  Keep smiling and say, “That sounds fine, thanks for making the arrangements for me.”  We have to remember that this is Africa and we do things their way when we are here.

So, this is how I met Reuben, a soft spoken, humble, Christian man with a beautiful smile (that I never could capture on camera!) who became my good friend in the five days we had together.  God indeed did know what he was doing; how did I ever doubt him at all?  I know how; my flesh got in the way, causing my faith to falter for a day while I was fuming over “someone’s poor planning”.  Oh how quickly we judge people and make presumptions about situations, when we KNOW that God is in control.  But, when the Son of Man returns to the earth, will he find us faithful?

There were times when I would explain a difficult concept to Reuben, who would listen carefully for a couple minutes, ask a question or two, then say “I got it now”.  Then off he'd go, teaching and discussing the idea with the students for five minutes or more.  At first, I would get quite nervous – I’ve no idea what they are saying – is it correct?  But, I thought to myself, wait patiently upon the Lord, He is in control here, not me.  Trust Him.  I learned to sit back and enjoy watching them learn together.  As I interacted with the students, questioning them to make sure they understood the material properly, I discovered that Reuben was doing an excellent job.  He really was a gifted teacher.

Oh Lord, our God, how infinite is Thy wisdom; who can understand Thy ways?  Yet again, I am being taught to trust in you in every circumstance.  Forgive me for my doubts and judgments of others.  You really do know what you are doing!

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Br. Nathan

Reuben and myself at the Anglican church in Geita.

Reuben interpreted my sermons for two church services.

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