Language Barrier

Hey,this is Lee Swartz posting on Stuart’s account.

Two days in and I’m finally starting to pick up a little Creole or French or French Creole from the children here…valuable words and phrases like “Hot!”…“No, I mean it’s really hot!” and the more slang vernacular for “How are you doing, Caucasian man or woman.” And I have, in turn, taught a few kids the lyrics to 70’d dance anthem “Funky Town,” which not many people know was derived from a 19th century spiritual, “Lord, Won’t You Take Me To.” (In the interest of being honest and good Christian living, I must admit that that last part is not entirely true…He who has sinned much needs much forgiveness.) And despite these important cultural exchanges, a frustrating language barrier exists. The first question the children ask you is, “What is your name?” (In English) And once you respond and ask theirs (In English, of course), you are left with a period awkward and delightful smiling and even more delightful touching. During games and playtime, the children squeeze off Creole on automatic fire and all I can do is shrug my shoulders and smile sheepishly, like I do when I have to tell my wife I’ve done something dumb. Not that all is lost…you immediately recognize the melody when these sweet voices sing in their native tongue, “I’ll never know how much it costs to see my sin upon that cross.” I look down and hold tightly the hands of my new friends Stanley and Sam and little Cecil tugging on my shirt tail and it occurs to me that, perhaps, language barriers are necessary in some instances to keep us “on mission.” Words are powerful…they can be encouraging and, yet, they can me misinterpreted or misunderstood. In His infinite wisdom and mercy we are prevented, through conventional means, from telling these precious kids how much we love them and how they will not be forgotten…so we must show them. Then I briefly remember my skeptical friends and even strangers who have heard the gospel many times but have never seen it. I don’t wish to discount words. God can use them how and when He chooses, but we humans have proven ourselves to be a careless lot and, maybe, we should just concentrate on being love in action and leave the words to Him…Which reminds me of St. Francis’ famous directive to “Preach the gospel wherever you go and when necessary, use words.” Without conversation constructed of verbal language, the orphans of the T.O.V. and Julie’s House and Nicole’s House have spoken to and melted our hearts…with wide eyes and even wider smiles and hugs you with would never end…They sing a melody sweeter and clearer than “Here I Am To Worship” and certainly more uplifting than “Funky Town,” though I maintain that there’s a good chance that there’s a Funky Town section of Heaven. While I fear that our attempts to out-love these kids will fail, I pray that we, at least, make the final tally respectable.


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