Tag Archives: Let’s Start Talking

Unexpected Answer, Unexpected Question

In our Let’s Start Talking project, we often repeat Luke stories because we sometimes meet with six or seven readers a day. Thus we teach the same lessons multiple times. The questions and answers, however, are not the same. For example, lesson four is about Jesus staying in the temple in Jerusalem to talk and listen with religious leaders. His parents on their way home don’t know this and think he is lost.

One of the questions I often ask the reader after reading this story is, “Have you ever been lost?” Usually the answers center around being lost in a store or at a festival. This middle-aged reader we will call Leo thought for a moment and in his limited English said, “Yes, a long time ago.” I wasn’t clear on what that meant, so I asked him more about the situation. I quickly realized he was talking about being lost spiritually! He said he eventually found Jesus and is no longer lost. That answer surprised me, but I realized he had made an excellent point.

I have preached many sermons on the crucifixion and events surrounding it. Yesterday with another reader I was talking about how the blood of Jesus takes away our sins because he died on the cross.

Then he asked, “How does the blood take away your sins?” Finding words to give a clear and accurate answer to one who is newly learning about Jesus was for me very difficult. What seemed logical in a sermon no longer seemed to fit this young and curious reader. How does the blood of a person who was killed 2000 years save us today? I did not do a very good job. Since our reading together, I have been mulling over a better answer so I will be prepared when that question is asked again.

Since many readers have a limited knowledge of the Bible and all are from a different culture, finding the right answer and responding to an unexpected answer certainly keep me from growing weary of doing the same lesson multiple times.

A Contrast in Readers

In the first two days of sessions with readers, I have quite a contrast in my readers’ interests and language skills. For example, Alex is a very talented, bright 22-year-old. His English is excellent, although his search for the right word in English is sometimes challenging. He reads the Luke stories well and has excellent questions. His pronunciation skills are way above average among most of my readers. His questions are frequent and challenging. For example, one question he asked today was, “Is the devil one person or several?” after reading the story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This led to a stimulating conversation about places in the Bible where the devil is mentioned.

In addition, he comes from a very stable family where both parents have successful careers and who give him much moral support. He comes to our sessions with a smile on his face and a look of anticipation as we begin the session.

In contrast is Edmonson, a middle-aged gentleman, whose English is very limited. Often I will have to repeat a sentence several times before he understands, and even then I have confused him. As you know, I speak very rapidly and that makes it even more difficult for us to have a conversation even when I slow down. In addition, he is broken-hearted about his family problems.

One of my most challenging words to explain to him was the word, “careful.” I tried several times to give an example of the word and also provided what I thought were appropriate definitions. Nothing worked. Finally, we both agreed just to move on.

Edmilson is really earnest about his desire to learn better English skills and he also is very concerned about his faith. Because of his family problems, he stopped attending worship services at his church. He says, however, that he believes in God and believes what the Bible teaches. There is definitely an opportunity to help him regain his faith in organized religion. I was exhausted at the end of the session and somewhat discouraged. As I walked him to the door, he shook my hand and said, “I really enjoyed our conversation tonight.”

I was reminded of the LST motto, “God’s Word is the teacher and you are the illustration.” Even though I feel inadequate about sharing the good news, God will find a way through us.

Think Ahead

Our Let’s Start Talking (LST) mission project this summer is unusual in that we know the people we will be working with. We worked with the same brothers and sisters two summers ago. In our previous LST projects, we were working with a congregation for the first time. Because I know many of the key people involved in making this mission work a success, I have been praying for them by name for some time.

Knowing I will have some of the same readers I had in 2012, I have a list of names I remember and lift up in prayer. I look ahead to the month of July when we will do most of our work; I pray about the social events that help everyone get acquainted with the local church members. I pray about the worship services which we hope some of our readers will visit.

I think of the preparation missionary Cris Carpenter has done and is doing to help make our work as smooth and trouble-free as possible.

This was certainly an approach Paul used in some of his letters. After he had worked with a congregation and was anticipating visiting again, he would begin or end the letter by remembering them fondly and affirming his prayers for them. For example, he wrote to the church at Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians1:3-4.) He lets them know he is looking forward to seeing them again soon, but in the meantime he hopes to send his special follow worker, Timothy, to them (Philippians 2:19-24). He tells them he is sending Epaphroditus back to them because he longs to see his friends after his serious illness (Philippians 2:25-27).

I think about the community of Christians we are leaving in Cheviot and all the things happening in ministry there in July and August. There will be Vacation Bible School, church camps, weekly volleyball, Life Groups, the Bread of Life Cafe, and the men’s retreat, among other ministries. Often our prayers are for what is happening today or this week, but we can also think to the weeks and months ahead.

Get a head start in prayer time by considering the ministries you will be involved with the rest of the summer. The LST projects motivate me to plan ahead to ways I can serve the Lord that my day-to-day activities often push aside.

Why should these ministries be of such great concern to us? Why should our thoughts be on people we want to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ? As Paul writes in the same Philippian letter, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20.)

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