Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Lost in Translation May 27, 2008

Filed under: Language,Uncategorized — Jen @ 9:48 pm

Of course preaching on Sunday could not go as planned. (I’ve been in Mozambique long enough to know that.) I arrived at the church early and was surprised when the service started with Jorge absent. He is usually punctual, and I worried that I had misunderstood where we were supposed to meet. When he finally arrived fifteen minutes into the worship time, he told me that my translator, who had confirmed the night before, had not shown up and was not answering his phone. Somehow that didn’t surprise me. Not because it’s like the translator to do that, but because this is Mozambique. Then Jorge said, “But you can do it in Portuguese.” Realizing six days earlier that it would have been more effort than it was worth to plan a sermon in Portuguese, I had told him early in the week that I’d be willing to preach if there was a translator. Had I known there might not be a translator, I would have put in the effort to plan at least a short, simple message in Portuguese! He tried to convince me I really could do it in Portuguese. I looked over my notes. No, I really couldn’t translate myself. He talked to the pastor’s wife who then came over and tried to convince me herself that I could do it in Portuguese. I calmly said, “I can converse in Portuguese, but I can’t preach in Portuguese.” But inside I was screaming, “Stop making me feel guilty for not being able to preach in Portuguese this morning! You promised me a translator! Why don’t you preach?”

While everyone else was singing, I looked over my notes to see what I feasibly could do in Portuguese. I finally decided that, with Jorge’s help, I could lead a Bible study discussion instead on the same passage. Thankfully before I announced that, Jorge, who had been outside talking to the pastor’s wife, returned to tell me that she was going out to bring a translator for me.

About half an hour later, after much lively singing and dancing, I looked up to see a Brazilian missionary friend of mine walking in the door. He had an amused look on his face that said: This better be good!

Indeed it was. Once he was there, the preaching went smoothly. I definitely am not a Mozambican preacher. I never shout, never utter an Hallelujah or Amen, and actually use notes. But I taught a song which included wiggling down to the floor and jumping up again, I had people standing then sitting during the message, and only one person fell asleep. Plus, people thanked me at the end and even invited me back.

Later that day I was sharing my experience with a Swedish missionary friend. He told me how he was preaching once in Portuguese, which was then being translated into the local dialect. He decided to be funny at one point and switched into Swedish for a sentence. And the translator, without skipping a beat, continued to translate into the dialect! At least with English to Portuguese, I know if it’s my words that are being communicated.

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2 Responses to “Lost in Translation”

  1. renee Says:

    God was in control, right? What passage did you preach on?

  2. Jen Says:

    Matthew 18:1-6


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