My church is blessed to be multicultural, and over the years we have fellowshipped with newcomers who immigrated to Canada from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Congo and other non-English speaking nations. As I was in missions for several years, something deep inside me is fed as I look across the congregation, and witness so many cultures worship together.
A few years ago, two women from Sudan joined a small group that I helped lead. Work and family responsibilities only allowed them to be with us for only a few months. During their time with us, however, the ladies entered into worship and fellowship as much as they were able to do so. Their inability to speak fluent Canadian English did make it difficult to communicate. The little English they did speak was a pigeon dialect, and it was sometimes impossible for the rest of us to understand. As they were both mothers with small children, they could only attend language classes provided for newcomers on a part-time basis.
Each week these ladies persevered. They fought past their shyness and the fear of being ridiculed. In turn, we tried to reach out to our friends. Using hand gestures and a few words of French and broken English, they shared prayer requests and prayed for the needs of others, often blessing us by praying in their mother tongue. They gifted us with their hearts and their trust. When they were able, they attended our potlucks and sampled our Canadian food with genuine thanksgiving. They were blessed by our friendship even when our manners and customs confused them.
In the same way that I am drawn to immigrants to Canada, I am attracted to newcomers to my faith. I was once a new believer as well, and I remember my struggles back then. I didn’t know the language of God’s heart. I was hopelessly confused by Scripture passages that seemed to contradict each other. Not only was the language different, but the Evangelical Christian culture was foreign to me. The haphazard rules of etiquette from my partying days were at odds with the church potluck etiquette! Different music, different focuses, different values. I seldom felt that I was fully grasping the subtle nuances as I listened to those who appeared to be longtime citizens of this new land called Faith. They had been in this new land a lot longer than I, and sometimes, I felt as if they forgot I wasn’t quite up to their speed. I felt like I was lagging behind.
I am forever grateful for those who noticed I was struggling to keep up and patiently walked along with me, answering my myriad of questions, both spoken and unspoken. To those who graciously acted as my tour guides and helped me learn the street maps of my new home, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.By welcoming me into their homes and modelling what it looked like to live in a culture of integrity, love, forgiveness, and mercy, they helped me learn a practical skill set I would have learned no other way.
Pray with me. If you have been blessed to have such navigators in your life, then determine to pay it forward. If you’ve not been fortunate to have such people in your life, ask the Lord to help you to start your own legacy.
Father God, I thank for the dear men and women in my life who guided me through the often time confusing culture I found myself in as a new believer. May I be mindful of my phraseology and may I limit unnecessary Christianese if I am not willing to explain terminology in a gracious, honouring, and respectful way. May my eyes and ears be attentive and on the lookout for newcomers who are too afraid to admit they don’t understand the culture of their newfound faith. Help me to understand when they don’t have the words yet to express what is troubling them in their spirits. Most of all, may my heart be open and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Lord, keep me as a bridge builder, let me be the first to reach out the hand of fellowship. May I always extend the same grace and love that was shown to me. Give me to tools I need to gently guide the newcomers and the yet to arrive into the ways of the Kingdom of God.
All Bible verses, unless otherwise attributed, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Until Next Week
©2017 Katherine Walden
Sign up to receive a weekly emailed devotional by Katherine by using the following form.