Sunday, April 21, 2013

Prejudices in the Pew...

Sterile Worship.  I am so uncomfortable.  Let's just jet. What are they doing?  What are these lines they stand in?  Why are we all facing the back right now?  Where is my family supposed to sit and are we breaking some kind of tacit cultural rule if we sit in the wrong spot?  Why are we standing up and turning around while singing this song?

Ethnic Church Visit was our MAF assignment for the day and here we were trying to fulfill it.  My discomfort level was at an all-new high.  Our class was given a list of ethnic churches to visit today and we all had to choose a different church.  The Danforth Four chose one and we were excited to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ across ethnic and linguistic barriers.

Until I walked through THOSE doors.

I didn't get the system.  I didn't want to offend anyone.  I didn't know if my simply standing there breathing was the very offense I didn't wish to cause because I simply didn't know what the rules were.  I had never been to a service like this, one of Sterile Worship, with this game of religious acts to which I didn't know the rules.  I scribbled a note to my husband in French, "I am SO uncomfortable.  This is definitely a cultural experience for me."

Let's back up about an hour.  The pre-requisite to this assignment was a time of meditation on Psalm 139 and searching my heart before the Lord as to my attitude towards those different than me and an invitation to have Him show me how to respond to these people.  Flashes of different ethnic groups I have worked with, played with, sung with, traveled with, and lived with flashed through my mind. These flashing faces didn't make me uncomfortable.

But then, you see, I stepped through the doors of THIS church.  We got the wrong church, thanks to our trusty GPS, and all of these people looked just like me.  They spoke like me.  I understood their words, but not their ritualistic religion.  I know this denomination, but it is different than my home church or any church I have visited.  I know they are family in Christ, but I did not know the rules to their Sunday Morning Game and I felt like an idiot.

Here's an MK tip of the day.  Being surrounded by ethnic minorities and languages you don't understand are hardly paramount of "discomfort".  For an MK, the crowning moment of uncomfortable cultural experience is being thrown into a room of people who look and speak like you but where you haven't been introduced to their tacit rules.     

In that moment, God took my prejudices and my discomfort of Sterile Worshippers and stuck them right in front of my nose.  We could have left.  We were, after all, at the wrong church.  We could have driven off in search of the Hispanic church we were SUPPOSED to visit.  But my discomfort intrigued me and I knew God was surfacing the offensive way in me before my very eyes so that He could lead me in the way of understanding.  Sterile Worshippers, I don't understand your ways.  Nor would you understand the ways of Unrestrained Worshippers.  Yet we ARE brothers and sisters in Christ.

My discomfort intrigued me to the point of needing to stay for coffee and to speak with at least a few of these people who look like me, speak like me, and worship not like me.  They weren't so scary after all.

I don't know what my MAF instructor will say tomorrow.  The assignment of attending an ethnic minority church is not fulfilled.  But that particular button doesn't drive me to face my discomfort.  I am comfortable NOT looking like everyone nor speaking like everyone because they don't EXPECT me to know the rules.  It is the Me-Mirrors who peek out of the corner of their eyes at me in the pew and expect me to know why this congregation turns and sings at the same time who drive me to examine the offense in my heart and to recognize that my prejudice preys mostly on a faces that LOOK LIKE me but ACT differently than me.  I am a sinner short in the area of grace and needing a Saviour to test me and know my anxious thoughts and lead me in the way of understanding.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart,
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there be any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way of understanding."
-Psalm 139:23-24

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

MTI at a glance today...

Sam's Russian class with instructor Henry.  They seriously aren't posed, they just have that much fun :)
Some fun phonetics drills

Instructors and creators of MTI, Dwight and Barbara Gradin, imitating a drill using Pidgin. 
Barry (on staff) went over Sesotho-specific phonology with us after class.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to A∫ak' my way through MTI language learning...

Working our way through rounded and unrounded vowels or those goshdern fricative "g" and "k" sounds has run our mouths and our minds through the ringer the last 48 hours of linguistic acquisition.  I haven't even learned enough yet to know if what I just said makes sense :)

The last 48 hours gives me an indication that the next week and a half are going to be intense.  Tomorrow, Sam and I will start a 3 day course learning Russian.  Not because we are going to Russia.  But because being exposed to a new language with new sounds will force us to work through HOW to even go about learning a language.  I should have signed up for the French group.....  :)

Some of you have written and asked how to pray for us these days.  For the next 2 weeks, pray that as our minds burst at the seams with new phonetic input at MTI, that our hearts would also burst with delight in God's perfect design for languages that now separate nations but will someday be used to sing His praise in unison.  Pray that what we are exposed to here would sink in and that it would spur us on toward love and good deeds of learning Sesotho for the sake of someday speaking Truth and Love in Sesotho.

We love our praying warriors.  Until we see you again, we'll keep A∫ak'ing our way through language drills until we know fricatives and glottal stops like the back of our hand!