Thursday, 4 June 2020

Every person should be able to hear God's Word in his or her heart language.


While I was re-reading and contemplating the Rev. John’s sermon which looked at the Pentecost story this Sunday; first from John 20: 19-23 and then from Acts 2: 1-21, I began to consider the wonderful possibilities and the difficulties that could be overcome in the world today if we could indeed all communicate with and understand everyone no matter what language was being spoken.  I love what the Rev. John called, “The stunningly powerful imagery of a raging wind and flames of fire written by St. Paul in Acts”. I continued to read the sermon which you can read in full on the Marsden Road Church website.  The Rev. John wrote; “Filled with the Spirit of God, the disciples can now speak, preach, teach, and communicate in such a way that they are understood by all sorts of different people in many different languages. The power of God to recreate the human community in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit breaks through the human boundaries of language and culture.”



Marsden Road Uniting Church "dressed" for Pentecost Sunday
At this point there was a “ping” on my computer to tell me I had a new email.  

I checked my email and discovered a message from a friend of more than 50 years who lives and works in Cappadocia, Turkey to raise awareness of the ‘Love of God and the joy of knowing Jesus’ in one of the places mentioned in the passage in Acts 2: 1-21.  How timely her message was!  Our friend had mentioned in her email last month, that what she called “The Jesus film”, was allowed to be shown on some Turkish secular TV channels for the first time at Easter.  Today she told us that the film was viewed by around eight million people!  Just consider for a moment that 99% of the population of Turkey are non – Christian!

In her email, our friend included a report made on April 21, 2020 from the “Christian Newswire”.

"Amid strict coronavirus lockdowns, millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa clamouring for a spiritual and practical lifeline are finding help right in their own homes through "living television."   In the region where Christianity began but is now a minority faith, Christian satellite television broadcaster SAT-7 (www.sat7usa.org ) has seen viewer numbers surge and social media interest skyrocket since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

"There's an explosion of spiritual hunger across the Middle East and North Africa right now as people stuck at home seek real hope and real answers," said Dr. Rex Rogers, president of SAT-7 USA.   SAT-7 continues to broadcast shows 24/7 that present Christians as 'living epistles' who speak to people where they are in life.  "Millions of people in countries like Iran, Iraq and Turkey are clamouring to see and hear in their own language what it's like to be a follower of Jesus in a time of crisis," Rogers said.

In coronavirus hotspot Turkey, where 99 percent of the population is non-Christian, more viewers have contacted the SAT-7 TÜRK channel daily in the past few weeks than any day in the previous five years since broadcasts began.

"Coronavirus has locked people inside their homes, but it's opening hearts to God," said Rogers. "Lockdown and social isolation do not stop our unique satellite and online Christian programs from reaching millions of adults and children where they live."

Before I finished reading our friend’s email I looked at the website for SAT-7 Christian TV and there was a statement on the HOME page that spells out their goals:

MAKING THE GOSPEL AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Every person should be able to hear God's Word in his or her heart language. SAT-7 Christian TV supports a growing Church in the Middle East and North Africa, confident in Christian faith and witness, serving the community and contributing to the good of society and culture.

Our friend’s email continued; “I loved our online Turkish fellowship time on Pentecost Sunday (on Zoom) and allowed my imagination to carry me away a little the day after Pentecost, when suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty wind-storm, and it filled the house where we were sitting.  Well! OK it was a day later but it was so stirring and such a privilege and joy to be part of praying for the work of the Holy Spirit here in this land, here in Cappadocia (see Acts 2:9...there were people from Cappadocia there that day!!) ...such longing, such zeal, a fire in our bellies.  We've just been at home in our "upper rooms" with more time to pray.  Now, Lord, what will you do next?”

I’m so glad that our friend’s email arrived at just the right moment so I could share it with you all.

I would also like to share an experience that touched me many years ago on a train in Italy and on the Greek Island of Corfu.  Not all travel experiences are entirely enjoyable at the time of the experience and it is often lack of communication that creates and exacerbates problems.  Almost 40 years ago my husband and I purchased a train ticket from an agent in London for a reserved seat on a specific train, to travel from Rome to Brindisi.  The day before we left Rome we went to the train station and checked the booking and presented our ticket for confirmation.  We were assured everything was in order.

Our tickets were inspected a number of times on the long journey across Italy from Rome to the coast and down to the heel of “the boot”.  It was not however, until about the third pair of inspectors arrived that our tickets created any undue interest and we first heard the words “supplemento rapido”; although after a bit of arm waving and pointing we were left alone and the guards moved on muttering in Italian.

The mood changed at the next stop when a new set of inspectors boarded the train. “Supplemento rapido!  Supplemento rapido!”  shouted the first inspector.  “I don’t understand – do you speak English?” we asked.

“Supplemento rapido!  Supplemento rapido!” shouted the second inspector even louder as he waved his arms furiously to make us understand and held out a hand for some money.  The inspectors continued to shout at us in Italian that we didn’t understand, except for those now familiar words, “Supplemento rapido” repeated at ever increasing intervals and ever increasing volume.  We assumed they wanted extra money because this train was a fast train.  “Does anyone on this train speak English?” my husband asked hopefully and in desperation.  One of the inspectors went off to try and find a translator.  He returned with a Chinese gentleman in tow.

“Speak English, speak English” the inspector told us pointing to his would-be translator, and the hapless Chinese Italian tried unsuccessfully to translate and communicate with us.  Somehow with all the shouting, and with Chinese Italian being translated into Chinese English and then back to Chinese Italian it appeared that we were arguing about a sum of 23,400 lire (₤10) which was about half the amount we had paid for our two tickets.

The inspectors kept shouting louder and louder and waved their arms at ever increasing intervals to make us understand why we were expected to pay more money.  Soon a new word had entered the conversation – the inspectors were now shouting “Polizzi, Polizzi” as they continued to wave their arms about.

“Tell them to call the Polizzi !” my husband finally told the Chinese Italian.  He felt reasonably sure that the police would neither be called or be interested in such a trivial matter.  He was also absolutely convinced the inspectors intended to pocket the money and keep it for themselves if we paid. 

The train continued to speed towards Bari, the next big town along the Italian coast; and as we pulled into the train station we saw no less than three police cars parked in a row along the station platform with eight gun carrying Polizzi coming towards the train to arrest us and drag us off to an Italian prison.

Bari Centrale Railway Station photo by Chris0693 - Own work Wikimedia Commons Licence 

“I think now is a good time to pay the Supplemento Rapido” we decided.  “O.K. I’ll pay the money, but I want a receipt”, he told the Chinese Italian as the Polizzi marched down the train corridor to arrest us.

“I don’t believe I owe any money, but I’ll pay it if I get a receipt,” my husband told the police officers.  Once the money was paid, with a receipt duly issued, the Polizzi left the train and it started on the last uneventful leg of the journey to Brindisi.

As we enjoyed the tranquillity and the backward charm of the little Island of Corfu the next day we came upon a little old Greek woman wearing the typical black clothing of old Greek women all over the world as she sold dolls to tourists.  She spoke no English and we spoke no Greek, yet quietly and easily we had a ‘conversation’.

“Your Bambino?” she smiled as she handed me the traditional Greek doll I had selected.

“Yes” I answered as I paid her the money.  “She is nine years old”; I told the little old lady as I held up nine fingers; and she smiled again and made a sign like an embrace to show she understood how much I loved my “bambino”, and we parted in peace and with understanding.

I realised that in just two days we had enjoyed a lesson in international relations the world leaders could learn from; we had seen two ways of dealing with the difficulties of communication caused by a language barrier - the easy and effective way of the gentle smile and the soft voice, and the ineffectual way of bullying and shouting and shutting out understanding with noise and aggression.   

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