We were rushed to the meeting, which was taking place under a tent, and ceremoniously but hurriedly escorted to our seats near the front so the proceedings could start. I am a naturally shy person, and maybe you can imagine my enormous discomfort at having every trained on us, due partly to our late arrival, but most of all to the fact that we were glaringly and obviously out of place. We were white people in an area of South Africa where few white people venture. I imagined all sorts of hostility towards the honor being bestowed on us as special guests, but had no time to dwell on that because no sooner had we been seated than the pastors were asked to stand, and apparently I was to be counted in that number. Once again, I felt all eyes on me. Next, we were each called forward, one by one, to greet the crowd of about 80 people and instructed to introduce ourselves.
Everything was conducted in siSwati, because that is their language. I was very thankful to have my young and gifted interpreter sitting next to me to help me with the rough spots. But more than that, I was thankful for the years of diligently practicing and learning siSwati, not only so that I could follow along with most of the speeches, but more importantly because I was able to confidently stride forward and take the mic, and joyfully greet the crowd in formal siSwati, and to introduce myself in their language. Pastor Daniel was positively beaming like a proud parent as the entire gathering erupted into spontaneous and delighted applause at my efforts.
Several hours and buckets of sweat later (it was unmercifully hot under the canopy), the meeting was concluded. The change in our reception by the others was sweet—everyone rushed to greet us (in animated siSwati!), to shake our hands, and to give us warm hugs. One of the last people we said goodbye to was Pastor Daniel, who simply said, with tears in his eyes, “You speak my language.”
YES, dear pastor, because God has put a supernatural love in my heart for your people. I have made that effort because of Jesus and His great love. May we all have His compassion, and make the effort to understand each other, not just in diverse spoken languages, but in diverse races, cultures, families, socioeconomic conditions, trials, joys...even and especially when it is uncomfortable. This is the antithesis of political correctness that says anything is okay. This is the love of Jesus shining through to change hearts and lives through love--for His glory and for His Kingdom!