To Teach A Liberian…Part 16

I was told it was time to go to the meeting and so I headed over to the meeting place the ladies would be. I wasn’t sure who was going to be translating for me as no one seemed to understand anything I asked…or at least not much. I told whoever the lady was that I was going to find out who my interpreter was going to be and I would be back. I went to Pastor Philemon and asked him.

“Yes,” he replied, “let me see who can do it.” I returned to the meeting place and waited. The women stared at me and I stared back at them as I didn’t really know what else to do. There were only about 4 women at that point, then Pastor Philemon showed up with one of the ladies. “She will interpret and if she cannot then I will,” he informed me. I was very relieved over that because at least I knew someone would be able to do so. The ladies began singing then it kind of died down. Looking back, I think it was because I was standing, whereas they were sitting. I had a chair behind me but I was pretty nervous and thought that maybe I shouldn’t sit. Anyway, I didn’t know what to do and they probably didn’t know what I was going to do. They weren’t the only ones that didn’t know because I had no idea if this was even going to work out. I wondered if the whole thing would be a flop…after all, I’d never had or needed anyone to interpret for me and this was a different culture. What if the response I received from them was horrendous? All kinds of thoughts were going through my head and, at this point, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be there. I was ready to call it quits and go hide out in the mission house. I took a deep breath and asked the Lord to help me.

That first morning started off with teaching the background of being a believer. The ladies would not understand the reason for being submissive to their husband if they were not saved. I started off with creation, went to Abraham, then Moses – the law – and the sacrifice, then went to the prophets then to Jesus. I explained why we needed to be saved and how to be saved. After that, I shared what was necessary for a true believer to grow in the Lord – getting to know the Lord through the Bible and prayer. I laid out some of the things that happen to believers like going through trials, tribulations and persecution. Finally, I was able to share about the relationship between a husband and wife.

The lady that was supposed to interpret for me started off fairly good…for the first 3-4 sentences then gave me THE LOOK. Now, let me explain: if you have ever been in a position where you have tried talking to someone who speaks a completely different language then you and you don’t understand them…they don’t understand you…the two of you are at an impasse, then you know exactly what I am talking about. At that point, the only thing you can do is give each other THE LOOK! That is what she and I did. We gave each other THE LOOK then I looked over at Pastor Philemon sitting out with the women. At that point I knew he had a job to do! LOL! He was busy reading and he looked up when it grew quiet and I spoke up (probably in a very timid way), “Ummmm, Pastor Philemon, can you help us?” He kind of smiled and came up to the front. The other lady sat down and I was extremely relieved!

The teaching time was stilted at first and I was struggling to figure out when to talk and when not to. Just when I thought he was done, I would start again and he would finish what he was saying. I kept berating myself (silently) for interrupting him at the wrong times. Several times he said, “Excuse me,” but it was never said in an improper, rude or abrupt way. He always said it while deep in thought of how he would explain what I was saying. Before long, we began getting into a rhythm. I was so impressed with how the Lord worked out the whole situation. Some of the things I said, he would put it in question form to the ladies so they had to think about what the answer was. Many times each of them would give a part of the answer until it was ALL made into one answer. He always told me, though, what he had asked them and what their answers were. He also made it a point to let me know when he was going to ask them a question. This was always very interesting to me because I was able to watch their faces. I did so with great interest and was thrilled when I saw them understanding what was being said. At times, I would see the faces light up with a smile when they understood and other times Pastor Philemon would say, “Uh-huuuuuuuuuuuuh!” in a very emphatic way. This let me know that they did understand. Sometimes, Pastor Philemon would finish off with what I had already planned to say and I would nod my head then tell him that was exactly what I was going to say. By the time we were done that first day I was very excited over our first day of teaching. We only did about 2 hours and then some question and answer time. I could only praise the Lord for working it out in such an exciting way.

After it was over, Pastor Philemon stayed and introduced me to the different women, to include his biological mom, his adopted mom, and many of the other women. I couldn’t even begin to remember everyone! The ladies decided, at that point that, I needed to learn Kpelle and began inundating me with all kinds of words and how I should respond. I tried to keep up with them but had to laugh at myself because I knew it was way beyond me! Eventually, everyone began to go and Pastor Philemon went to the men’s meeting. They were still meeting together. Sister Tamah told me that I reminded her of her daughter who had died several years ago…at least, that was my understanding. She said that she was adopting me and she was now my African mother. I simply smiled at her and nodded my head. By that time, my head was swimming and I was ready to rest! My new African mother walked up with me to the mission house and we sat there for a bit but then she ended up leaving as I told her I would have to rest some. I think I was overcome from the heat, not receiving a lot of rest, jet lag, and so many new things going on around me. I can only deal with so much then my body shuts down and it was beginning to do that. I did rest, regardless of the flat air mattress and then woke up feeling loads better; albeit, hot and ready for either an air conditioner or a nice breeze!

I walked out of the room into the living room, where we had been eating our meals. All the pastors were there as was Mark. Mark said they were about to serve the food, which was fine with me. Pastor Amos, Sister Tamah, and Pastor Gbaquoi showed up and Mark invited them to eat with us. While we waited for the food to be brought up to us, Mark came over and spoke in a low tone, “Come here, Violet. Let me show you something.” I followed him, wondering what was going on. The window in the living room looked over the open air meeting place and we could see what was going on. There were quite a few people gathered together doing something or other.


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