“Does “hope” mean something like, if I have a tablecloth on this table and I set it with dishes, I hope it looks pretty?”
The theme for this week at the SafeHouse is “Plans, Future and Hope” based on Jeremiah 29:11. Today is the 2nd day for this semester and my second day on the job. The girls were in the midst of their group project using this theme and one of them asked me the above question after reading the verse. The 2nd girl in the same group then mustered up courage to ask me what the word “future” means exactly, according to the verse.
I was glad that they had the courage to ask and did not feel embarrassed about it.
Since working with street people in Lima, my husband and I have come to the realization that when working with street people, guys or girls alike, we cannot use vocabulary that is too “high”. Most of them have the education level of an 8th grader or less and most can’t read or write properly. Some are illiterate. I am thankful that none of the women in the SafeHouse is illiterate, but none of them find it easy to read or write. Some words really confuse them. In teaching the Word of God, my husband and I have learned to use parables of situations and things in their daily life, explained with the simplest words and definitely no “Christianese”. The bibles we use are contemporary bibles and some might argue that certain translated versions do not come close to the original but, I would rather that the understanding of the Word gets into their heart than have them read the spanish version of the King James and not understand anything that they are reading. We then explain every word that might seem difficult taking no word for granted so that the people understand.
I have heard some people preach to or talk to people who work the streets or live on them and preach as though they are preaching to a church congregation that has existed for 20 years. Most street people will just pretend to understand and will either walk away at the end of it or agree to everything the preacher says without a complete understanding so as not to offend someone they perceive as being more educated than them.
We, as Christians, need to learn to get to the level of the people we are reaching out to. We cannot assume that everyone has gone to church and have heard preachings about Paul, Peter, Deborah and Jesus. Depending on where and to whom we are teaching, preaching or sharing the Word of God with, we need to get to the level of the people and how they understand things. Oftentimes, we are accustomed to speaking in a certain way as Christians that we forget that the rest of the world has no idea of what or whom we are talking about.
We forget to ask if they understand us.
We forget to assure that asking questions is welcomed.
We forget to listen in our zeal to speak.
Just like the Ethiopian eunuch to whom Philip was sent to explain the Word of God, so many do not understand the Word even if they do read it. I remember as a teen, I would constantly fall asleep every time I started reading the bible. How then, can people understand what has been given to them for free through love and grace if they cannot understand what they are reading?
All of us, like Philip, have been sent into the various parts of the world (our neighbourhoods, schools, towns, worksites, families, friends, a different province or state, or a different country) to do as Philip did with all the Ethiopian eunuchs in the world hungry to understand what the Word of God says but not understanding it and carrying in their minds a negative misconception about it. Just like Jesus used parables of everyday customs in the Jewish culture of that day to teach in simple ways that were easily understood, so must we ask for wisdom to know how we can share the Word of God in various formats to the people around us so that they can understand.
We need to get down to the level of the people and not expect them to come up to our level. This does not meant that we dilute the Word or change it. Jesus’ example is one we need to learn from.
He came down to our level.