- Dr. Stuart Lee Sheehan
so, i went to help out at God's Food Pantry on saturday with a few students and one of our interns. 20-30 families come by every saturday and receive food/toiletries free of charge that have been supplied by local churches. while the orders are being filled, someone sits down with the family to discuss life, the Gospel, etc.
usually, when i go, i mix in behind the scenes and fill orders and carry groceries out to cars. i've also been on saturdays, it seems, when there wasn't someone assigned to counsel... so most, if not all, families were just in and out with their goods. i ALWAYS wonder how much, if any, spanish i'll need to remember/use when i'm there as many of the families don't speak english. yesterday, i made up for all the other saturdays when i worked silently behind the curtain, filling orders.
apparently there is now a steady rotation of people that come in strictly to counsel and they were quick to ask who could help interpret for them as they sat with the hispanic families. i reluctantly offered my "services" because, by default, i was the most educated in spanish. the first few translations were a little rocky, but i think the gist was communicated. i found myself blanking on really simple words, not knowing the spanish words for some of the counselor's words, and totally not understanding some of the spanish that was being hurled at me at 100mph (it seemed). i felt worse, because the english speaking counselor was trying to keep it really simple and not really getting into the gospel, because a) using an interpreter was new to him and b) I was the interpreter!
every now and again, the counselors would sit with english speakers and spend much more time with them, getting into their issues and sharing God's truth and love with them as i went back to filling orders and making ridiculous messes (put too many items in a bag, it broke, so did the two jars of spaghetti sauce that were in it). just as the jars hit the ground, i was called back out to translate (huge thanks to those who cleaned it up). i had started to gain some confidence in my spanish, which i've used in puerto rico and mexico on mission trips over the years. i don't know why i always have to relearn this lesson, but when put in the position as the "go-to bilingual", i find myself remembering how to say things and getting over my fear of sounding really stupid. many of the hispanic families complimented me on my spanish, because i started every conversation with how bad it was! i wasn't fishing for compliments, honest. i've just found that if you can say something well in spanish, people often assume you can UNDERSTAND everything in spanish. not true!
as i noticed food orders being filled quicker than the english counseling could keep up with, i started speaking to families in the waiting area to relieve the back up. as i was sharing with one lady, a gentleman came over and asked if i wanted his help translating into spanish (um, yes). i could tell what the lady was telling me, but i couldn't ask the right questions to get her to see what i was getting at. definitely welcomed the help.
two more stories, then i'm done!
1) i was already realizing how little faith i had by not trusting God to give me the words in spanish that He wanted people to hear, but my lack of faith really hit me when i approached an english speaking family and began to share. i had been asking pretty basic introductory questions in spanish with great ease, but i couldn't have a normal conversation with someone in english! it was ridiculous and embarrassing. eventually, i got over it.
2) when it came time for my interpreter in shining armor to get take his groceries, he asked me if i wanted to practice my spanish on him! pretty tight! so i did. i talked to him and helped his family to their car and when i was done, he made my day. he told me my spanish was more than ok (don't remember his exact words) and, this is the best part, that i shouldn't use an interpreter any more. not because my spanish is so good (it isn't), but because when he translated for me, he could translate my words, but not my heart and when i spoke to him in spanish, he could hear my heart. SO encouraging! and SO convicting that i didn't trust God to work through me as He has been faithful to so many times before.
don't sit on your gifts and talents (even ones that you think aren't usable/profitable). God will use them how and when He wants to. just trust Him and get out of the way!