My interpreter for the afternoon was a 21-year-old college student, Jessica. For her services as translator, Jessica was receiving school credit for the English classes in which she was enrolled. Pastor Luis had taken us to the home of a family directly across the street from his church. Only an hour or so before, I had been introduced to the church as my host church for the week. My read was the gathering was social, not evangelical in nature. From all appearances, we were there for coffee, cookies, and chit chat, and nothing more.
As an interpreter, Jessica’s competency was marginal, at best. I had great difficulty understanding her thickly-accented English as she translated her fellow Peruvians’ Spanish. Likewise, she struggled with comprehending my English responses. Despite her delightful personality, and willingness to serve a Lord she’d only hours before accepted herself, Jessica’s efforts as our communications conduit made the afternoon social a fairly quiet event.
After short while, I sensed a bit of restlessness from the diminutive Pastor Luis, perched directly across from me. While he spoke not a word of English, with his head tilted somewhat to the right and his bushy, graying eyebrows slightly raised, the Pastor was definitely communicating strongly in my direction. The longer the social conversations lingered, the more urgent his body language became.
I began to reassess the situation. Perhaps this was more than an afternoon reception for a foreign missionary. Taking inventory of the family of five seated before me, I decided I should find out their spiritual situation, just to be certain.
“Are they Christians?” I subtly asked Jessica, leaning over to where she was sitting.
“Yes! They are Christians,” I heard her reply. At that point, I again went back into tea and crumpet mode. But the urgency from the Pastor Luis did not cease, but rather, seemed to increase. I began to wriggle uncomfortably in my chair, having no idea what he was trying to communicate.
Finally, his impatience with me reaching a crescendo, Pastor Luis instructed Jessica to have me tell the family about how Jesus was “working in my life.” So that’s what he wanted . . . a testimony. I began giving an account of a life fortified with Christ in hopes that it would encourage the brothers and sisters sitting before me. But Pastor Luis seemed even more annoyed and, at some point in my testimonial rambling, he snatched the conversational reigns from me.
I sat perplexed listening to Pastor Luis. While there was no denying the passion with which he spoke, I received no help from Jessica about the content of his oration toward the family, now collectively leaned forward listening to Pastor Luis. My limited Spanish began picking up key phrases and words here and there. I realized that he was sharing the gospel of Christ with this family and inviting them to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the very reason I had come to Peru . . . but, thinking back to the words I’d heard from Jessica, “they are Christians," just what was going on??
My confusion continued as suddenly the family bowed in prayer. Pastor Luis led them in what was obviously a prayer to received Christ. Tears were now flowing from the family members as they lifted their faces, beaming with joy from a new found Lord and Savior. Though I rejoiced in the moment, part of me still wondered what I’d missed.
At that point, the family surprisingly got up to leave, hugging the Pastor, Jessica, and me exuberantly as we walked them outside to their waiting car. They loaded a suitcase or two into the trunk and piled into the small vehicle. Standing on the curb, watching them speed away, I turned to my interpreter in an effort to grasp some understanding of what I’d just witnessed . . .
“Jessica, where are they going?”
“They go visit family now in Lima. Had to leave by two-thirty. Be gone for ten days. Pastor want speak to them today before they leave.”
“Jessica, when I asked you, are they Christians, why did you tell me, ‘yes’?”
“Because they did.”
“Yes, they did have questions. But don’t worry, Pastor answer them for you and now they know Jesus, just like me!”
And with that, the dense fog in which I’d been immersed suddenly lifted, as five new brothers and sisters motored off into the Peruvian sunshine.
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