The gift of being present
By Alfinda Herman | Wycliffe Today Winter 2022 edition |
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:11 (ESV)
After I dropped off my children at school, I was eager to get started on my long to-do list. I walked past my neighbour’s house and she was standing by her door. We greeted each other with the usual small talk. Then she said, ‘Come in, let’s have coffee’. One part of my brain was thinking about the clock and was tempted to say, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t today’. But a little voice said ‘Are you kidding? Go!’ I’m glad that voice won.
We have been living here in Skopje, Macedonia, since the middle of 2021 but this was my first time stepping inside my neighbour’s home. She served up some Turkish coffee (the standard drink here in the Balkans), orange juice and some sweets. She told me that her sister had recently, and suddenly, passed away at just 28 years of age. She recounted the day of her sister’s passing two or three times. She was clearly mourning, even if it was without tears. I was glad I could sit with her, listen to her, and keep her company. I didn’t have enough language ability to say anything profound, but perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing.
It would have been too easy for me to pass up a coffee and a chat in pursuit of more ‘productive’ work that day. This was a humbling reminder that the process of changing my mindset from being ‘task-oriented’ to ‘relationship-oriented’ is still far from finished. I’m challenged to keep training my instinct to prioritise ‘being’ over ‘doing’. After all, our God’s primary way of blessing people is through his presence. I want to be more like him.
For more information about the Scripture translation and literacy education work Alfinda and Aidan Herman are doing with the Roma people in Europe, go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/aidan-alfinda/.
Isn’t Jesus a Western god?
By Alfinda Herman | Wycliffe Today March 2020
Alfinda and her husband Aidan are preparing to head to Eastern Europe with their two young sons to work among the Roma people in North Macedonia. During one of their church visits, Alfinda was chatting with a Chinese student, Dean*. Alfinda explains:
Dean had been attending church for a while but when I asked him if he trusted in Jesus, he answered ‘No, I grew up in China. Jesus doesn’t feel real to me. I think he is a Western god’.
Dean’s reply gives insight into one of the challenges of cross-cultural gospel ministry, whether in Australia or overseas. When a person encounters Christ in a culture different from their own, and through a second (or third) language, the question of identity is a big deal.
New believers may face some sort of identity crisis. They may grapple with questions such as: Does becoming a Christian mean becoming Western (or a culture that is perceived to be ‘Christian’)? Can I be as authentically Christian when I’m in my own culture?
In the Roma (Gypsy) context, the topic of identity is close to their hearts, and is deeply intertwined with language. During the Communist era in Eastern Europe, the Roma were forbidden to speak their own language, Romani. Many Roma carry a great deal of shame about their language and heritage. One Roma even said, ‘God would not want to speak our language’.
RK*, a Roma Christian leader, said for a long time he did not speak Romani because of the shame impressed on him since childhood. But in recent years, partly because of his encounter with the work of Bible translation into Romani, he has been exploring how reading Scriptures in Romani speaks to him more deeply and helps him see more clearly that Jesus is Lord of the Roma too.
The question of identity has roots that run deep, and discipleship across cultures requires taking the time and energy to explore it. Please pray for God’s work among the Roma and the cross-cultural gospel work here in Australia. Pray that Dean will understand that Jesus is also the Lord of the Chinese and will come to trust in him.
To support the Hermans in their work among the Roma people, go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/aidan-alfinda/.
*Name changed for privacy reasons
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