Have you ever woken up and said to yourself, “I think today I’m going to intentionally choose to speak like a child today? I am going to sound like a three year old muttering his best through clunky phrases and mixed pronouns.”
No? You say that’s not something you would ever even consider?
Me either. But somehow that’s exactly what happens every day. It happened today as I was getting in my car. It happened yesterday at the grocery store. And it will happen tomorrow.
I’ve read the greatest works of English literature. I’ve written persuasive essays. I’ve even penned a poem or two. But none of that means a thing the moment you switch the language.
I open my mouth and, as great as I hope it sounds, my French is befuddled with an accent. My Wolof is grammatically lacking. For a year I mispronounced my associate pastor’s name, Benoit. With a skillful misuse of the first vowel I called him bathtub. Bathtub. For a year. He only smiled. For. A. Year.
My mouth of clay chips crumbles as I try to make the French “r” sound. My soul stretches and strains as it expresses the Gospel, the most valuable treasure of all, in these foreign languages. And somehow the message slips through, bad accent and all.
Why do people leave their home culture and their heart languages and go to the nations?! Couldn’t national believers do what foreign missionaries do some much better?
Working in Senegal, among people who don’t look like me, who don’t share my culture, who literally don’t even speak the same language, I am constantly reminded that I am a clay jar. I am a muddy mix of soil pulled out of the ground, shaped and formed and chosen.
Chosen. I’m chosen. I was chosen for this.
We can get lost in the numbers and the logic. At the end of the day people go because they are called. We send missionaries from their homes and home cultures into the far-flung places of this world because a God-calling was sent out to the peoples He created to plant His church among the unreached.
I’m not a golden vase. I’m not a crystal carafe. I’m a simple jar of clay (a “vases faits d’argile”). My French words are not masterful. My Wolof is not eloquent. My words are simple, direct, honest. No one could possibly be blinded by the poetry of my phrases. I am a jar made of common clay carrying the most valuable treasure: Jesus Christ.
God is calling Senegalese men, women and children to Himself. He is calling a new generation of new born believers, a new wave of church planters to take up the commission and become personal links from the local churches we plant today to go to other unreached peoples tomorrow. And He is doing this through us!
What a humbling thought!
Sitting here by our Christmas tree, greeting our night-guard, I’m reminded of a little boy toddling around his mother’s knees, watching his father hammer and nail, sitting in dirt beneath the starry skies. His words were simple. His speech only then beginning to form. And yet, kings came to him bearing gifts. Into, what I imagine was, a mud brick home came kings from afar carrying gifts of great worth to worship the King of Kings. How could he receive them? How could he thank them for their recognition?
Jesus came into this world as a baby, with halting words and the constraints of humanity to express the absolute image of truth and love.
Thank you for sending us, for helping us pursue the calling of God on our lives, to proclaim Christ’s love to the nations! Thank you for all your support as we have learned two languages this term so that we might more effectively share the Truth of the Gospel to the nations. Thank you for letting us be your personal link from the local church to the unreached.