Over a lifetime in the pulpit I have kept occasional company with malapropisms, spoonerisms, verbal gaffes and the occasional faux pas.
You can imagine my embarrassment then when I attempted an Arab greeting to a conservative looking lady the other evening at a church service here in Jordan. Instead of saying a simple and straightforward ‘hello’, I was plunged in at the deep end as I told her in no uncertain terms that I loved her. I am glad that she saw the funny side and dissolved in surprised laughter. I was relieved that my wife was once more immediately on hand to rescue me.
A couple of days later, I had my first experience of preaching alongside a translator. We developed a certain rhythm and rapport together and I was enjoying the experience. Suddenly he paused as I had said something he could not decipher. I tried again, but he was still struggling. After several attempts we got there and the talk moved on. Well you try translating for someone who says ‘power’ with a broad Northern Irish accent.
Amusing illustrations, I hope, of some of the difficulties involved in cross-cultural mission. A veritable minefield if I were to be here over a longer period and enough to give my wife a nervous breakdown! Suffice to say, I have discovered a deep personal admiration for our personnel serving overseas and those supporting them in Assembly Buildings. Please sign up for every opportunity to pray for them.
This morning, however, there was no mistaking what was happening. I was honoured and privileged to lead the students of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary in a devotional. There were students from across the Middle East and parts of Africa. I hadn’t understood a word as they sang their Arabic choruses with great gusto, but there was no mistaking the presence of the Lord.
The Holy Spirit links the worldwide family of God, uniting us together and giving us such a foretaste of heaven when all who love the Lord from every tribe and tongue will be united around the throne. The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength.
Dr McMullen is minister of West Church Bangor and was selected as moderator-designate in February 2018 and officially elected and installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the General Assembly on 4 June. You can read his previous ‘postcards’ here, and news about his overseas visit here. You can also follow his travels on Twitter at @pcimoderator hashtag #pcioverseastour.