When the early morning sun rose over Heredia, Costa Rica, it brought more than just heat. For our U.S. team of seventeen people from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Texas, the dawning of each new day revealed a landscape that most had never before seen, illuminated a way of life about which we had only obscure knowledge, and shone light and beauty that could be found in the inhabitants of the beautiful land. Heat or not, we anticipated each and every day of our week-long mission’s trip.
We had been invited to tour the land, teach in several churches, train up some local pastors, and conduct several worship symposiums. Months before the actual trip, we began making preparations. We selected persons who were qualified to help fulfill the assignments. Funds were raised; passports were obtained; airline tickets were purchased; and all physical accommodations were arranged.
While the other teachers and I were assembling our messages, our band and singers took on the added task of learning songs in Spanish. Extra nights of practice, along with some help with enunciation from a Spanish teacher, yielded a great-sounding, Spanish-singing worship team. The preparations were completed, the day arrived, and we departed for Costa Rica.
The first evening’s service brought surprises that we had not anticipated. Introductions were made and cordial greetings were exchanged. Then, the band began to lead us in song. Those in attendance were surprised (and delighted) that they could understand the words. They had come expecting to listen to foreign people singing in a foreign language. As each piece of music was performed, the participation of the congregants escalated as a revelation of similarity began to establish a bond of unity. We, likewise, were surprised (and delighted) as the cordial was replaced by heart-felt acceptance and genuine embraces. This same scenario was repeated in every meeting and with each new group of people.
A similar phenomenon occurred when we stood before area church leaders to teach doctrine from the Scriptures. In those cases, the common language was established by way of translators. We all had the same love for the Lord, appreciation of His word, and desire to see His will be done. The result – the distance caused by our diversity was bridged as we put forth the effort to stand side by side on common ground.
A new day of understanding dawned upon us that seemed to bring with it even more light and heat than the Costa Rican sun. What was the illumination? It was that making the effort to learn someone’s language, whether that is their spoken dialect or some form of their love language, tears down barriers that separate. What was the heat? It was the warmth of friendship.
No one need travel to a distant land to be confronted by barriers that separate us one from another. If just one person will take the time to school himself or herself with the language of the other person, a new day can dawn. If we maintain the mindset that they speak their “Spanish-type words” (metaphorically speaking) and we speak our “English-like vocabulary,” then we just may not experience the beginning of a day seldom if ever seen, the illumination of a way of life formerly obscure, or the light and beauty that shines forth from those in the world around us.