Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"Taboo" is one my favorite group games. The goal is to get one's team to say a particular word, without using any of five words given. For example, the clue-giver might try to get the group to say "cheese" without ever saying "milk" or "dairy" or "pizza" or "burger" or "cow." To do that, the clue-giver might say "I put this orange-colored slice of food on a bun with meat products made from an animal that says moo." In the meantime, the group guesses, Charades-style, as the clue-giver continues giving clues until the correct answer is discovered.

That describes my current experience surprisingly well. I know some of the very basics of Spanish, but I don't know a lot. Many verbs I've never learned, and my conjugation is pretty much limited to the present tense. Amazingly, though, I've been able to understand and communicate with a small measure of adequacy, Taboo-style. I may not know the words or conjugations for "We should turn off the overhead light out of respect for our roommates who are trying to sleep," but I could say in Spanish, "Please no use the much much light now because other sisters they to sleep. Bathroom light is little light is good." Of course, I've also had many, many opportunities to practice saying "more slowly, please" and "I'm sorry, one more time," and "one moment please because I need an interpreter."

I read (or heard?) recently that hospitality can be defined as making space for someone you don't have to make space for. It's not just about entertaining in one's home; it's an attitude of accepting and honoring others. When I think of hospitality here, I think of the linguistic hospitality we have been experiencing and practicing. It would be easy at meals to sit just with those with whom we can easily converse. It would be easy when translating worship services to ignore the funny little side comments which aren't related to the message, rather than spend the time translating them so the majority can understand. It would be easy on ministry outings to leave the one-on-one ministry to those who speak Spanish fluently. But it would not be hospitable. We make room for others in our lives when we include them in our conversations, help them to laugh with us, and exert the extra effort needed to understand each other. I am particularly thankful tonight for the hospitality of the people around me. Not only has it been useful for small tasks, combining my broken Spanish with others' broken English has allowed us to worship God together, to participate in ministry together, and to share parts of our lives together. And that is very exciting!

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