Six times a week, I read a Bible story to the children in La Carpio. In English. Only.
These are not bilingual kids. If anything, they came into the year knowing how to count to ten (“wan, too, tree, four, fai, seex, seven, ate, nain, ten”) and a few of the colors. They are in grades 2-6, ranging from 7-13 years old. They have no language learning videos at home, no Spanish-English dictionaries, no storybooks in English, and few have access to Internet and Google Translator.
They also experience hunger on a regular basis, wear worn out or too-small shoes and/or share clothes with siblings. Their parents did not study past third grade (if they went to school at all). More often than not, their father isn’t even in the picture. Anger and shouting in their home is the norm, and abuse is rampant. They walk streets impregnated by the odor from tens of thousands of tons of garbage trucked in and out daily. They are a community ignored by the rest of Costa Rica. These are my kids.
Back to my point. Six times a week, we run English classes for the kids, and while my wonderful volunteers teach most of the material, I read the Bible story every day. With all the odds stacked against my kids, and their complete lack of English, how in the world can they comprehend deep spiritual truths in the span of seven or eight minutes?
During the first weeks, as we went through the story of creation, and of Adam and Eve in the garden, I watched my kids struggling to understand what I was talking about…relying on the pictures in the Beginner’s Bible to clue them in. One morning I told them of the many fruit trees in the garden, and how God told Adam and Eve “you may eat from every tree here…BUT THIS ONE.”
And one little boy looked up and asked, “Por que?” Why?
I was so tempted to switch back into Spanish and tell them the whole story….when I suddenly realized Adam and Eve didn’t know why. God told them, “do not eat the fruit from this tree or you will surely die.” He didn’t explain himself. He gave them a directive, and expected them to obey.
My kids are on the same ground as the Bible characters themselves, thousands of years ago. They are hearing God’s truths and promises but they don’t comprehend the full weight of the words. There is not an illustration for every part of the story, and they certainly don’t always understand what is going on.
You and I don’t always understand either, do we? It’s actually quite rare when we do comprehend what God is doing! I may be outside the USA, but I see the posts of sadness, anger, confusion, doubt after Sandyhook, after Boston, after the many disasters and emergencies befalling our planet these days. We throw up a challenge to God, “Do you even exist? Are you anywhere nearby? Tell me why you have allowed this to happen!”
God didn’t explain Himself to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Jacob or any others in the Bible. He asked them–and He asks you and me–to trust Him, to keep your mind and heart fixed on Him. There is a perfect peace that comes only from remaining in communion with God the Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit who is our daily guide and comforter.
May you be like my kids, listening attentively every day to your Creator. If you search out God’s word sincerely and regularly, the bits and pieces start to fall into place.