Pangur Ban My Cat and I

One scribe will complain of the backbreaking work of book-copying, another of a sloppy fellow scribe: “It is easy to spot Gabrial’s work here” is written in a beautiful hand at the margin of an undistinguished page. A third will grind his teeth about the difficulty of the tortured ancient Greek that he is copying: “There’s an end to that – and seven curses with it!”

But for the most part they enjoy their work and find themselves engrossed in the stories they are copying. Beneath a description of the death of Hector on the Plain of Troy, one scribe, completely absorbed in the words he is copying, has written most sincerely: “I am greatly grieved at the above-mentioned death.” Another, measuring the endurance of his beloved art against his own brief life span, concludes: “Sad it is, little parti-colored white book, for a day will surely come when someone will say over your page: ‘The hand that wrote this is no more.'”

Perhaps the clearest picture we possess of what it was like to be a scribal scholar is contained in a four-stanza Irish poem slipped into a ninth-century manuscript, which otherwise contains such learned material as a Latin commentary on Virgil and a list of Greek paradigms:

I and Pangur Ban my cat,

‘Tis a like task we are at:

Hunting mice is his delight,

Hunting words I sit all night.

‘Tis a merry thing to see

At our tasks how glad are we,

When at home we sit and find

Entertainment to our mind.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye,

Full and fierce and sharp and sly;

‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I

All my little wisdom try.

So in peace our task we ply,

Pangur Ban my cat and I:

In our arts we find our bliss,

I have mine and he has his

Cahill, How The Irish Saved Civilization, pp. 161-162

In honor of this anonymous ancient Irish scribe, if I ever have a cat I just may name him Pangur Ban.

Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash

A Song For Those Believing While Suffering

I’ve been listening to this song by Strahan for quite some time now, but I haven’t been able to find a postable video of it until today. Turns out that video has the lyrics in Spanish, so bonus there for you Spanish speakers. For the rest of us I’ve got the original lyrics posted below as well. I resonate with the desperate and honest faith in this song. I hope it encourages you as you wait in the midst of suffering as it has encouraged me.

Your heart is sweet
My heart is stone
Your voice is quiet
My journey long

But I'm holding on to your endless love
Through all the foggy days
Through all the tears I've prayed
And I'm breaking through for one touch from you
And I am not afraid
I am not afraid

Your arms are wide
My hands are fold
Your table long
My chair is short

You love the poor
And I'm destitute
But my hope is strong
When my joy is you

And I'm holding on to the corner of your robe
Cause there a power there
Before the Gardener's throne
And when your mercy breaks through all reckless tears
And all depressions cease
I am not afraid

No I'm not afraid
I'm not afraid
I am not afraid
I am not afraid

There's a beauty in our pain
Every night has a breaking day
We are coloured jars of clay
So carry on

There's a beauty in our pain
Every night has a breaking day
We are coloured jars of clay
So carry on

Carry on
Carry on

“Holding On” by Strahan

A Path for Marrying and Burying

“If you let them give me an Islamic funeral, I’ll come back and haunt all of you!”

The room burst out in laughter as *Frank made his point with characteristic humor. The laughs came easily because of the heaviness of the gathering and the topic.

A core group of the local believers had gathered to take counsel with *Darius. A young relative had just committed suicide after her parents had refused the marriage proposal from the young man that she loved. Sadly, this type of suicide following an engagement denied is not uncommon in this culture. Darius was reeling, racked with sadness and guilt, wondering if he had somehow contributed to the death of his young cousin.

A little bit at a time, the kind questions of the believers drew the information out of Darius, and the group was able to provide comfort and reassurance for him. In spite of the feelings of guilt, nothing in God’s word suggested that Darius bore any responsibility in the situation. He had conducted himself faithfully. Was mourning appropriate? Yes. False guilt? No.

At some point Frank asked if he could present a related question toward us foreigners, specifically the two of us functioning as temporary elders for the church plant.

“If, God forbid, I die tomorrow, what will you do?”

We looked at the floor, knowing the complexity of the question being asked. Religion and ethnicity are baked into all aspects of culture and law here. To be born to a Muslim father means to be born a Muslim, to have a Muslim ID card, to have an Islamic wedding, to eventually have an Islamic funeral, and to be buried in the Islamic fashion, on a plot of land surrounded by other deceased Muslims.

There is no legal mechanism by which a local Muslim can break out of this track and join another. Minorities can officially become Muslims, but not the other way around. The government and the family insist on Islamic rites of passage for all who were born Muslims, even if that person has become an atheist – or a believer in Jesus. While there are rights of passage and cemeteries for other religious minorities, to qualify for them a person must have been born into that community.

We chewed on how to answer, and Frank followed up his question with his quip about coming back to haunt us. As the laughter died down, I ventured a response.

“The only thing we have the power to do right now is to give you a separate Christian funeral service in the church.”

Disappointed looks came from around the room.

“Things can change if we pray and work for other solutions… maybe in ten or twenty years. But today you can’t even get your government ID card changed. Let alone there being a plot of land for the burial of believers who used to be Muslims.”

“Ten or twenty years!” one believer protested. “Why can’t you change things sooner?”

I sighed. If only we could. Local believers often assume that we, as Westerners, have the ability to influence government policy toward them. The fact is we possess no such power, at least not those of us on the ground laboring to learn language and culture and plant healthy local churches. We are not well-connected, we don’t have the ear of the powerful, and we don’t have the kind of lobbying structures necessary to advocate for the passing of more just laws regarding religious liberty. There’s even a case to be made that the freedom we do possess to do our spiritual work comes from staying off the radar of the political elite.

Yet the long-term rites of passage and persecution issues of our local believing friends regularly reappear, calling for long-term structural change that we can’t help but long for. Freedom for local believers to have engagement and marriage ceremonies that are exclusively Christian, and don’t involve an Islamic mullah. Freedom to not have to put religion on the ID card of a newborn. Freedom for believers to be open about their faith without losing their jobs and their housing. Freedom to run when necessary and know that the government will support freedom of conscience against violent relatives. Freedom to not have to swear on the Qur’an in a court case. Freedom to have a funeral and burial according to the contextualized practices of the believing community.

We are deeply invested in a bottom-up model of change for these issues. Plant healthy churches, and thereby seed the society with change agents who will eventually influence reform. But there are times we wrestle with the deep costs borne by the first generations of believers. Should we also be working for top-down change? Is this kind of change a temptation or an opportunity? If we somehow did influence the government, would it end up being positive thing for the Church, like a Wilberforce? Or a negative thing, like a Constantine? Would we end up compromising our witness and access, or strengthening it? These are not simple issues in a region where our church planting work is technically illegal and only partially tolerated.

That evening we turned to prayer together, both for Darius and for the challenges facing all our local believing friends. Sometimes it is very tempting to go all American-problem-solver on these challenges that keep on rearing their heads. It feels as if someone will have to do some hard long-term work in order for the church to have enough societal oxygen to not suffocate and disappear when the missionaries inevitably leave. Yet we don’t know what God’s chosen solutions are to these stubborn obstacles, nor his timeline, nor his chosen change agents. So we turn to prayer, and we continue making disciples.

Yet the clock is ticking. Local believers will need to marry and bury one another before too long. We hope and pray and trust that when the time comes there will be a path – even if difficult – of clarity and faithfulness.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Providence Showing Off

Most of my prayer walks in the bazaar are an exercise in being alone with God while being surrounded by other people. Strange as it may sound, I enjoy praying quietly to myself while flanked by other pedestrians on a bustling Central Asian sidewalk. I’ve not intentionally sought out opportunities to share the gospel while out praying and walking – that discipline is able to happen elsewhere. But neither am I opposed to hitting an evangelistic softball if one is thrown my way during the course of a walk.

An opportunity like this came along last week, and completely out of nowhere. It was a sunny mid-morning I was walking down a street full of small bakeries, fish stalls, chai houses, and watch repairers, when I decided on a whim to take a left down past the old post office. I had no particular reason for choosing this route, but at the moment of decision it simply felt like this would be a good way to go.

Two-thirds of the way down the post office street I spotted a man standing in front of me and looking at me oddly. Our eyes met.

“You are an English teacher, right?” he asked me.

“Well, I was for some years, yes.” I said as I wondered how he had pegged me so accurately.

“I am a legal translator. And I am stuck. I have been translating registration documents for a Christian organization.”

Internally, I quickly transitioned out of prayer/meditation mode and sought to focus on what was happening in front of me. The ingredients of this situation were not exactly common. I wondered if this might be a divinely-appointed interaction.

“There’s some religious language that I’m not familiar with,” he continued. “Some unique Christian terms that I haven’t heard before. I don’t know what to do…”

“Would you like me to come to your office and see if I can help?” I quickly offered.

“If it’s no trouble, my office is just across the street here,” he motioned to a nearby corner.

We walked over to his small translation shop and stepped inside. The legal translator motioned for me to take a seat, handing me the customary small bottle of cold water. Then he pulled out the documents he had been working on.

“Can you tell me what gospel identity means? And what about reconciliation?” the translator started off, furrowing his brow. “Look at this sentence where they use those terms. I can’t make any sense out of it. I’m a legal translator, not someone familiar with translating religious language.”

He handed me the registration documents and I perused them, smiling internally. The words the translator was the most stuck on were some of the best gospel bridges in the document.

As I read the document, one part of me rejoiced at the spiritual terms present, and another part of me shook my head at the unnecessarily complex language we Westerners tend to write in – and saddle our translators with. “The goal of good writing is to be clear, not impressive.” I don’t know how many times I have said this line while helping a local friend struggling to translate Christian material out of English and into our local language. The translatability of our writing is a virtue not spoken of often enough.

The legal translator and I went back and forth over a number of tough Christian words and phrases, a process which gave me several good opportunities to dive into biblical truth. I shared with him the basic definition of gospel – good news – and then described that good news as “God is holy, we are sinful, Christ is the sacrifice for our sins, and we must respond by repenting and believing in him.” We review this God, Man, Christ, Response outline as a church every time we gather for a service and I was grateful for the gospel fluency this longstanding practice has created, both for the local believers and for us.

We made some good progress on the document, but I could tell that the translation needs would require more time than I had to give that morning. Gospel comprehension would also require more time.

“I have an idea for you,” I shared after a while. “If you download the YouVersion Bible app, you can search for a Christian term and see how it is used in the Bible and see how it’s been translated by scholars into your own language. There’s this great parallel language function that I use all the time.”

“Really? That would be great!”

I showed him how to download the Bible app, search for a term, and compare languages side by side. I also gave him the number of a bilingual local believer in case he got stuck and needed some more assistance.

“You know, you remind me of someone I used to know,” the translator said. “A close friend named Joshua.”

“Joshua?” I smiled. I knew who he was talking about, a believing friend from college who had done a stint in this city of more than a million people a decade ago. I knew that Joshua would have shared the gospel with this man. And yet the lack of easy comprehension on the part of the translator showed that it had never really sunk in, even in terms of intellectual understanding. Or it had long since faded, suppressed by time and an unbelieving mind. Maybe Joshua was still praying for this man. Maybe that’s why we had run into each other on the sidewalk that day.

I took note of the translation office’s location, a spot I walk past most days. This shop would be one to come back to.

We said goodbye and I stepped out into the sunshine. I walked home, continuing to pray and encouraged by this unexpected chance to share the gospel. Even on a meandering prayer walk, there are no unplanned steps, no random encounters. I don’t always pick up on the providential designs beneath my daily encounters. But some days they’re simply on full display. Almost as if providence is showing off.

Photo by Ali Kokab on Unsplash

Tolkien and Lloyd Jones on Spiritual Homesickness

We all long for [Eden], and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile’. If you come to think of it, your (very just) horror at the stupid murder of the hawk, and your obstinate memory of this ‘home’ of yours in an idyllic hour (when often there is an illusion of the stay of time and decay and a sense of gentle peace) are derived from Eden.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 110.

“it is difficult to define hiraeth, but to me it means the consciousness of man being out of his home area and that which is dear to him. That is why it can be felt even among a host of peoples amidst nature’s beauty; like a Christian yearning for heaven.”

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

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Scalable Platforms

Many missionaries in the 10/40 window live in what’s been called creative-access countries. In these countries there are no missionary or religious visas available to cross-cultural workers, so they need to have “platforms,” whether business or non-profit, in order to maintain legitimate access. I’ve written in the past about the importance of doing tent-maker/platform work that 1) results in an excellent product that brings value to the community and gives God glory and 2) leads to gospel opportunities and relationships with locals.

You want your platform to be strong and valuable enough to provide some cover when locals start coming to faith and others potentially start complaining about you. Of course we can’t guarantee we won’t get kicked out even if we have the ideal platform, but we should still do the best we can so as to protect access to the unreached.

Now that I’m some years into the creative-access gig and working under my fourth platform, one other very important principle is emerging – that of a platform’s scalability. This principle is important not because of dynamics among locals, but because of dynamics among us foreign workers.

Ours is a lifestyle of high and costly transition. We’ve recently been joking that we should give up on annual goals in favor of quarterly ones due to the sheer amount of transition that we experience. It feels like we are always saying goodbye to workers leaving the field, or welcoming new ones, adjusting to others who have left for furlough, or taking in the news that others will be significantly delayed in getting back to the field. This can make maintaining a solid core of platform workers quite difficult.

The goal of our platforms is to serve the church planting strategy, not the other way around. But we have also experienced seasons where the needs of the platform are so demanding, often due to staffing shortages, that it very much feels like we are serving the platform – and the church planting work is taking a back seat. This is a tension we live in, hoping that a season of investing in a solid platform can later result in greater freedom for ministry. Sometimes you just have to hold the beachhead until reinforcements arrive.

However, what would happen if we built the reality of worker transience into our platforms from the very beginning? Rather than being blindsided by the next unexpected departure of our staff, what if we anticipating it and planned accordingly? For several years now I have been chewing on the idea of a platform designed to be scalable. On the one hand, one person working part-time could keep it running if he had to. On the other hand, it could scale up to accommodate a raft of new personnel who arrive in need of visas and a legitimate work identity. What kind of businesses and non-profit models might be this flexible?

My current non-profit platform serves as a potential example of this. For the past year we’ve been providing training several times a week to a small group of students. The teaching load is manageable because we have several staff who share the load. But it would be a lot for only one teacher. On the other hand, the group is too small to justify bringing on many more staff. However, this group of students recently graduated from the program and since then we’ve started experimenting with modular trainings in partnership with other organizations.

Now that we only have a few modular (1-3 day) trainings per month, we are finding ourselves really enjoying the increased time in our schedules for relationships and ministry. We have also stumbled into a model that is unusually scalable. If we have more colleagues join us, we can always increase the number and kind of modular trainings available. If everyone is gone or on furlough and only one worker is left, he can scale the trainings back to a pace that is realistic. This gives us hope for greater sustainability, even as the modular trainings give us access to a broader scope of the community.

Now, the content we are providing is masters-level stuff and our partners are able to gather decent crowds for our modular trainings, so that makes a pared-down schedule doable yet still very respectable. Not everyone will find themselves in this kind of situation.

Yet the transience factor is not going away. As missionaries, churches, and organizations wrestle with how to keep workers in creative-access contexts for the long-haul, the scalability of platforms should be considered. Scalability means sustainability, because the worker remaining on the field doesn’t have to be crushed by the platform work created by that recently departed or arrived coworker. The platform can grow or shrink according to the needs of personnel and the ministry.

That kind of flexibility may sound idealistic, but the potential is worthy of some experimentation. If platforms became more scalable, that would help assure that they are truly serving the missionaries, and not the other way around.

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A Proverb of Caution

Don’t cross the bridge of the dishonorable.

Local Oral Tradition

This local proverb warns against trusting the untrustworthy. It reminds me of Proverbs 26:6, “Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.” Trust is good, but trust without wisdom is dangerous. We need to know the character and the ability of the person we are extending trust to. Historically, to cross a bridge is to take a risk. A bridge usually crosses some kind of dangerous water or gap. Will its construction hold? A bridge is also a chokepoint. Could it lead to an ambush? In local wisdom, to cross the bridge of man known to be dishonorable is to invite harm. Of course, as followers of Jesus we will at times violate this principle for the sake of the gospel (such as in Zacchaeus’ case), sometimes to powerful effect, but we still live in a universe where we are foolish to trust the untrustworthy naively.

This is one of the stronger local proverbs I’ve heard recently, and one which must be used with caution. That word dishonorable is so loaded in this honor/shame culture, that you would never want the one you use it for to hear about it. If they do, you will at least have broken the relationship, if not have also invited threats of violence.

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Syrians Against Arianism

Nisibis’s reputation was founded not only on the monasteries of the Izla mountains, however, but also on the School of Nisibis, which was likewise traced back to Bishop Jacob, who wanted to fight Arianism, which had been condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325. In any case, we know that he employed Ephrem the Syrian as a biblical exegete. When the city was handed over to the Sassanian king Shapur II in 363, Christian instruction ceased, and Ephrem fled to Roman Edessa, where he taught until his death and supported his bishop in the fight against Arianism.

Baumer, The Church of the East, p. 22

Ancient Nisibis is modern Nusaybin, Turkey. And Edessa is now called Sanliurfa. I’ve often heard of the battles over Arianism that took place in major cities like Alexandria, Egypt. Fascinating then to hear what was also happening in these eastern border cities often fought over by the Romans and the Persians.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Not Alone When the Wolf Comes

We leaned over the railing, watching a group of ducks and geese in the park’s man-made lake. It was a warm winter afternoon. Some of the fowl lazily swam around, others took one-legged naps, and one goose attempted to intimidate us by hissing and exposing his strange tongue. My friend and I just laughed at him. *Harry, having grown up in a village, is no city boy, and is quite comfortable with animals and their strange ways.

“You know what we say for liquid soap like this?” he had asked me earlier when we stopped into a mosque to use the facilities (all mosques here offer public restrooms). “We call it cow drool, ha! You know how cows are always drooling, right? See the resemblance when I push the dispenser button?” Apparently the next time I’m in need of someone to hand me some soap from a push wall dispenser, I can simply say, “give me some cow drool, please.”

Harry is the one believer still a part of our church plant that was there at the very beginning, six years ago, when it all started with a Christmas party. For the first few years of the church plant, he was the most promising potential leader. Humble, teachable, and wise, Harry blended a rough tribal village upbringing with an engineer’s education and a surprising array of experiences traveling abroad via couchsurfing. He’s also from the most conservative and violent tribe of our city, but had managed to live out his faith carefully and faithfully.

However, when we were on our first furlough the church suffered its second major implosion at the same time that major persecution ramped up from Harry’s tribe and coworkers. In danger and experiencing severe discouragement, Harry isolated himself, vowing to never gather again with other local believers, only with foreigners (and even that a maybe). His departure was a severe blow to all of us. It took him two and half years to come back around – a return that was one of the miraculous answers to prayer we saw over this past year.

To be honest, both of us are still pursuing healing after the difficulty of the past few years. Another leader in training had betrayed us both during the first implosion. Others we had looked up to and depended on had left. When we had gone on furlough and committed to moving to a different city, we had only done so because we believed we could depend on Harry to persevere in his track of being our first local elder. Trust had been broken, on both sides. But the desire to rebuild is mutual, and we’ve been making some steady strides.

Our long walk together on this particular day through the bazaar and the park was our first chance in a while to deeply invest in each other and reaffirm our friendship.

“Harry,” I said to him, “Can you promise me something?”

Harry looked at me expectantly and nodded.

“The next time you are in trouble, would you tell us right away?”

Harry made a cautious grin. He knew what I was getting at. The fact that we had not done more to help him during his season of intense persecution still stung for him. For our part, we were not told right away what was actually happening, and every time we had asked to help, he had told us to keep our distance so as to not make things worse. We all look back on that season with regrets, though no one is sure what else could have been done.

Harry’s instincts are still to go quiet and isolate when things are hard, and to reemerge when he’s got them under control again. It had happened again with a recent car accident. So my question was to try and help him see the need for him to depend more on the body of Christ when he has problems – a nonnegotiable posture for a healthy church member, let alone a potential leader.

Harry shared some of the reasons he’s afraid to depend on other believers, reasons which are very understandable given his story. He also expressed to me the need for us to have a plan in place before the persecution ramps up. I agreed. This ideal is one we keep bringing up, but given its complexity it has proven remarkably difficult to put any legs to it. I suggested a monthly meeting where we get together to work on it. Harry seemed encouraged by this idea.

“Do you remember what you told me years ago about what your father said about the wolves?” I said, referencing a story Harry had once relayed to me about his upbringing. “He told you that if you were out with the sheep and a wolf came, you were not to run for help. Why?”

“Because by the time I got back with help all the sheep would be dead.”

“Yes, so he told you that you had to stay and fight the wolf alone.”

Harry nodded.

“Well,” I continued, “I want you to know that’s not your situation anymore. Now, it’s like you have a mobile phone on you. When the wolf comes, you can call right away, and we will come and help you fight him. You don’t have to face your difficulties alone anymore.”

Harry looked out at the lake and thought about what I said. I prayed that he would actually believe me.

“You know,” he said, “I have friends who sometimes buy ducks and geese in the market and bring them here. They save them from slaughter and give them freedom.”

“And no one comes and steals them from this park?”

“No, they are safe here,” Harry said.

We turned away from the lake and walked on in the warm winter afternoon sun. I thought of all the difficulties Harry has faced – and will face – as a persecuted believer. His future looks bleak from a human perspective. Who will he marry? Will his tribe let him continue to be publicly known as an infidel? Will he be able to keep his government job? I know he longs to follow Jesus, but he also longs for safety, for marriage, for stability and a life without a crisis always threatened just around the corner.

Yet when Harry has been offered the chance to live in Europe, he has refused to do so. In spite of opportunities to marry Muslim girls, he is still single. In spite of failing and others failing him, he is still persevering in his faith, sharing the gospel, and following Jesus. The new heart in him and the presence of the Spirit keep him coming back, risking again for the sake of Jesus and in the hope of healthy churches someday taking root here.

I am sure that the wolf will come again for Harry. Yet Christ will stand with him, just as he did last time. We know that without a doubt. Our vision is that, somehow, the body of Christ will stand with him also. And that Harry would let us. Pray to this end.

*Names changed for security

Photo by Milo Weiler on Unsplash

The Hazards of Second Language Sermons

Today I preached to our local church plant from John 12:44-50, a passage often titled “Jesus Has Come to Save the World.” Preaching today meant that yesterday I sat down with a local believer, *Harry, to go over the sermon manuscript, checking for language mistakes and smoothing out the grammar. For the dozens and dozens of times that I have now preached in the local language, God has never failed to provide me a local brother to help with this important prep work – and every time that local brother manages to save me from at least a couple proverbial foot-in-mouth situations. Last night was no exception.

“Jesus teaches us here that it is his words that will judge us on the last day,” I read out loud.

“When?” my friend asked, raising an eyebrow.

“The last day,” I repeated.

“A.W.,” Harry continued, “in our language ‘the last day’ means Friday, not the final day of judgement. To communicate your meaning you have to say ‘at the final age.'”

“Ohhh, thank you. I’m definitely not trying to say that Jesus’ words will judge us on Friday!”

“And when you say ‘the final age’ don’t forget that short vowel in the first syllable of ‘age.’ If you forget it you will be saying ‘at the final tongue!'”

We laughed, sipped our hot drinks, and continued. A little later my friend put up his hand again for me to pause.

“Stop,” he said, “Read ‘Jesus Messiah’ out loud for me again.”

“Jesus Messiah,” I repeated.

Harry shook his head. You are saying it too fast and skipping over the final throaty H in Messiah. When you said it just now, it sounded like you were instead saying ‘Jesus of the squeegee.'”

I chuckled. This was not the first time I had made this kind of mistake. Preaching through Ephesians years ago I had publicly proclaimed, “The Squeegee is our peace!” instead of my intended meaning, which was “The Messiah is our peace.” That tricky throaty H is one of the old nemeses of us English speakers attempting to learn this particular Central Asian tongue.

Idioms especially can be like hidden bombs, ambushing the innocent speaker who is merely attempting to speak in literal and clear ways. Just a couple weeks ago I was doing sermon checking with *Darius when I learned that I can’t say “the person and work of Christ” in that simple form.

“‘Person and work of’ together like that,” he told me, “is always an idiom for someone’s closest circle of relatives. You don’t mean to say that we are saved by the relatives of Jesus Christ, am I right?” He laughed. “That sounds kind of Catholic!”

Then there’s those tricky words that are spelled the same and sound the same, but differ in meaning based on the context and construction of the sentence. This kind of similarity between the local words for canary and shore led to one of my more famous blunders, when teaching through the parables of the Kingdom in Matthew.

“And then Jesus sat down in the boat, next to the canary, and began to teach about the kingdom of God.”

The local believers leaned into their Bibles trying to figure out where the song bird I was referencing had suddenly come into the text.

Last night Harry and I finished our editing work together around 9 p.m. I thanked him sincerely for his help, knowing that his investment of a couple hours with me would mean greater clarity for the rest of the church on the following day, Friday, when our church plant is able to meet.

As we parted ways I shook his hand and said to him, “See you on the last day, brother!”

“What?” he said back.

“Tomorrow is Friday. You know, the last day.”

Harry laughed and shook his head. “Right! See you on the last day indeed.”

*Names changed for security

Photo by Angélica Ribeiro on Unsplash