Sunday, September 20, 2009

St. Andrews UMC's First Bilingual Service

Back in July after an outdoor service at St. Andrews UMC, some of us were sitting outside the church under the big tree talking about ministry opportunities for our church in rural Pittsylvania County of Virginia. There were numerous things that were brought up and one of them was to have a Sunday service and invite some of the migrant workers from Mexico, who work at the area farms, to church and have a cookout after the service. We finally got it all together now that it is September. We ran into one potential problem, the harvest had come earlier this year and many of the workers in the area had left for home. After 4 months away from family who could blame them for hitting the road to home. Nonetheless, we decided to plan as if they would be there and do the service as we had planned. If nothing else, it would be good practice. This was going to be a new thing for all of us. One thing we all knew was that none of us spoke Spanish. We would need an interpreter for the service. Minnie May, works with me at the doctor's office and knows Spanish. She agreed to help us with the interpretation. Since she had never done this before, we worked together on the sermon. We wrote the entire sermon out in manuscript form and after each English sentence we placed a Spanish sentence. We would go back and forth through the sermon. I would have to keep my impromptu speaking under control. Joanne did an entire bulletin in Spanish, with the Call to Worship, Apostles Creed, Doxology, hymn titles, and other information all in Spanish. She also did inserts for the bulletins with the words to the hymns in English and Spanish.

When I was leaving my first church,Republican Grove UMC, heading to my second Sunday morning service at Providence UMC, I saw that I had a message on the cell phone. It was Bill Wyatt, he was calling to tell me that they had thought there might be only one guest for our first bilingual service, but things had changed. I have to admit that my heart sank just a bit as I waited for him to say that we would have no one joining us. Then he said that there would be FIVE more coming and he hoped that wouldn't be a problem. I was literally shouting praises to God as I drove the back roads to my next church.

While we had a few glitches during the service it came off wonderfully. For some reason the tape player, that I had played tapes on two hours earlier, refused to work for us. Minnie and I had forgotten to talk about translating the prayers, but she did great. Our guests said they could hear, understood and follow the sermon.

We cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill and then moved inside to enjoy a good meal and fellowship. I brought my specialty, chips and salsa. We made sure that our guests went through the serving line first. There was an abundance of everything.
It was a very good day. This is the first time that we have done a bilingual service. I pray it will not be the last. I believe that it was a blessing to our church and hope it was a blessing to our guests. Next year we will have to start earlier, do it more often, and find where God would have us to go from there.

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