Last summer I spent a month visiting my family in the States. One afternoon I was watching my son at the playground when it suddenly occurred to me that I understood the language and culture of every person at that park. The realization felt like a super power that I needed to try out. So I moved to another bench and struck up a conversation with a woman who was wearing a dress I own in another color. We talked about how versatile the dress was, and then her job, and then our kids…
From then on I was hooked. I took walks just to meet and greet neighbors. I found there were endless ways to start a conversation in a checkout line. I had an hour-long conversation with a woman I met at Starbucks and ended up praying with her over some concerning news she had just gotten about her pregnancy.
When I returned to Indonesia, I felt a little discouraged. What was I doing trying to minister in a country were relationships take years to build and my communication skills would always be lacking? I could be praying with strangers at Starbucks… while drinking Starbucks!
A few nights ago I sat cross-legged on the floor with a family that had suffered two minor motorcycle accidents in the same week. I wanted to pray for them but was feeling depleted in Indonesian, so I asked if I could pray in English. As I started praying in a language that no one understood but that everyone was agreeing with, I realized that if anything were going to happen—if hearts were going to be blessed, if anyone was going to be healed—it would have nothing to do with “my effective ministry.” It would have nothing to do with my communication skills or cultural insights. It would be because a God who transcends culture and language was at work.
Which, of course, was just as true when praying for someone at Starbucks in my home country. I was perhaps just too excited about my language superpowers—and my latte—to remember.