The Ministry of Interpreters

My co-laborer in teaching the Shangaan women
My co-laborer in teaching the Shangaan women

Southern drawls and other foreign accents…

Words that are culturally inappropriate…

Unsound Bible teaching…

These are a few of the hindrances interpreters can encounter as they serve with missionaries and mission teams.

I’ve tried to imagine what it is like to have to be so focused on what someone is saying and at the same time forming the thought in another language to get ready to speak.

I could never do it. In daily conversation my mind wanders or I’m not really listening. I’m sure that I would frequently have to stop the speaker and then ask, “Now what did you say?”

I’ve thought about how I have taken interpreters for granted calling them out of their tent so I could have them tell someone something. The ones I have worked with were much too kind to tell me no.

Since 2007 when I started coming on outreaches, Annah, pictured above, has been my co-laborer with teaching the Shangaan women. She is a humble, soft-spoken woman that always exhibits the joy of the Lord. As her family and responsibilities have grown she no longer does any interpreting. She was able to establish deeper friendships with the women than I ever could have because she speaks their language and knows the daily life they live.

Interpreters may not have given up their possessions and left their homes to move to another country but they are just as much missionaries. Maybe more so for they already know the language and the culture. I believe the goal of  long-term missionaries should be a commitment  to a total immersion in the culture they are ministering to so that they can effectively learn the language and the culture. If not the  ministry done will be only as effective as the interpreters that are a part of the ministry.

If you are going on a mission trip this summer and interpreters are involved remember their ministry is a difficult one. Make an effort to get to know them and encourage them. For you wouldn’t be able to do what you are doing without them.

2 thoughts on “The Ministry of Interpreters”

  1. Hi Debbie! What a truth you speak here. The interpreters are so important, because they truly bring the word of God to the people just as you do. If they are good at their work, they can express the joy and fervor of the message. That’s priceless!
    What a sweet photo too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh Debbie, I completely agree. I traveled to Bolivia a few years ago with a team of bloggers for World Vision. Our interpreters were precious to us and we were blessed to develop dear friendships with them. And I would be terrible at it. I have trouble staying focused on conversations in English. 😉

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