Yesterday I began teaching the pastors in earnest. This is the part of the trip that is truly the most rewarding. It is also the most difficult.
Flory translated my lectures. His English is the best I've heard in Burundi, but he still struggles with a restricted vocabulary. As a result, I have to occasionally restate the concepts I'm trying to communicate. This simplification, by its very nature, makes the statements less exact and thus more prone to possible misunderstanding and error.
I also must slow down and enunciate more purposely. I find this difficult. When I teach, my mind works faster than my labrador's tail. When a teacher and a translator are in sync, it's as rhythmic as a game of tennis. Even the students follow the match, heads moving back and forth as if at Wimbledon. Having to slow down, on the other hand, trips up my concentration. It's harder to maintain the flow.
Still, slowing down is better than having to repeat myself. I struggle to find the words to restate what I've just spoken. Of course, sometimes the problem is across the net. Occasionally, Flory will know the word in French, but not is Swahili. Then the students begin talking all at once, trying to help (guess really) what he is trying to say. After the missing word is found, the instant reply kicks in and the entire thought must be restated before I can continue.
Ah Swahili, that lyrical common language of central Africa. Except that it's not so common. The doctrinal statement I had translated (and proofed by a second translator) is wonderfully proper Swahili. They speak this way, I am told, in Tanzania. Only this isn't Tanzania. As far as I can tell, the statement communicates as well as a visitor from Liverpool telling a mechanic in Possum Hollar that his duff wireless is in the boot. (Insert blank stare here.)
We found a bit of a work-around. When its time to refer to a passage of Scripture, it's now read in both Swahili and French. This little trick…er…technique has solved quite a few translation problems before they could grow.
To the pastors' credit, they are extremely receptive students. They question what they don't understand and press when what I've stated has challenged their assumptions. But appealing to the Word settles all issues. At least it has so far. Even though as a group they don't know the Bible overly-well and some seem to struggle to read it, their commitment to it's authority is unshakable. I've yet to hear (as is all too common) "well I know what it says, but that can't be right."
Teaching Christology, particularly the relationship of the resurrection to justification was a real joy.
But I must admit even though I'm chuffed to bits about the teaching, I'm knackered so I'm bogging off to bed. Cheers!