Missionary Translation Woes

The worst part of being a missionary is the language. You're unable to communicate or understand the most basic aspects of life, from "Where's the bathroom?" to "How much do you want for that mango?" In no time at all, you feel like the stupidest person on the face of the earth, such as when I told the yard boy, "Remember, I am garbage" instead of "Remember to take out my garbage." (I guess it was a tacit admission to being white trash.)

Although I didn't do any preaching in Haiti, I did try to share the gospel with a number of people. The first conversation I had along those lines went like this:

"If you accept Jesus Christ, he will take away your dogs." "My dogs? I don't have any dogs." "Everyone has dogs, ma'am. But when Jesus forgives them, it's though you never had a dog your entire life."

Bill Smith, an Assemblies of God missionary I worked with in Haiti, told me he once had instructed an entire church that if anyone wanted to become followers of Christ, they should signify it by raising their legs into the air and coming forward on their hands.

Lots of puzzled looks, very little response to the altar call.

But the all time most embarrassing gaffe has to go to Dale Preiser, another AoG missionary I met who turned red when I mentioned this to him at a church dinner. The word Dale had wanted to use on this occasion was "mambo," a voodoo priestess.

Instead he said "mamba," and gave several impassioned sermons up and down Highway One about the dangers of Christians returning to voodoo and shipwrecking their faith and the faith of others by using peanut butter. (I'm told people were very open to this teaching, and sales of peanut butter plummeted wherever Dale went.)

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