Translating God’s Love
May 25, 2016
A note from Rev. Wally Butts
What a joy it is to serve in ministry alongside such an amazing and loving staff. You never know when an opportunity will come and who will be beside you when you need them the most. Case in point… On a recent weekday afternoon, we had a young man visit the church who was in very dire straits – and in need of prayer. He was in tears, enraged at himself and his human failings and desperately needed to talk.
I met him in the sanctuary and, try as I might, I found it difficult to understand him. His voice was quavering, and his English was so limited, that while I felt I could help, I was sure that I didn’t have the tool set needed to best communicate with him. So, I went to seek some help. I found Anna Tovar, who I knew was bilingual and she gladly came to assist. As she walked in, however, she immediately recognized the young man and said, “Oh, Jimmi was trying to help him the other day. Let me go get him.” In a few minutes, the head of our maintenance team, Jimmi Ulloa, walked in, reintroduced himself and together we shared the light of Christ’s love and forgiveness.
Jimmi spoke with him in Spanish, shared his story with me and I responded in English for Jimmi to translate. But it was not a simple translation that he made; Jimmi also offered his own words of comfort and gave testimony of his own faith along with mine. One of the clearest obstacles the man was facing was, even though he had prayed for God’s forgiveness, he could not forgive himself for his actions. Together, we were able to lovingly challenge him to come to the realization that God offers forgiveness to all who truly seek it, and to deny this forgiveness of himself would be to overshadow God’s grace. Jimmi and I laid hands on the man and prayed both in English and in Spanish and as he looked up to us, his tears were falling around a smile and we exchanged grateful hugs.
As he was preparing to leave, the young man asked if we had a Spanish Bible he could read. Jimmi immediately rushed downstairs to get him a copy. While we waited, I encouraged the young man to first read Luke 15 – especially the story of the Prodigal Son, which tells of God’s radical love and forgiveness for each of us.
This last Sunday, as I was walking from my office to the Sanctuary, I encountered the young man again – clean, clear-eyed, smiling and holding the Spanish Bible Jimmi had given him. I have no doubt that there are certainly many difficult days to come in his life, but he has had a powerful reminder that God is able to forgive him, and perhaps he will have the strength to do the same.
Thanks be to God, for gracing us with ministers at every level of our staff!