I hate being in the middle. In a group of people, I walk on either side so I’m on the end, or I bring up the rear. I’d rather lag behind than walk between two people. On airplanes, I will gladly take either the window or the aisle seat; I will not sit in the middle. Same for cars (which is easier because I just blame my long legs).
In church, I sit on the end of the pew, in class I sit on one side or other of the classroom; at whichever end of the desk that I have chosen is closest to the door.
When I sleep, I wear warm pajamas and sleep on top of my covers (eventually I wind up under them but I’m too sleepy at that point to even care that I am between a mattress and a comforter.
Some say claustrophobia, some say freak. I don’t care, just don’t stick me in the middle.
Unless I’m in Baja.
Unless, I’m in the middle of a Bible study sandwich in which the bread is one slice English speaker and one slice Spanish speaker and I get to be the bilingual tomato in between, that helps to hold everything together. Yeah, I did.
Bible study translating is one of my favorite things in the world. Last summer and this summer, I got to translate one-on-one Bible studies with the evangelical dream team, Benny and Jan.
My favorite part of this past time, was having to start from square one with this one lady who, unfortunately did not speak a lot of Spanish. How that works, by the way, is like this: Mexicans who live in Baja who do not speak Spanish are likely from indigenous villages that speak another language. Some have picked up Spanish (from functional to fluent) over the years, but some never do.
She understood enough to be able to light up with wonder when we described for her the miracles of Jesus, Paul’s missionary journeys, the acts of the early church, and the story of the burning bush (my personal favorite).
Her neighbor translated what she could for us, and also was able to study with us.
My other favorite middle to be in is the last night of a group’s week in Baja. I’m being grabbed from all sides to come and “tell her I’ll miss her with everything I have and will count down the days ’til next year” or to “tell him I’m so glad he came to class this week.”
“Tell her to say hi to all the brothers and sisters in the USA and to pray for us daily,” and “tell him it encourages us more than he knows that they have come to be with us for a week.”
I like being in the middle of these conversations because, yes, I can translate words, but I also get to be witness to the things that don’t have to be translated.
And it makes my life richer to be able to see Christ working across cultures to bring unity to a group of people who will one day live side by side; a walk away, not a plane ride away. Imagine the day.
I like to be in the middle of hymns that transcend time and language. There is nothing more fulfilling to me than sitting down in a Baja church on Sunday morning and having the opening hymn be “When We All Get To Heaven.” “Sing The Wondrous,” as I thought was the hymn’s title when I was little has always been my favorite hymn.
The first time we sang it in Spanish in a Baja church I was beside myself with joy, because there I was, in my favorite place singing my favorite North American hymn with my favorite Latin American people. I can’t describe the feeling.
It’s like being between two worlds. The comforts of home and the memories of the people I love all tied into four verses, and the inspiration that comes when you are hit in the face with the fact that God resides in that space between; exemplified in a chorus that speaks to our hearts in any language.
When we all get to heaven (cuando estemos en gloria) What a day of rejoicing that will be! (en presencia de nuestro redentor) When we all see Jesus (a una voz la historia) We’ll sing and shout the victory (diremos del gran vencedor)
I could live in THAT middle all day long.