Lost in Translation

Kitui County, Kenya

There is an old quote attributed to Woody Allen that says “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” It seems to derive from a Yiddish proverb that roughly translated says: “Man plans, God laughs.” Either way, the meaning is clear. God sends the best laid plan of mice and men astray. I set out last night to do prayer visits with families. I have to admit that it is still quite a process to psyche myself up to it. Like stage fright before a show, I feel fine once I am out doing the visits. However, getting started is hard. There is something that feels fundamentally awkward about walking up to a house in the dark, and saying, “I am a pastor. May I pray with your family.” Anyways, I got to my first house last night, said my usual formula, and was asked to take a seat as usual. I did what I usually do next. I asked the children if there is anything that they would like to pray about. At this point, there is usually a long pause, and the children, hesitantly at first, start offering things up. This is not what happened last night. Instead, one of the kids simply said, “No,” and a high school student sitting next to me slid her math book in front of me and asked me about a problem.

For the next hour and ten minutes, I was homework help. We worked on Algebra II, Geometry, Geography, and even Trigonometry. Half this material, I had not covered since leaving The John Cooper School, in 2005. Even still, I dug deep in my memory banks, checked the reference section in the textbook, and plowed forward. I kept thinking that before too long, we would get to the praying, but no, we kept working on homework until 9:00pm.

As the title of the post suggests, I think part of the problem was translation. On Friday and Monday, I had been a guest lecturer in the high school geography class talking about what life is like in cold climates. My job was to give them a bit of context and here what cold climates are like from someone who lived there. While I may have lived half my life in Houston, Texas where the fur coats fly out anytime it dips below 50 degrees, I have also lived in Belgium, England, Philly, and DC. Still, anyone who knows my reaction to cold weather may find this minorly hilarious. How this relates is that the student how shoved the math book in front of me was also a student who I taught geography to on Friday. Thus, she was used to me as a teacher and used me as a teacher.

I really enjoyed homework help prayer, but it goes to show that no matter what we set out to do, God is in control. Helping with math was a higher priority than prayer time apparently. I was just glad to be in the right place at the right time, and it is somewhat of a miracle that I remember Trig. Thanks be to God.

Mungu Akubariki,