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United Youth Corps: Without Words

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Without Words

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We've learned that words are what we depend on most of the time to get a message across. Over the course of our time here, we've accumulated a limited vocabulary of Arabic words to help us communicate in everyday life.

Taxi rides are perfect opportunities to practice Arabic, and I am amazed at how much can be communicated without really saying a lot. On a recent taxi drive I had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Marhaba! Tila al ali? Bashiti fee Tila al ali? (Hello! Can you go to Tila al ali—my neighborhood? Bashiti is the name of the hardware store that serves as a prominent landmark in our neighborhood.)

Driver: Nods, smiles, Min France? (From France?)

Me: La. (No.)

Driver: Min Almania? (From Germany?)

Me: La, min America. (No, from America.)

Driver: Beit Jordan?

Me: Ah. (Yes, I live in Jordan.)

Driver: I like America.

Me: Ana beheb Orden. (I love Jordan.)

Driver: Lifts up left hand, points to ring finger, Jordan?

Me: Point to my ring finger, Mexiqi. (I'm married to a Mexican.)

The conversation continues like this, hand gestures punctuating the limited vocabulary we each possess in the other's language. I am once again amazed at how much can be "said" without using a lot of words.

This is not unlike carrying out part of the mission statement of the project here in Jordan, "to experience and live the vision of the Kingdom and to identify with and participate in the work of the Church." The "work of the Church" is preaching the gospel, preparing a people.

Preaching the Gospel Without Words

Living the vision of the Kingdom and preaching the gospel is done primarily in the example we establish through the way we live our lives. For the five of us in Jordan, it must happen without words. In a Muslim country such as Jordan, it is illegal to proselytize. We are able to answer questions about our faith, but no conversation can carry the thread of trying to convert someone.

The longer we are here, the more we realize that we do not need words to actively preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We are establishing a relationship with the Jordanians we interact with and have an incredible opportunity to get to know them, to get to know how they think, how they live and how they react to certain situations. In essence, we are sharing life with them. If we are able to show care, concern and take a personal interest in them, we are effectively connecting with where they are at in life.

We do not need words to greet people with a smile every day. We do not need words for them to see the love of God in us. We do not need words to portray a positive example in how we conduct ourselves. The words we say while we are here most likely will be forgotten soon after we are gone, but we know and have seen how much love and appreciation the people at our projects have for those who came before us.

The previous volunteers lived the gospel, demonstrating a way of life, a way of being that spoke to those around them. One teacher at the YMWA recounted recently that the volunteers (back in the 1980s) taught her how to smile. She noticed every day that when the young adults arrived at the school they were smiling. Over 20 years later, this is what she still remembers. Their example rubbed off on her and her somewhat serious demeanor gave way to joy. In fact, she was one of the first ones who made our volunteers this year feel welcome.

The apostle John's words echo in my ears: "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). This reality is at the very heart of preaching the gospel. As I prepare to head back to the States, a land where I speak the language, I do not want to forget it. UN