We have been living on the reservation in Dulce now for three-and-a-half weeks and I have heard several times since we got here that having a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously would be good qualities to have. I had thought that was the kind of person I was more-or-less naturally, and I've had the opportunity to do laugh at myself a few times since we arrived. When it happened today it caught me completely by surprise.
I went to the grocery store to get some things for the church. On the way in I saw a man who had been at our church on my first Sunday. He was sitting in the store's cafeteria with a man I had not met before. After making my purchase I went over to say "Hi" to them, and I was glad that I had correctly remembered the one man's name. A third person had joined them and I mentioned that another man I had met in town had told me that some men drank coffee and spoke in Jicarilla Apache at the store in the afternoons. "Are you the men?" I asked.
Indeed they were, and they said I could join them and learn. I said that I figured I was too old to pick up a language but one of them said that "no, I wasn't" and invited me to sit, so I did.
He said a word and I repeated it. He said it again and I repeated it again. Then he told me that it meant "white man." Okay, I thought. Then he said another word, which I repeated. He said it and I repeated it. This, he told me, was the word for "hello."
He said the words together and I repeated them. Then he asked "What did you say?" to which I replied, "Hello, white man." We all laughed, one of them gave me a high-five and I figured it was time to move on for the day.
Thinking about this on the walk home from the store I was mindful of the fact that my newly learned phrase would not have much practical use, given that there are very few white men living on the reservation in the first place. But my willingness to sit for a few minutes with some Apache men and laugh with them at my expense is something I was glad had happened.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul writes about his willingness to be flexible in how he lived with others in order to advance the Good News in Christ Jesus. He sums this up by saying:
"I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them its blessings."
It is my prayer that those few minutes today leads to more time with those men, or perhaps with others who may learn about me from them. And that more time with the Native Americans outside of our church will lead to them knowing, and better yet, possessing, the blessings of saving faith in Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.