When God turns the tables
Posted on: 1st July 2022
Chris and Kristy Galea are in their first term serving as CMS missionaries. Their current focus is learning language and culture, and developing friendships with mission partners and people in their community. Chris shares how learning Maltese reminds him of teaching his own children.
If you had walked into our kids’ room about 10 years ago, amongst the mess you’d have noticed a small green children’s Bible, The Beginner’s Bible. Possibly without the cover in place and with torn pages, it was held together with duct tape and determination. It was our go-to Bible when our kids were young.
Chris reading The Beginner’s Bible with Joshua and Esther.
Each night, while our kids were lying in bed, we’d read them a Bible story, talk about it, and pray. It was the place our children learnt new words, new things about God, and asked lots of questions.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
Becoming like a child
Ten years on and the tables have turned. These past few months we’ve been reading through The Beginner’s Bible again, but this time in Maltese—L-Ewwel Bibbja Tiegħi.
Things are different this time round. We’re no longer in our house on the Central Coast, and I’m not the one doing the reading. The Bible stories are being read to us by our tutor Claudia*, who has in many ways become our language parent.
You know how a mother seems to know what their toddler is saying, but to everyone else the words are gibberish? This is what it is like with us and Claudia.
As we read the Bible together, we stop at new words and Claudia attempts to explain them to us. We record the words and keep them for revision to extend our vocabulary. After each story she asks us simple comprehension questions, and we do our best to respond using Maltese. This is generally how it goes. She reads, explains the new words, and asks us questions.
But every now and then things flip back the other way. Claudia is interested in what she reads and will ask us about the meaning of certain things.
“Kristu (Christ)… what does it mean?”
“Christ means King,” I explained. “Jesus is called Christ, because he’s the King!”
Blessed with rich conversations
It has been an amazing privilege reading the Bible in this way. Even though we’re constantly humbled by the challenge of understanding Maltese, God has used this experience to bring about rich conversation with Claudia about biblical truth.
Recently we chatted about the larger story that runs through the entire Bible. We spoke of our loving God, who broke into his creation to bring his people back to himself. We were able to explain how he did so by sending his son. Jesus is the hero of God’s story and is the reason for our hope.
While this experience of being beginners has its challenges and frustrations, it also reminds us of our frailty and the importance of relying on God in the same way as a child. It also reminds us that time is not under our control.
Numbering our days
In the blink of an eye, ten years has gone by. Our kids are much bigger, and my hair much greyer. Sometimes I wish I could wind back the clock to those days. But God’s word instructs me differently. Instead of longing for the days already gone, I am to count the ones I have left.
The Bible encourages us to number our days. It might be scary to even consider such a thought. Each day we live means one less day than we had the day before. How is this wise? Because the story of the Bible tells us that Jesus has turned the tables on death! He who rose from the dead has been crowned king and invites us to receive his amazing gift of life eternal. And that’s why we are serving here in Malta with CMS – so that more people would know Jesus and receive his gift of grace.
* Name changed for privacy reasons.
Give thanks to God that even in our weakness and the times when we lack understanding, he is at work in and through us. Pray for new missionaries, like the Galeas, as they learn language and demonstrate vulnerability, that God would use them to share the gospel. You can subscribe to their prayer letters here.