Friday, April 20, 2012

100 Things I Learned in Switzerland

1) What to do when the pastor drops the F-bomb.

I was fresh off the plane from the USA, eager to get settled in this beautiful country,  when I was invited to sing in all the services at ICF, a Swiss church of 2,000 mostly young people and families in Zurich.  On the day, I was warmly welcomed by an excited staff, obviously full of passion to reach the city, and the rest of the world for Jesus. 

I don't quite remember how it happened…some things are still a blur…but I was talking with Pastor Leo between services when he began telling me a story from his time in Australia.

Toward the end of his weeks-long trip, Leo and another pastor were on the golf course when Leo said, "Man, I can't wait to get home and fuck my wife."  The other pastor was flabbergasted.  "You can't use that word!" he said.  "Why not?" Leo answered.  "No!  You can't use that word," he insisted.  "Are you sure?" Leo replied.  "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…!  See?" 

The other pastor didn't know what to do, and neither did I.  I had never heard the F-bomb dropped 20 times in a row, much less by a pastor. 

My jaw was on the ground.  I wanted to throw up.

But there was something special about Pastor Leo that kept me from judging him.  There was an authenticity about him, and the power of God when he spoke, and 2,000 people crowding into a warehouse to be a part of this church that he was leading;   loads of fruit growing right here in the hard spiritual ground of Europe.  It's hard to point the finger at that. 

It was many moons later that I realized, Swiss people view our cuss words like we view theirs…as funny words.  Saying "scheisse" can be fun even for Evangelicals, and it's the same the other way around. 

Also, when speaking in a foreign language, one often doesn't fully understand the weight of certain words.  For example, I might say "I am angry" in German, which would come across too strong when I only mean I am a bit frustrated or perturbed.  

Furthermore, there is no church culture here.  Only Jesus culture.  Meaning, there is no Christian sub-culture with a list of do's and don'ts'…do act like this, don't say that.  There is only the directive to follow Jesus and be authentic.

Even now, I am moved by Pastor Leo's willingness to preach and live his life without any pretense.

This was one of my first experiences here of looking beyond a person's actions to see their heart, understanding cultural differences enough to realize…it's the heart and God's presence that counts most.

We ended up attending ICF for the rest of our time in Switzerland.  We were small group leaders, and helped for a while with the English/Spanish church which was just beginning, and I got my start leading my first Creative Community. 

When I worked in the church office, my stomach still sunk into my shoes whenever I heard someone shout a cuss word. 

Now I just giggle. 

I'm sitting with the worship team at lunch and one of them says "Shit!" and, hey…I'm still an American.  I was raised a goody-goody, so smoking and cuss words and a glass of wine may always for me have a certain air of excitement. 

So I giggle, and they giggle at me, and we understand one another.  And I'm grateful to these people for the first chips at breaking me out of my shell. 


Sarah said...

"Furthermore, there is no church culture here. Only Jesus culture. Meaning, there is no Christian sub-culture with a list of do's and don'ts'…do act like this, don't say that. There is only the directive to follow Jesus and be authentic."

I love this quote from you! I almost want to post it on my facebook wall giving credibility to you because I think that the Christian "culture" in America has a lot to learn from the Europeans about real christianity. Like you said, the only directive we all have really when it comes down to it is following Jesus and being real and authentic. :)
Looking forward to seeing you again soon, friend!

David Durham said...

Oh yes! This is a great reminder of how we live and view life through a cultural lens...unavoidably.
Oh, the stories we could tell!
Looking forward to seeing you back on this side of the pond.

Peter Davis said...

Damn. Well said!

Audrey Hatcher Woodhams said...

Thanks, guys! Sarah, so meaningful, and Pete, cleverest ever. Dave, glad we have a date set for story-sharing! :)

Rheajoy Ong Yiu said...

I couldn't have said it any better, Audrey! I couldn't put a finger to what exactly drew me to ICF, but this post made me realize why. The bluntness and authenticity of the Pastor and the passion for Jesus is very encouraging!