This afternoon there was a session for first time delegates. Things started out a bit confused because the translator mics weren't completely set up. So the speaker who was greeting the crowd of over 300 had two translators (Swahili and French) standing beside him repeating each phrase. There was also a translator who stood up and explained everything in French and Portugese. Finally, the translators were all set to go, and many of the delegates tuned their wireless headsets to the right language channel and we were on our way. When a delegate that did not speak English had a question, and interpreter would race over to the mic to interpret between the parties. The global nature of our church was evident in that room.
The cultural divides that separate us as people from many nations soon began to emerge. Westerners asked questions about process and logistics. Delegates from Africa asked where they would find conference materials translated into French. One woman asked what to do if she lost her room key. Another asked about bottled water and noted how expensive it was in the hotel room. It ocurred to me that in many developing nations the safe water is the bottled water. The moderator answered two questions about bottled water the best he could, until someone pointed out that everyone needed to know that the tap water was safe. Oh yeah, maybe everyone doesn't know that.
It is interesting to consider the assumptions that we make when we are the dominant culture in a place. I wonder if this small incident might reflect our western cultural assumptions when we look at the rest of the world.