I am writing this E-pistle from Berlin, Germany, where our United Methodist Council of Bishops is meeting. Our COB meets outside the USA once each four years, and we have met in places like Puerto Rico, Panama, Mozambique, and now Germany. Why? Because our United Methodist Church is an increasingly global denomination, and in fact our UMC is growing most quickly outside of the USA. As Bishops, we want to support and strengthen that growth, and we also want to become more personally aware of the issues confronting our UMC around the world.
 
This means, of course, that one of our challenges is language. Our COB meetings always include language translation for those bishops who are not fluent in English (fortunately many of our bishops from outside of the US speak several languages very well). At this meeting a new development is that we ALL have headsets and are receiving translations at times during the presentations. It is humbling to be one who needs help understanding the many languages present.
 
One tool which I have found helpful is an app on my iPhone call "Google Translate."  It works through the camera on my phone, and when I place it over a text or point it toward a sign written in another language (in this case German) it instantly displays those words in English. The translation is word-for-word or phrase-for-phrase, so it is not perfect. Every language has its own idiomatic expressions (like in English when we leave in our cars and say we are "hitting the road"), so there is always something lost in translation. But it helps.
 
Communication is not easy, even when we are using the same language. Truly understanding another person requires paying attention to them, hearing them on a deeper level than just the content of their words, and "walking in their shoes" enough to know them.
 
To live the Gospel and to share the Gospel requires listening. In fact, one might paraphrase Paul's famous words in I Corinthians 13 by replacing the word "love" with the word "listen." Try it! I think inserting the word "listen" into that text helps to illustrate that at least a large part of loving in the Spirit of Christ is listening to one another. Just be careful ... don't let your love get lost in translation.