Out of Context

May 04, 2022

He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”

John 1:20-23


John the Baptist’s presence and actions caused some people to think he was someone he wasn't: the Messiah. Have you ever been in a situation where you recognized someone, but couldn’t place them? Imagine doing that in a place where you’re a minority! Read this account from Oakwood’s Global Partner, Susie.


I’m sure you’ve all been there – someone greets you as if they know, and they may look familiar but you can’t place them. Where do you know them from? Do you know them? And then it dawns on you, perhaps with a little help from them – you do know them, but it’s from a completely different context.

If you had seen them where you usually see them, it would have been no problem. But seeing them here just threw you off guard.

That’s often how I feel here, especially now. I saw some of my people at a funeral the other day; they looked familiar, but I didn’t know where they were from. I thought I knew, but when I went to that house the next day, the ladies there didn’t seem like they had seen me the day before. Hmm... 

There are other people that I’ve visited in a village several years ago now, and with my white skin they easily recognize me. But let’s just say I have a harder time recognizing all of them, especially when I now see them in the city.

Who are you, and how do I know you? I was grateful the other day when someone who obviously recognized me told me straight up where I knew her from. Thank you! 

Besides being confused when I see people I know out of context, the same happens with words. My language helper probably gets rather frustrated when he uses a word I know, but it’s not in the same story or the same context and so I have no idea what it means anymore.

He recently told me, “A thing. A good thing and a bad thing,” and pointed to where I drew a happy face and a sad face. Ah yes. This word means “thing,” and I learned it when we were discussing the pictures on that page. I learned it in the context of “good thing” and “bad thing,” but logically it can just come as “thing” without a “good” or “bad” attached.

It doesn’t help that there are about 4 or 5 different words that are all pronounced almost exactly the same as the word for “thing,” and several have pronunciations that can change slightly based on context, sounding more or less like “thing” at any given moment. I ran into one today, and through a bit of acting, I found out that one was the word that means “to climb or go up,” not “thing.

Anyway, for anyone you know who’s becoming part of a new community, you can pray that we can recognize people, even when we see them in an unfamiliar context. And for anyone you know who’s learning a new language, you can pray that we can recognize words and grammatical constructions, even when we see them in unfamiliar contexts.

[Posted to Susie's blog on Nov. 16, 2021]

Who are you getting to know in your community? What step will you take to remember them and meaningfully connect with them this week? How will you help prepare the way for the Lord in the world around you today?

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