- The reasons you chose the person with whom you had the conversation.
I chose this person because they are someone from a cross-cultural (Syrian Muslim) background that I have started to build a good relationship and trust with. This person also indicated recently that they would like to be Christian. I would say that I have already begun an empowerment relationship but am still figuring out how I can empower better.
- A brief description of how your context affected your approach.
I interviewed him in his home and because he is Muslim and Syrian background and had only just expressed interest in being a Christian I needed to be extremely careful in my wording and not reference his desire to be a Christian as his parents were home and frequently within earshot. All of the language which I used needed to be fairly simple English and not assume prior knowledge of Christian concepts. It also meant that several of the concepts I was explaining required considerable explanation.
In hindsight I feel that the questions should have been more focused on story rather than concepts as the times which he described his own story were more beneficial than almost all of the answers to any questions.
- The questions and comments you used that generated helpful responses.
One of the questions that yielded the best results was asking him what we can do together to help him to introduce others to Jesus. He expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus together, about wanting to read the bible together, pray and go to church.
Another question which helped was asking him about what would benefit his family. He expressed that he felt the issues that his family struggled with were from putting themselves first rather than knowing God and that if they could know God better he thought they would struggle less.
Beyond those questions however I found that many of my questions fell flat. I often did not get answers which helped me to better understand him or how he sees the vision God has for his life.
- A description of what was helpful and what was difficult in the process.
One of the biggest difficulties was overcoming the language barrier. There were several times when he did not understand the question or he did understand the question but did not know how to explain his answer. There were a few times where I attempted to use google translate to help but he still was unsure of how to respond. I think I was asking him questions that were outside of the typical English conversations he’d had as his English normally is quite good.
Another difficulty was that his answers tended to be more generic about what people should do rather than answers being about him specifically. He seemed to understand the concept of vision but didn’t seem able to grasp what kind of vision God might have for him. I struggled to be able to restate the questions in a way which might help him to come to an answer.
What ended up being pretty helpful was not trying to interrupt or correct him when he wasn’t answering the question correctly or directly. There were several times where he did not answer the question I had asked but instead shared his story which actually gave greater insights to what his heart was than the original question would have. For example, one question I asked him was “What type of people do you have compassion for?” At the time he simply said “Anyone who is in need. Anybody who needs something I want to try to help them.” But when I asked him about what he liked about a retreat we went on he shared with me differences between Canadians and Syrians and told me that he has not felt lonely in Canada like he did back in Syria and that he has a heart for people who feel alone.
- What you learned that will shape future interactions as you seek to empower others.
The greatest thing I feel I learned from this experience was patience. Our discussion yielded that trust has been established, he feels comfortable with me and he believes that I care about him. The conversation did reveal some of his heart and how God has been working in his life but it failed to uncover or direct him towards a specific vision. It did however give some clues as to what that might be, for example: his heart for the lonely. It also provided some opportunity for empowerment in the future as he’s expressed interest in reading scripture together. Overall, I came away feeling like I’d made some progress but not the level of insight I had been hoping for. I feel like some of this was due to some of my questions being overly complicated and that this could be helped by having the questions more focused on his story than on concepts.