I used to dread Sunday School. Not only did no one speak English but they actually expected me to participate with meaningful responses. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to say about the subject matter but I honestly was never entirely sure that I understood the question, even when, or maybe especially when, someone tried to translate it into English for me. Their hope for my participation wasn't to simply look at me expectantly, hoping for me to raise my hand and venture a response. No, they would actually call on me and everyone would watch me in this awkward silence until I venture a one or two word answer in English which no one would understand and then they would move on. It was miserable.
At some point during my stay here, though, I woke up to the fact that my fellow classmates are wonderful and warmhearted people.
For example, there is one girl in our class who has a learning disability. Every week, someone makes sure to sit next to her to help her read the scriptures and help her find which book and verse we are on. When she interrupted our teacher in the middle of a thought to announce that she was too hot (and later too cold), the brother teaching the class (who is one of our classmates) immediately apologized and fixed the air conditioner without any feeling that she had spoken out of turn. He cares about teaching the lesson, of course, but it's clearly obvious that he cares about her more.
Another example, they make a point to write things on the board. This may not seem like a big deal but since I can read Chinese character (kanji) it makes a world of a difference to me - it means that I can understand what they are talking about in the lesson. Today, I could tell it took a lot of effort for the brother to write it down - he would ask the other classmates about the correct way to write the kanji before putting it up on the board. With scriptural language, I'm sure the kanji is not commonly used or well-known. However, he did this because it mattered to him that when he looked over at me and asked if I understood, I could nod and say that I did.
Today, that same classmate and I ended up in a random group together after church. One of the brethren we were with speaks English fluently so he acted as translator. The brother explained to this English speaking brother, "I feel so apologetic to Erin. She always has to just listen to our lessons. My English is just not good enough to communicate better." And then he looked at me and said in Japanese, "Gomen'nasai." It was said in the spirit of someone who genuinely wished that we could share and share alike. I was also shocked to hear how he felt on his side of things since he had every right to say that I should make a greater effort to be learning his language. I apologized that I could not speak his language better but thanked him for his lesson.
It was actually was really good today and I understand just about everything that was taught(aside from the opening example about a man who had seven devils hanging out with him outside his house). In fact, if the teacher had looked my way, he would have noticed my hand venturing upwards as I debated and decided that I was ready and hopeful to give my own unsolicited comment.
But there's always next week.