An Interview with Jake Fidler
J: I was wondering…1000 Cups of Tea - what does that actually mean?
P: Honestly this is one of my favorite chapters. It speaks to the core ethos of the book. The book is entitled 1000 Cups of Tea. So, that's a great question. People ask me that. Actually people ask me, how long it takes to learn a language? The hours, days, weeks, months? And what I like to tell people is to reframe it. It's not about that kind of an investment. How long does it take to learn a language? It takes 1000 cups of tea. And I'm not just trying to be cryptic. I'm trying to help us see there is a certain boundlessness to language. This has very little to do with this whole act of learning a language. If we just try to learn language we're going to miss the whole point which is about the relationships of the people around us who speak those languages. And the 1000 cups of tea represent that investment we have with them.
Imagine it this way. The interaction you have with them has deep value, for you, for them, for the relationship, for the language you are learning, but also for the expression that you have that leads to something greater, in this case the gospel.
So, I guess in this context wouldn't the learner already have to be at a certain step, maybe getting a base of 500 words, or completing a course, or something?
Whatever you're using to reach conversational fluency to be able to have conversations in your language…actually it is just so motivating to to be able to sit down and have tea with someone (or mocha, or java) but just getting that time with people, walking across the street, or somehow communicating, "I really want to get time with you and get to know you," and then staying in that posture of valuing the relationship it's amazing how much language you begin to learn. That's the goal.
So I think it's more a matter of mentality, of where your affections are, ultimately where you compassion is, to say I'm here for a reason that's much more significant than just to learn the language. So, bring what you have, and use what you have to leverage it for the communication you have right then and there at that moment.
In my context I do sit down and have coffee with friends sometimes, but I don't know if I'd had 1000 cups of coffee with anybody! Does it mean something else?
It kind of does. You don't just need to be thinking or counting cups of tea with people. The idea is that it's boundless. In the sense that there is no limit to the extent you can invest in the relationships that God brings into your life in your new language context, city, community…that there are tremendous opportunities, that we should eagerly seek and joyfully anticipate those opportunities that we have with those around us.
So how does work for sharing the gospel? This sounds like a different way of sharing the gospel than maybe what most of us think about. What do you envision as a healthy life rhythm of putting this into practice in our new communities and languages?
I basically view it this way when I think of getting to know our neighbors, learning their language and culture, and spending time with them as we share the gospel with them.
The gospel is rarely proclaimed in isolation of conversation when it’s one on one or in a small group. In other words, the gospel is almost always conversed with people. That is, we proclaim it in and through the conversation.
Look, that’s what spending time with people is all about. People rarely evaluate the truth of the gospel by the propositions they read on their own – yeah, maybe they do – but they more often watch and see if it’s being lived out in what we say in conversation and how we live. And that’s our witness. What they hear from us. How we listen and respond. That’s what 1000 cups of tea is all about.