In the Summer of 1997 I was on mission in Kenya, Africa. We travelled the countryside northwest of Kisumu where Americans do not often visit, and we were treated with kindness and generosity that filled my heart with joy. I greeted the school children as we disembarked from our mutatu each morning, and I was met with enthusiastic yells of, "Hello! How are you?" I would yell back, "Fine, thank you. How are you?" The silence was deafening until one would finally yell, "Hello! How are you?" I was told later that they were learning English, and I had gone beyond their current lesson. I will share more about the Kenyan children in a moment.
I wonder how many of us really care about the welfare of others when we ask, "How are you?" Is it a trivial greeting, or a genuine request to determine the status of another human being? Do we even understand that other people are bearing burdens that can become ‘unbearable' from time to time? Commenting on Galatians 6:2, John Stott said, "Notice the assumption which lies behind this command, namely that we all have burdens and that God does not mean us to carry them alone."
We have a monumental task before us: To reach lost and dying people with the hope of Jesus Christ; to minister to refugees and outcasts of society; to prepare another generation of young people as they carry the banner of Christ into the future. To be the most effective, we should be as healthy as possible. So, check on one another and see if there is a burden that you can bear. Rather than leave our hurting and weak members on the edge of the harvest field, let us wade into the white and ripe lands arm-in-arm. Go beyond the cursory, "How are you" and get to the business of burden-bearing!
Now, back to the story: One afternoon I was able to speak directly to the Kenyan school children. I passionately told a Bible story as the translator tried to keep up with me. The children had serious expressions on their faces as they simply stared directly at me, not seeming to even hear the translation into their native language. I fought back discouragement at what I assumed was boredom on the part of the children, but the translator was very pleased. He told me that the children were showing respect for me by paying attention to me, rather than the translator, as they stared intently at my mouth voicing the story in English. They learned more about ‘American-style' English that day than they would learn the rest of their academic career, and they were not letting a single syllable fall from their watchful eye. That day we moved from "How are you" to truth and hope!