The single-most, potentially, powerful phrase in the world is, "I love you." As a missionary, my "mission" is to communicate one phrase in the language that all humans understand, "Jesus loves you."
Love is usually communicated when actions give context to words. Jesus Christ soaked up the eternal, infinite wrath of His Father and became sin for us. In near-death fatigue, muscles and flesh ripped to shreds, the Chosen One leaned forward and said, "Father, forgive them because they know not what they do." Jesus is infinite love, and His actions are convincing.
Through the power of Christ, we can reflect Christ's love. Our most significant method for this task is through truth-filled, authentic, vulnerable relationships. The old adage says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
As we open our homes and hearts to new friends, we need God's wisdom for how to speak love. We need God's power and stamina to speak love into the souls of those we serve.
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Cross-cultural ministry has a few obstacles that a missionary has to be intentional about overcoming. In order to cross cultural and socio-economic barriers, we have to be aware to them. I don't really have solid answers for these obstacles, but I do have some possible suggested solutions.
Paternalistic expectations can be placed on a missionary because he is "here to help." The truth is that paternalism short-circuits honesty in relationships. A missionary has to be careful about creating situations where he becomes the patron. A patron is by nature disconnected by a layer of formality that elevates him. He is like an employer or a charity in the eyes of those who he's trying to minister to. Serving others and spending time together in each other's homes is one answer for this. Another idea might be to limit economic help and increase sweat equity to build relationships.
Jesus avoided paternalism by crossing socio-economic boundaries. He ate in the homes of rich and poor, righteous and sinners. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He sought out and served people from a variety of walks of life.
In America, we have a saying that a man's house is his castle, meaning that people should be invited before they come in. In the Philippines, people are more fluid in their hospitality. I think that the answer to this one is to find ways to invite our friends over that feel unstructured for the guests. One idea that I have is that when I feel most comfortable, might be when my guest feels least comfortable. Trying to imagine how my guest feels in my house, is start for anticipating answers.
Most people understand that a missionary will retain some semblance of the home life that they were used to in the States. Stewardship of funds is of utmost importance to a missionary. But, this presents an area for consideration. God created all of us equal. A man's budget does not give him increased worth. How can I bridge the divide that my budget projects? One way is to share life with people: game nights, dinners at my house, dinners at their house... indiscriminate hospitality can lead to honest conversations and friendships. Another way is to pray together and study the Bible together, bearing one another's burdens through prayer and friendship.
Here to Help:
As long as people feel like I am here to help, it puts me right back into the paternalistic paradigm. Actually, I'm here to glorify God by using my family's talents and skills within a community. The key here is "community." The answer is relationships. Building true friendships within a community gives the missionary the space where he/she can glorify God with his/her talents because those talents contribute to what Jesus is doing in that community.
It's such a privilege being a missionary, albeit difficult to navigate at times. The beauty of mission work is that it is a summation of daily life, lived out in relationships. Through those thoughtful and intentional relationships, the good news of Jesus Christ is received and believed. Saving faith is always accompanied by repentance and a Spirit-filled life that glorifies God in daily life.
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right." Peter
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," James
"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all." Solomon.
"I have become all things to all men,that I might by all means save some." Paul
Personal identity, struggles and successes, and future relationships are potentially empowered or derailed by parents. What you do for 18 years can contribute to a life of fruitfulness or a life of turbulence.
How many people struggle with their identity and self-worth because of words or actions that their father poured into them? How many relationships have been fraught with immaturity and selfishness because of a parent's manipulation and bitterness in years past? It's common for adults to struggle with relationships because of insecurities or false ideas about their own purpose and worth.
Why? In one word: Sin. Each person's created purpose is to glorify God and reflect His character in our lives, relationships, thinking, work and worship. Anything short of that is sin, which is why Jesus Christ gave up everything to give us this very thing: A life that glorifies and enjoys God daily.
How do we parent this purpose and identity into our child? Daily and deliberately. Here are a couple of tips for blessing your child.
1. Bless your child with an accurate self-identity and purpose. Through your words, emotions and actions, blend into your child an accurate self-identity. The truth is that each child is born a sinful, selfish rebel with an incredible propensity to either glorify God or dishonor Him. Without God's saving intervention, each child is trapped in the destiny to dishonor God. The truth is that God loves our children so much that He sent His child to die, so that our children can live purposeful, God-enjoying, God-honoring lives. The pitfall is to go to one side or the other on this: You are an incredible person who doesn't need God. Or, you are worthless and have no purpose. Bless your child by teaching the truth about God, identity, purpose, and his incredible need for Jesus Christ.
2. Bless your child by being a godly example. It's easy to slip into bad habits like being critical, angry, and short-tempered. Instead, which good spiritual habits can I model? Self-control and thoughtful use of wisdom are both something that I hope to see in my grandchildren. One gift that my parents gave me is that they didn't gossip or allow me to be bitter. This has helped me have more stability in my life.
3. Bless your child with training on how to apply God's truths. Instead of berating the kid for being rude. bring to light a scripture, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Or, if she is being unkind to a pet, quote the Bible truth, "A good man is kind to his animals."
4. Bless your child by spending quality time with him. Spending quality time with your child says, "I like you, you're special, and God made you for a special purpose." As you invest time with your child, you slowly fill that void that craves an affirming relationship. In so many ways, you are a living parable of God the Father. Ultimately, your child will find his identity, affirmation, and purpose as a child of God.
We have to evaluate our parenting through the lens of truth. Without the blessing of our godly parenting, our children will struggle in life. As we instruct our children, affirm them, and hold them accountable, we will see them grow. "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he won't depart from it."
Rights are important, especially if you live in a republic. Are you willing to let people violate your rights? If so, when?
Living as a guest in another country, I've run into situations where my rights aren't a consideration. It's challenged me to think about why I feel so strongly about my rights. And, I've asked myself, "How should a Christian respond?"
Paul says that Christians should be willing to give up their rights in order to help others. Jesus gave up His rights to life and liberty, so we could be right in God's presence and have eternal life and freedom. So, when should I give up my rights?
Here are some questions that help me decide if I should insist on my rights:
1. If I give up my rights, will it be healthy for the other person?
2. Will insisting on my rights diminish my chances to share the gospel?
3. What would Jesus Christ do in this specific situation?
God cares about justice, so I can trust that He cares about my rights. If I make an issue about my rights, is it because I want what's best for me or for someone else? Justice and righteousness are important because they reflect the nature of God. As a Christian, finding when and where to insist on my rights is an issue of wisdom and discretion. How can I reflect the character of Jesus Christ?
Beliefs become actions. Even subconscious beliefs, woven into your thinking by experiences become visible in your actions. Your beliefs will become your actions. That's why so much time, money and energy is spent on education world-wide. If the _____________________ can teach you what to believe, then your actions will follow. (Fill in the blank as you wish.)
Most of us believe a mixture of truth and deception. We're not willingly deceived, but we believe either outright lies or tainted truth. These beliefs are the compass we make decisions by, resulting on positive or negative actions. We're born spiritually bankrupt, so our spiritual truth can't be trusted. We grow up in cultures that contain narrow thinking and hidden prejudices. We spend significant time and resources on expanding our mental horizons, so we can live fuller, more-truthful lives. If you are honest with yourself, you probably think that your way of life is the best way, which is why you live it that way. Interestingly, you can't change real truth by really believing or living a false truth. This is because truth exists with or without your believing it. So how can we know if what we believe is actually real and true?
God is infinite truth and He knows what actions that truth should become. God knows exactly the right action for every situation, every time. That's one reason why He qualifies to be God. He knows 100% truth. The is really not a secret. When Jesus Christ came to our planet to live a perfectly truthful life, He said something significant: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
God is truth and all of His actions are right and at the right time. God created us to reflect Him in our daily lives. Before He created the universe, God chose us to be His truth-filled children. Right time, right action. At some point in our lives, God comes to us and empowers the truth to make our dead spirits alive. Right time, right action. At which point, we begin the journey of examining our beliefs, ripping the lies out of our philosophies, and making all of our thinking obedient to Jesus Christ. That means that we change our beliefs to match Jesus' beliefs and adjust our actions to reflect Jesus' actions. When you are a disciple of the Infinite-Truth-God-Man Jesus Christ, your main objective is to learn His truth and live it... right belief, right time, right action. Right beliefs become right actions.
Most people think that their way of life is based on truth, which is why they live it the way they do. They learn from their experiences, TV shows, professors, books, and Bibles. These beliefs direct daily decisions. Our battle for a fruitful, truth-filled life begins inside of our minds. We have to root out the half-truths and replace them with full-truths. That takes time... lots of time. In fact, God says in Deuteronomy 6 that it is something we do throughout our daily life. Let me wrap this up with a couple of questions to pique your thinking process.
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.