Archive for SE Asia
Two men walked into a village to tell the people about the Savior. The peoples did not show any interest in believing or even seeking a full understanding of the story. One villager told the men that here they worshipped the spirits, but if their God is so powerful, then they should have Him make the tree where the spirits dwell to fall over.
With the conversation over, the two men began to pray early in the day for this very thing to happen. At noon, they continued praying on the edge of the village, close to the tree. In the evening, they continued praying. Throughout the night, they continued praying. Just before dawn a few villagers began to stir outside. They turned as they heard cracking sounds begin. The tree began to move as it cracked and popped with force. Then in a swift motion it crashed down into the village. Immediately the villagers came running to see what had happened to the tree where they had previously felt compelled to worship the spirits. Seeing the power of “the God,” they heard the story and many believed.
Today, whether living in a post-Christian, animistic, or other context, there is a deep and abiding reality that we would do well to remember:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We must increase our efforts in prayer. I must pray more than ever before. May we:
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Happy New Year! Let’s roll….
From time to time I will be posting original writings of guests from around the world. In this post, a missionary in SE Asia shares a small part of the story he is experiencing. Thanks friend!
While training a [group in country] a young man sitting in the back came to my attention. He was 25 or 26 years old and had quite a story to tell. This young man had been a Buddhist monk until three months earlier. He came to the training to learn more about his new faith. The following is his story.
My family could not afford to feed me so they put me in the monastery when I was very young. It is all I have ever known. One day I was walking down the street, with my bowl, to collect food for the day. Without looking I stepped into the street and right into the path of a car. The car hit me and sent me flying into the middle of the street. When I tried to get up I realized my leg was broken. Some men helped me into a taxi that took me to the Buddhist hospital for monks.
The doctors x-rayed my body and told me it was not good. My leg had been crushed in the accident and it was inoperable; they would have to amputate. They sent me to a room, gave me some pain medicine, and scheduled the surgery for the next morning. I was so worried! I tried to meditate and called on the Buddha for help, but nothing worked. Finally I fell asleep and in my sleep I had a dream. A man dressed in white came to my bed and touched me on the shoulder. He told me not to be afraid; the doctors will not amputate your leg, I am going to heal you. As he walked out of the room, he turned around and said, “My name is Jesus.” The monk had never heard that name before so it had no special significance, but he remembered it. During the night he felt warmth in his leg, by morning he had feeling and when the doctors came to prep him for surgery they found his leg completely healed. The surprised doctors asked what had happened. The monk told them about the man Jesus, but the doctors had never heard that name before either. They told him, “You are healed so return to your monastery.”
Two weeks later the monk was on the street again collecting food for the day. An unknown believer approached him and began to share the gospel with him. As the believer told about God the young monk became confused. “I did not understand what he meant. What is the god?” The believer went on to tell the monk that God had a son whose name was Jesus. When he mentioned this name, Jesus, the monk stopped him. He told the believer his story and said, “This is the one who healed me, please tell me more about him.” When the believer was finished telling him about Jesus the monk replied,” this man healed me, I want to become a follower of Jesus.” He disrobed and left the monkhood, joined himself to the believers and was in my seminar to learn more about the faith he had come to embrace.
In the grocery store, a restaurant, the airplane, at church, at some time you just might have run into the deluge of questions that can comprise a young child. I have seen this used in two ways. One kid is working his “why.” His questions are used as challenges rather than as interrogative tools. Wise in his own eyes, this kid is asking mom or dad to justify the given instruction. To justify their ability to give the instruction. The second way to use the “why” is as a tool to learn. When a child comes and asks in earnest, “Why does the sun go down?” the parent would like to provide the right answer. Humility is a powerful thing to verbalize the lack of understanding of the learner and to motivate the adult to share at a level the child can understand. Yes, mom and dad and other caregivers tire of the constant barrage even when asked with humility in earnest, but….
Continuing with the Upstream Collective JetSet case study in Taiwan, it seems helpful to encourage us all, myself included, to be life-long learners in culture. (I am currently applying this stuff to my new culture in a city I have lived in years ago in the U.S.) While some of the areas have been touched on here this week in previous posts, I would like to offer some specific areas for formulating questions that will be helpful to ask yourself and often to voice to others–especially nationals in the culture. View these questions as a base of questions that are helpful as you participate in your understanding of culture and the process of narrative mapping (much of this is thanks to Thom Wolf).
Geographical distinctions? – Taking notice of bodies of water and rivers is helpful. In Taiwan, you have both the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. What role have these played in history? Religion on the island is distinct from that in mainland China. These large water boundaries have made it possible for Chinese folk beliefs to be close enough to cross over, but far enough to not be as impacted through the Cultural Revolution. What is the significance of the Keelung and Xindian Rivers in the history and culture of the city? Other geographical distinctions may include major intersections of roads or railways; boundaries; and physical landmarks.
Mosaic of the land? – Seeing urban centers as collections of groups of people should help provide understanding of a city. In Taipei, there is a breakdown of cities and townships within the city. Are these representative of different classes or ethnicities or moralities of people? Does each city or township break down into further subsets? How do these groupings of people or villages look as it relates to socioeconomic status? How do these different groupings live life? Form relationships? Celebrate holidays and special events?
Meaning? – What is the religion of each people group? How did this religion come here? What is of great importance to the various people groupings? Is there anything that this people treasure so deeply that they are willing to live for it? Teach their children about it? Die for it? What churches (may include religious buildings and/or groups meeting) exist in the area?
Going into and participating in a culture as a humble learner is invaluable. Humble, as a child, the missionary will do well to ask questions while trying to understand culture and find ways to contextually share the gospel with the lost.
Mike and Kelly had just finished 20 hours of air travel. The clock indicated it was time for lunch. Their jet-lagged schedule and eye-lids pointed toward time for a long night of sleep. Deferring to the clock at the country of arrival, we went to lunch. Landing at a food court, I provided an overview of their options. The response was something like, “Anything that’s national.”
This couple understood and embraced the need to begin to understand the local culture even in a state of sleep deprivation. When arriving in a new culture, people would do well to seek to be a student of what is happening in the environment around them. Do people talk? If so, who is talking and to whom? At what volume do conversations happen? Do locals make eye contact with others? If eye contact is made, is it with both genders? Are people smiling? Do they touch each other? How much personal space do they allow? Is the amount of personal space different in public transport systems? Through simple observation, what can you learn about their social interactions, history, religion, etc.?
Be an experiential student of the local culture. Use all five senses to begin to understand your new surroundings. This is a honeymoon period. If a person stays in another culture long enough (often ranges from 1 to 18 months, though I have seen this happen in just a couple days), the honeymoon will pass. (This is another conversation for another day…not during this Upstream honeymoon trip.) During this time, seek to enjoy and acknowledge appropriately the things you observe and experience. Participate. Learn. Savor. Don’t complain. Don’t seek to fix things. Be a gracious visitor while being an ardent learner.
Some of the best advice I have heard for short-term partners and people starting a long-term commitment comes from a friend of mine that has been to many countries with groups. He shares with each group that there are 2 rules for his groups. First, no whiners. Second, semper gumbi (always flexible). These two rules work pretty well for allowing someone to put their preferences and expectations aside to be a learner that embraces the experience.
I have seen people be challenged in a cross-cultural setting when a Coke is served warm with no ice or perhaps with only a cube or two. When coming from a car for every person and a person for every car culture, adapting to a lot of walking and crowded public transportation can be challenging. On the Upstream Collective JetSet vision tour happening right now in Taiwan, the guys shared about an Idols-R-Us shop where you go to select and purchase your own scary little idol. As observers, we could enter an experience like this feeling condemnation for the shop and everyone that would participate in such a practice. But to learn about their beliefs and rituals and how those have come to be will go much farther in beginning to contextualize the gospel for the lost. Compassion for the lost at such a difficult juncture will help to build bridges for the gospel.
At this point, I would like to ask my honeymooning Upstream Collective coffee-loving friends…How’s the tea?
Where there is persecution for following Christ, the church thrives. This is evident from the first diaspora until today in nations that are the remnant of Communist ideology. In an interview Ed Stetzer conducted yesterday on Upstream Collective’s JetSet Vision Trip in Taipei, Pastor Chen states that in 1966 there were 600,000 Christians in mainland China. Mao Tse Tung expected this number to disappear with the Cultural Revolution. Instead, the number of believers on the mainland has and is growing at an astronomical rate–this has been projected at 30,000 per day just a few years ago–and numbers in the millions of believers today (for a better understanding of the movement here, I heartily recommend The Heavenly Man).
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the church today counts 5% as Christian if the Catholic church is included. Statistics in my last post point to numbers even lower than this. With a much greater openness to all things western and freedom to worship, the church has had only incremental growth. Seeking to reach out to their community, the church in Taipei is seeking to meet needs and engaging their community through creative ways such as a bluegrass concert.
Counterintuitively, persecution causes the church to rise up. Freedom and lack of oppression lead to a lack of explosive, viral growth and moves toward incremental movement up (or down). When lacking in effective external factors (e.g. persecution), then the church would do well to be on a mission greater than itself–consistent with the Commission of Christ. This mission can and does include living with our “eyes wide open” according to McManus. Of course social ministry and cross-cultural missions fit the bill here. One great expression of this zest for life and desire to impact the lives of others can be found in bluegrass music. This has effectively gathered crowds of people in countries from Spain to Russia. It is emblematic, I believe, of how a non-Christian society can be engaged by a people that love life. As followers of Christ, our lives have been changed. The joy that He brings to our life should translate to every aspect of our lives so that we are contagious people.
BTW – I am still planning to move forward with the case study in upcoming posts, just wanted to share these thoughts today.
So excited to be away together celebrating our one year anniversary, my wife and I hurriedly threw some clothes in a suitcase after yet another day’s work. Broke and in love, we didn’t need much to be happy. At least we didn’t think we needed much…. Our destination was Williamsburg, VA. Our first day we had a nice time though it was a touch cool for us in our shorts and t-shirts. Frigid was a better description for the next day. The temperature had dropped more than 20 degrees while being accented by a constant drizzle. Though our budget didn’t have much discretionary capacity, we bought one William and Mary sweatsuit. Based on which extremities were the most numb we decided who wore sweatpants with a t-shirt or shorts with a sweatshirt.
In today’s internet-laced developed world, checking the weather is a given. However, there are a number of other things that would be helpful to know. This week, some friends from the Upstream Collective are leading some U.S. pastors on a Jet Set tour in Taiwan. I will be posting frequently this week with some how-to topics using Taipei as a case-based scenario for preparing and participating in mission.
Here are some areas for research and some links (not exhaustive). Feel free to participate using this case study as an interactive group learning experience. (Yes, I look forward to learning along the way too.) In the next post, we’ll look at next step items.
- Taipei satellite image (- zoom in tight on Taipei in the North and you can see the urban high-rise, concrete setting)
- China – administrative map (helpful for understanding the context)