I have been privileged to be able to travel a lot over the last 20 years. I went Germany and to Russia soon after the fall of communism. I have been to Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines and Malaysia among other places. But I have never been anywhere like the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia captured a special place in my heart. It is tough to describe exactly what it is about that place and its people that gives it an amazing mix of alien and hospitable.
The second thing was the way that both Cheryl (his friend in Portland) and the women on the phone at the sending agency talked about Albania ‘opening up’.
I grew up in a missionary denomination where both domestic evangelism and foreign missions were heavily emphasized and celebrated. There is a mystique about countries that have not been open to foreign missions before. We even had a big color-coded map on the wall that let us know which countries were ‘open’ and which were ‘closed’. It was a sincere matter of prayer.
Like spice merchants scheming about the Far East or timber barons staring out at a vast virgin-forest … there was something tantalizing about the prospect of being the first wave of folks to ‘take the gospel’ into a country.
It is odd to think about this now. This concept of one-way mission is something that I have lost along the way.
My journey has relieved me of the impression that we go to them … that we take something to them only.
The cold war has been over for a virtual-generation now. The world has changed a little bit.
- The internet has changed communications and awareness.
- Globalization has changed travel and access.
- Our age of pluralism has changed how we conceptualize and relate to the other.
Internet – Globalization – Pluralism are a formidable triad for one-way missions. I now go to an inter-religious university that has me listening to and talking with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others on a fairly regular basis. We have much to learn from each other. It doesn’t mean we cease to be sincere Christians. It means that we hold a Christianity a little differently.
This concept is one of the things I really like about Neighbors and Wisemen. It is going to challenge us to listen to stories that we may not be used to hearing and it is going to ask us to reconsider how we treat an-other.
The early days of Lent for me are about loss. I have lost my zeal for one-way missions. What have you lost along your journey?