It is very comforting to step off a plane in a continent that you have never been to before after a 30 hour sojourn to see two faces that you recognize. Carey and Holly were right outside the gate waiting for me when I arrived in Cape Town South Africa. As my first foray into the Southern Hemisphere I have to say that I feel less upside down than I thought I would. Every globe of the world that I look at shows this part of the world pointing toward the floor, this might possibly be an incongruity that I will have to explain to my 4 year old daughter.
There is something that exists in mission work that I truly enjoy, well two things really. The first is the emphasis on flexibility. For anyone that has gone into cultures unfamiliar to your own, you can appreciate the fact that you have to go into uncomfortable environments with an open hand ready to deal with whatever curve balls are thrown your way. When working with people from different countries and cultures for a common purpose we have to realize very quickly that while we might agree on the goal, the strategies and measurements of success might look different.
I worshiped at a church in Vietnam a few years ago that might have been one of the greatest worship service that I have ever been kicked out of. Well it’s the only one that I have been kicked out of, but that is another story. The great thing about this church is that the only two things that the people in that room shared in common was a love for Jesus and the English language. That brings me to the second reason I love mission work, it has to be stripped down to its essentials in order to transcend culture. None of the cultural trappings that tie up so many that try to live out their faith in a homogenous culture. The picture that comes to my mind is one of a missionary that is trying to pack the lightest bag that he can in order to be able to travel as far as he can as effectively as he can. He is not going to pack more than I absolutely necessary, and I don’t think that any of us should. Oh, to live a faith that is stripped of the baggage that I try to shove into the bag only to break the zipper.