Well, we took my sister to the airport this morning. She is off to Japan, and I am jealous. Now four of our closest buddies from here are living over there, looking to see what it means to build a community of faith in the Japanese context. I would like to go too, but the time is not right... I've got to give this music thing a go. Also this week, good friends of mine are heading way back up north to their home in Norway House where they are teachers. It would be nice to have everyone together here for a while, but there is something awesome about everyone going off to pursue these cross-cultural dreams.
So it kept me thinking today of the importance of cross-cultural experiences when it comes to the Kingdom of God. I remember hearing something challenging once from Jackie Pullinger. She was saying that we shouldn't listen to the voices that say the best and most effective way to do missions is to train nationals in their own countries and then leave them to do it for themselves. It sounds good at first, but is really a severe reaction to the culturally arrogant and colonial notions of mission that characterized most of the evangelical missions movment. Instead, she offered that we should embrace a model that reflects the diversity that God seems to so love. She pointed out how just as Christ left his culture, the culture of heaven, to incarnate amongst us his message of Love, so something good happens when we step out of our own culture and incarnate his Way in another place. There is something about being outside of our comfort zone that brings clarity to our mission as a people of God. It is not so easy to just to blend in and forget that we live for something beyond our culture.
The difference from the old way, though, is that this cross-cultural experience happen in every direction - not just from the "Christian" Western country to poor "pagan" country. We are dreaming of a globally diverse community of faith wherein sometimes a "missionary" from here goes to Japan, and sometimes a missionary from Japan goes to India, and then one of those missionaries from India comes here to teach us. I guess that is the main switch in mentality - no longer do we go just to bring the "Truth" to those who don't have it. Instead, we go to bring the truth God has revealed to us, and to learn the truth God has given to them.
I can get excited when I think of how that could affect my area here in the inner city. Natusmi, our friend from Japan, lived here for a couple of years and built some good friendships with some of the kids on our street. She's gone back now, but sometimes we float the idea past those kids of , "Maybe you should go to Japan one day..." Their responses reflect a kind of hopelessnes that tells them they will never get any farther than Main Street. As they see it, their only option is to stay in the North End. I can imagine how redemptive and transformational a trip to Japan would be for them. In my own life, even a short time in Lithuania changed how I viewed the mission of my life and what I was capable of. I am sure it would have some life changing effects for them as well.
But easy now... I am good at getting to far ahead of myself. God, integrate your people all over the earth.