Friday, July 25, 2014

Going Native - Life in Community

When my husband started suggesting that we were not engaging our host culture enough,  my reaction was something along the lines of "I'm going through culture shock right  now. If you try to take my jeans, my cheese, my movies in English, and, heaven forbid, my air-conditioner... so help me, I'll..." Having been married to me for five years, he knew the worst I could threaten him with was tears, but I gave it my best shot anyhow. Ever merciful, he allowed me time and space to grow in loving my neighbor enough to give up what I enjoy and find comfortable for the greater cause: Jesus Christ clearly presented without distraction. Being the strong-willed person that I am, five more years has only led to minimal change on my part. But, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus," I feel the melting of my heart as God shows me that true love requires sacrifice. 

Seeking the Lord after losing support- He has been so faithful!
As I go kicking and screaming down this path, I see how the Lord has been preparing me. I remember a beautiful young woman wearing local dress at our missions conference. I believe my comment to my husband was something along the lines of "so, she's going native, huh?" Then we met a American family who lives on a local salary, a standard of living I had never considered. Seeing their examples, however, disquieted my heart. Then, the Lord led us to the village and lowered our salary. Everything changed, and my eyes were opened to incarnational love.

An article on alcohol recently written for Christianity Today catapulted me into action after these past years of hanging onto my complacency. The author describes her love for her neighbors as the impetus to refraining from drinking alcohol:

"My clothes, food, language, and—yes—drink have been altered as I try to align my liberty in Christ with the realities of my admittedly unique context. "

Fledgling attempt at Khmer fashion and food - my neighbor tried to dress American
I want to propose that we each live in a "unique context." Our context is where God places us to be His light. In my context, wearing a sarong, handwashing my clothes, and riding a bicycle allow His light, His message to be clearly seen and heard.

Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, wrote the following to potential missionary candidates

     It is enough that the disciple be as his master (Jesus Christ).

     If we really desire to see the Chinese such as we have described, let us as far as possible set
     before them a correct example: let us in everything unsinful become Chinese, that by all things
     we may save some. Let us adopt their costume, acquire their language, study to imitate their    
     habits, and approximate to their diet as far as health and constitution will allow. Let us live in
     their houses, making no unnecessary alterations in external appearance, and only so far modifying
     internal arrangements as attention to health and efficiency for work absolutely require.

I now find myself in admiration of those beautiful servants who step out of  the way of the Message, who exchanged their jeans for saris and sarongs, the security of a higher salary for solidarity with their neighbors. I am learning what they must already know in their quiet service: this journey toward setting aside our culture and comfort never ends.

We can always go deeper, sacrifice more, to love as Immanuel loved.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

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