Monday, December 20, 2010

On Globalization and Mission

I'm increasingly interested in the idea of globalization - and while riding a bus today I realized that I am a part of it.

My socks are made in Norway and purchased while on vacation in Latvia. My jeans are G.A.P. They are made by an American company, in Mexico - but they were purchased while I lived in South Korea. My t-shirt was designed, made, and purchased in Germany. My sweater has no label, but I purchased it in Russia at a second hand store called "Euro-Second Hand" so I know it's been around a few countries and was probably produced in China or another Asian country. The bus I was on was purchased from a bus line in Poland.

I have visited over a dozen countries and had the opportunity to really experience daily life and culture of half of those. While I only speak English comfortably, I can have conversations and entertain guests in Russian and Ukrainian. Given a children's book with pictures I could read and understand a good bit if it was printed in Korean, Polish, German, French, or Mongolian.

I have only lived in one country without a McDonald's (Mongolia) and other than that I have failed to successfully live further from a McDonald's than I did as a child growing up in Kane, PA (It's still a forty minute drive to the closest McD's ...). I have never been more than a few miles from the closest bottle of Coca-Cola (I was in one convenience store high in the mountains of southern India when the urge for a coke hit and couldn't be satisfied, but the next stop offered three of my favorite colas.)

I am a child of this highly globalized generation. While it would have been bold and striking if my parents had back-packed through Europe - it's only striking that I have traveled on such a shoe-string budget and that I generally avoid the tourist traps. It's only bold that I come with a message.

It's important that we don't lump mission and globalization together. We aren't another McDonald's or Coca-Cola that needs to get our brand name goods into people's minds.

Mission is the activity of connecting God and people. Missionaries ideally listen as much as we talk. A wise older missionary told me once, "If you go to another country to bring God to them you'll always be a failure - because God is already there."

McDonald's goes to build something new in a new place - it goes to expand the size and revenue of something back home. The motivation is misplaced. Missionaries go to connect people with something old and ancient that exists inside of the people. Our motivation is love. Really, these two concepts couldn't be more opposite.

But sometimes they are closely linked. People want to know why we're bringing a "new religion" to people, or why we want to cause more wars in the world, or how we will justify the cost or the resources when our own country has so many problems.

The call to missionary life is the call to be God's littlest. We share and express our faith most sincerely when we find ourselves in a position of humility. Missionaries find new reasons every day to be humble. [[Crying in a corner store because I couldn't remember the word for orange and I had already stood in line for an hour and I really needed some Vitamin C to get over my cold was probably not the proudest moment of my life.]] In our brokenness God finds possibilities to share the good news of the Broken One.

While my outfit is a multi-national assortment that could make the U.N. proud - religion knows no country. A Mongolian could find faith in Jesus Christ (a Jew from Modern day Israel who lived in ancient Rome) thanks to the efforts of an American missionary with ancestral roots in Korea and Germany; but none of that matters. God has been present with that man and with his people for as long as they have been on the earth. Ultimately there is no country or flag, but only the heart and mind of the peasant Mongolian who has always wanted to know that someone loves him unconditionally.

God's littlest has the blessing of connecting God and people. There is no room for pre-tense or facades in a heart that is filled with God and people.

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