Thursday, March 23, 2017

Christianity and Culture

Experiencing a different culture, different foods, different landscapes, and different people; it has widened the horizons of my world view.  In Mozambique, looking at someone straight in the eye in a conversation can be seen as disrespect.  While growing up, I was taught to look a person in the eye as a sign of giving attention and respect.  When a couple here in Mozambique is having marriage problems, both sides of the family are called to help solve the issue.  Just imagine calling in all your aunts and uncles, and parents to solve your private issues.  By taking a step back, I can look at these cultures and see the many ways Christianity relates to culture.  I’ve learned that there are things that don’t translate cross-culturally.

Sometimes Christianity and culture are intertwined, and at times they clash.  Culture is part of what helps define who we are and the way we do things; the way we relate to people or how we do life. Culture is something good that needs to be protected, to some extent. There is another side to a culture that is protected and yet shouldn’t be from the standpoint of Christianity.  Looking at culture from a Christian perspective helps us sift through what is culturally relevant from a biblical worldview.  

Many things that we call acceptable as culture is merely sin.  Should we allow a sinful practice in the name of culture?  Should we participate in traditions even though its practice may be sinful? Here in Mozambique, it is the long-standing tradition to go to the witch doctor for many different situations.  The witch doctor consults with the ancestors or spirits as to what needs to be done.  To this day, many who profess to be Christians still consult with witch doctors as a way of “helping God out.”  Where do we draw the line of where culture ends and true Christianity begins? 

I’m a strong believer in letting our relationship with God define our culture.  Relationship with God should be the source of one's life choices and practices.  Unfortunately, progressive culture and long-standing traditions have many times limited or hindered churches and people from experiencing a deeper walk with God.  How much secular culture has infiltrated into churches to the point of dilution of the Gospel?  We battle this every day here in Mozambique, but it impacts the Church globally.

So many secular traditions have now become acceptable in church.  Nowadays we may not even recognize them as secular because the church has lost its sensitivity to what’s sinful in the culture and what’s culture.  I once heard a story of a Christian couple that visited the U.S. from Cuba.  They were shocked, dumbfounded to see Christians celebrating Halloween.  In Brasil, Halloween is translated as the Day of the Witch.  Cultural sin may be re-worded or made into a fun dress-up day for the kids, but it doesn’t make it right.  Look at the impact it is having on our brothers and sisters from different cultures.

The Apostle Paul said he became all things to all people so that he could by every possible means save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Sometimes this verse is used as an excuse to waiver in Christian ethics.  Paul was just stating that he adapted to every culture to reach that culture.  When with the Jews, he practiced Jewish culture but never the sin in the culture. Jesus was always condemned by the religious leaders for reaching out to sinners.  Jesus did so to rescue them and save them.  He never condoned or practiced their sinfulness.  

We are called to be salt and light in this world.  Are we standing on the truth of the Gospel and proclaim it without shame.  Or, are we dimming our light so that we can attract darkness to the light and be relevant to the culture?  Culture can become the proverbial pot of boiling water cooking us if we are not aware.  Let’s be salt and light.  Let’s stand up and stand out.  Christians around the world are doing so, and it costs them everything.  If we can’t do it now, what will we do when our culture presents real consequences? More people will be reached by Christians being brighter lights than dimming it to make Christianity “reachable.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Thoughts from a missionary

I've been involved in international missions for most of my life.  My parents are missionaries.  I grew up on the mission field, and now I’ve been a missionary in Mozambique for the past ten years.  I've seen missionaries come and go.  Over and over.

A missionary is one who is sent.  You may be familiar with the terminology, but the the longer I do missions, the more I've thought about a deeper meaning of a calling.  What is my part in the work that God is doing here?  What should my focus be?  What is my true purpose in being sent?  Many have stepped into the role of missionary.  Many have succeeded, and yet many have failed.  There are many logical justifications to become a missionary, but only one true reason will pull you through: God sent you.  

In the beginning, the mission field is a bed of roses, and we dance and lay in it like in a dream world.  The new environment is great.  The new mission is awesome. You're fired up, pumped up, and ready to conquer the world.  However, then the bed of roses begins to disappear.  The newness begins to dwindle and fade like a rose after it is cut. There is a point in a missionary's life where he hits a brick wall.  All romance is gone.  All excitement has waned, and life becomes a drag.  The questions become vivid and poignant, "What am I doing here?" "Why did I agree to this?" "What was I thinking?" Doubt and regret become frequent visitors.  Maybe I should title this post, “My Confessions” -- but I think these questions all haunt a missionary at one point or another. 

The only thing that will make the mission successful is if one can answer the question: Did God send me?  If He sent you, you will be able to endure to the end.  If He sent you, you will be able to conquer all the emotions that would otherwise destroy you.  When you peel away all the superficial reasons you're on the mission field, the core should be God and His mandate for you to go.  All other reasons will not sustain you to the end.
I get asked to give advice to new missionaries.  (Sometimes I just give it without being asked.)  I believe there are three things that will bring success to a missionary and his mandate.  The first one I've already mentioned above, He has called you.  If God didn't send you, you're actually in disobedience because how can you say you are being sent if He didn't actually send you.  Sure, churches send people, missionary organizations send people, and a lot of people obey that because they are trusting their leadership is being led by God.  I've been sent here by our home church, but before I accepted their request to move across the Atlantic, I sought God and heard from Him.  Not all open doors are God's.  One’s calling is the foundation for this endeavor.

The second thing I tell new missionaries is: endure.  It's going to be tough; there's going to be blood, sweat, and tears; but don't give up.  Keep going and don't let the hardships nor temptations distract you from your call.  If God called you to it, He will see you through it.  It is at this point that one’s calling is truly tested, and this life is not for the faint of heart.  Persevere to the end.  

The third thing I tell people is leave when God tells you.  I get asked quite often about how long we will be here.  I give the same answer I've said since the beginning, "When God tells me to leave, I'll leave."  The conviction that I need when being sent, is the same as when I need to leave.  We can fall prey to the normalcy of the mission field and get used to life as it happens, slowly becoming inefficient and no longer a missionary but an extended stay visitor.  I always go back to the story of Israel in the wilderness.  When God (in the form of a cloud) moved, the people moved.  When He stopped, they stopped.  When God moves, go.  When God calls you back, do it.  Hear His voice, and be obedient and faithful in what He has asked. 

Being a missionary is an awesome privilege and an honor.  It's adventurous and exciting.  The harvest is great but the laborers are few. The most successful missionaries are those that are always hearing God's voice in everything they do.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Kids Servolution Day

It doesn't matter how old you are or how small, you can help some one. Carol took a group of kids all around the community helping widows in need. It was a great day. Water is a major issue in these parts and we want to do all we can to help those who do not have access to clean water. So the kinds gathered anything they could use to carry water to different houses. It was amazing to see so many kids helping and reaching those in need. It's not how big or important you are that determines your success, it's how big your heart is toward those less fortunate that produces fruit that will last. I've learned so much from these kids. Their prayers are powerful and effective. Carol does an amazing job with these kids and one day they will grow up and continue to change the nation in a greater way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

HP Women Serve

Carol did an awesome job leading the women's group on a servolution day. We will never neglect the widows in our community. We will do all we can to help them and show God's love in every way possible. Most of the time the grandmothers are abandoned and alone. So we went to their houses to wash and clean their homes. The smile on their faces when the team arrives to help is unforgettable.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Serving Mozambique style

Been a while since we last posted but I could not let this one go by without sharing it. We took a day last month and helped out two families by building them typical Mozambique houses. We divided into two groups and worked hard all day. One lady we built for was a grandmother who's house was about to fall over. The wind and rain went straight through the walls. Now she has a small house with a floor. The other lady we built a house for was a widow. She is nearly blind and can hardly walk. She was living on the ground and her roof was a tarp. We were able to build a place of her own with a cement floor. I thank God for all the volunteers who made this all possible. It's such a blessing to us to see so many people who have so little doing so much to so many. God is changing hearts and lives through serving one another. Serving some one means a whole lot more when you're going through it yourself.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Baby Esther Joy

On April 19th at 4:43pm Esther was born. She has been a great blessing to us already. Carol is doing well and recovering from surgery. At first our first, Elena, did not like the idea of sharing us with some one else; but now she has warmed up to it and even kisses Esther and tries to get her to stop crying. She's big sister now. It's also been a huge blessing to have my parents here during this time to help with the baby and with everything else that needs to be done. It's also been special to us to be able to spend time with them, something we haven't done in a while.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thank You Lord

We have finally moved to the new house. It's not completely finished but it's livable. We can do things as we go. I get up in the morning and open the door as cool morning air rushes into the house. I hear the birds singing along as they go about their day. God has blessed with this place. Before, I thought I lived in my car from the long commutes to and from church. Now we are ten minutes away and only because of the bad roads. I can go on and on about the blessings of being here. In summary, thank you Lord. All I can do to show my gratitude is serve Him more and more each day.