From a Pow Wow to Church…

For my Indigenous Spirituality class, we attended a Pow Wow near Salem at the Chemawa Indian School. Being born in Salem and never knowing my Cherokee father, there was a lot of symbolism in attending my first Pow Wow near Salem, but that’s another subject for another time. What is important here is the experience of a Pow Wow and how it is largely different from my church experience. And after attending church for the first time since moving from Eugene, these comparisons are fresh on my mind.

There was a lot to take in when I first walked into the gymnasium. Drums were blaring so hard I could feel the beat in my chest, burnt sweet grass filled my nostrils, and kids dressed in traditional Native attire (and also many who weren’t) were running around everywhere. Once the Pow Wow began, a classmate of mine pointed out the ten different drumming groups present, some were from different tribes not local to Oregon. As the opening dance began, I couldn’t help but notice the different races, ages, and genders all partaking in the dance.

After a couple songs were sung, attendees were invited onto the floor for a “healing song.” Our professors wife peer-pressured us into dancing, so I awkwardly stepped around on the floor (definitely would not call it dancing). Despite the discomfort, no one laughed at my awkwardness or pointed out how I was doing it wrong. Instead, the focus was any pain on anyone’s heart and the song and dance combined functioned as the act of lifting up that pain to the Creator – God, as we Christians might say. It was a communal act unlike any I’ve ever experienced.

We sat back down when the song was over and moments later another series of songs were sung as people danced. The focus of this entire Pow Wow was for the Veterans of U.S. armed forces (since tomorrow is Veteran’s Day), honoring those who fell in battle, returned from the battle, those who are still missing in action, and even those veterans who never saw battle. Such a ceremony was full of respect and honor for the men and women who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

What I could not help but notice, though, was how family-oriented everyone seemed to be. As people walked back and forth from the food booths or venders to their seats, they often ran into people they knew. Babies were passed around and kids were running everywhere while men and women of many tribes and races (both Indian and non-Indian) were catching up on each other’s lives and enjoying the celebrations. Even though there were a couple hundred people there, everyone treated each other as family.

Attending church after experiencing that Pow Wow was a little awkward. For one, it’s been two months since I last gathered with a church. Be it either work or laziness or a combination of the two, I simply haven’t gone to any gathering. So that contributed to the awkwardness, but also allowed me to see just how dramatically different the Pow Wow was to the average church experience (which is essentially what this morning was).

I walked in, found a seat, stood when the worship team started to play, greeted someone when told to greet someone, sat down when the pastor came up to speak, stood again when the worship team played the closing songs, and hung out for a little when it was over. Every bit of it was familiar, but yet still largely uncomfortable.

What contributed to my comfort yesterday was the fact I was hanging out with my class – people I had met before. This morning I went to church by myself – and I knew absolutely no one. While this was a major factor into the differences in comfort between the Pow Wow and the church I attended, I still noticed how fluid the Pow Wow was and how rigid church was. For instance, kids were allowed to dance in every dance; in fact, the ones who danced the most were the kids (especially this adorable little toddler who mostly just bounced). In church, kids were only heard from their Sunday school classrooms; they weren’t out among the rest of the congregation.

I also noticed that I was the only non-white person present at church. Maybe this was because I attended the later-morning service instead of the earlier ones, but this is definitely not the first time this has happened. In the Pow Wow, however, there were plenty of non-white participants, although most simply observed from the bleachers. My classmate who sat next to me later pointed out a symbol common to most Native tribes; a circle with four colors in it (red, yellow, black, and white). This symbolizes the acceptance and unification of all races and tribes – that although we are different in appearance, we are all one in relation to each other and creation (also called the Harmony Way).

My intent isn’t to say that Pow Wows are better than church, but to say that there are areas I appreciated more from the Pow Wow than I did the church. The church service was regimented and habitual whereas the Pow Wow was much more fluid and spontaneous. Instead of singing new songs (as the church did), the drumming groups in the Pow Wow sang old songs – songs that their ancestors sang, which seemed to command a sense of reverence amongst the tribal members. And the church separated the kids out from the rest of the group while the Pow Wow wanted their kids to participate in what the adults were doing.

Again, maybe these things are personal peeves that I alone must deal with, but nevertheless I appreciated the Pow Wow more than the church service. Not to say that one group of people now has more value than the other, but to say I liked the Pow Wow style a little more. It was more personal and yet contained a greater reverence not only for the Creator, but for their ancestors and creation.

Does this mean we should change our church style? Maybe. Seeing as this particular style is shared by many other churches I’ve attended, it makes one wonder where the creative people are and how much influence they have. But who knows, perhaps this is the style that speaks more to the people who attend on a regular basis and I happen to miss out on all of that because I don’t attend? If that isn’t the case, however, perhaps it is indeed time to make some changes.

Regardless of what that church does from this point forward, I have learned quite a bit from the Pow Wow experience in addition to everything we’ve read in my Indigenous Spirituality class. And I have the responsibility to utilize and steward this knowledge to be more authentic with the people around me (regardless of age, race, gender, or any other apparent differences), more aware of how alive the earth really is (much like a sibling), and more proactive in developing relationships within my local community.

I know that not all churches are like the one I attended this morning and not all Pow Wows are like the one I attended yesterday. But from what I experienced in the ones I have attended, the church experience could take a lesson from the Pow Wows. Humanity is fluid and flawed, so why should our churches feign something different?

Be true to you, your family, and your friends around you. Or as Jesus said, love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39).

God bless.

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Digging Up Dirt…

Finding community in the Portland area has been difficult. I have hung out with friends here and there, but I have not yet found something consistent – something week to week. I don’t think I have much of an excuse since there’s a church right across from my apartment complex, but finding community is more than simply going to church. It’s about investing in friends – both new and old – and engaging people on a relational level. And because I’m lacking genuine person to person community, I’ve gravitated toward the online communities.

As many social media users know, outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn allow us to present ourselves as we want to be seen. We make sure we aren’t picking our nose in our profile picture (or that we are – depending on the image you want to present), tweeting things that shouldn’t be tweeted, or listing previous jobs that didn’t work out so well (where we were either fired or laid off and we still don’t want to talk about it). It’s like social media is a paperless résumé; a small medium through which we present ourselves in the best light possible.

Problem is this isn’t reality.

Editing our profiles so people see us as we want to be seen isn’t allowing them to see us as we are. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to wash your car before you sell it. But, as I learned this past summer, what really matters is how well things work under the hood. In the same way, who we are underneath the masks of Facebook, Twitter, and even our blogs is most important.

A side effect of having online community as one’s primary source for social involvement is that one develops the habit of being someone other than who they truly are. Over time, this develops into a disability; being someone else for so long that one cannot be honest and real with one’s self. As I wrote about before, this is oftentimes why we can’t deal well with silence; because it causes us to deal with who we really are.

Joshua 7, as referenced last post, highlights a moment when someone took something he shouldn’t have and was punished for it. Moral discomforts aside, I can’t help but notice what he did with the something he stole:

“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ And Achan answered Joshua, ‘It is true; I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’” Joshua 7:19-21

He buried it.

Jesus tells us that a wise person is one who builds their house on the bedrock, but notice what he says in Luke 6:47-48:

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”

Years ago at a CCF (Collegiate Christian Fellowship) retreat, a pastor named Brett Gilchrist shared a message about this passage and he slowed things down. He pictured both the wise person and the unwise person building their houses next to each other. While the wise one kept digging, the unwise was already putting up walls. When the wise person had finally reached the bedrock, the unwise had finished their three-story house. As the wise one began laying the foundation, the unwise was decorating. While the wise finally began building the house, the unwise was putting in a pool. Finally, as the winds began to blow and the clouds covered the skies, the wise person finished their simple little house while the unwise was adjusting their new satellite dish. You can imagine the shock and horror of the unwise person as the water washed underneath their home and carried it away, while the wise person nervously watched, but was safe.

The wise person was safe because they had put in the work to dig up dirt and lay the foundation the right way. Christ wants to build a home for Himself within us, but He needs us to dig. Yet we don’t want to because it means we’d be unburying all the skeletons, lies, addictions, abuses, and all the other things we didn’t want people to see. We can’t hide behind our Facebook page when we’re facing God; He knows something’s wrong.

We bury things that we’ve either done wrong or hurt us in some way. For years I used to hold my emotions in when talking about my childhood. Even to this day, I still have physical reactions to the memories. For instance, in The Blindside (the movie), Michael Oher has a flashback to when he was a kid in the backseat of a police car crying out for his mom who was being restrained outside her apartment. Although my memory is slightly different, I still recall when I was in the back of a police car while my mother was outside her apartment crying. Every time I see that scene, I begin to shake uncontrollably; in most cases, I have to skip it. And I still have the teddy bear the police officer had given me.

Hiding who we are is oftentimes because we have a painful memory we’ve tried to erase. We seek all sorts of means to erase that memory, but ultimately wind up causing more bad ones – not just for ourselves, but for those who love us as well. If we devoted our time to engaging them and letting them in to see what Christ is doing within us, we may not feel anymore comfortable, but we’d be healthier.

No, I’m not saying delete any of your social media profiles; I’m saying share a meal with some of your friends or family members instead Instagramming what you cooked (or do both if you must Instagram). Instead of posting pictures and status updates about how miserable or awesome your life is, tell somebody in person or over the phone about how much they mean to you.

Practice authenticity – for your own sake and for the sake of those around you. It makes digging up your dirt much easier if you have someone to help.

God bless.

“In Eugene…”

Today brought about a hard truth. Feeling the itch to throw a football around and maybe even get caught up in a game, my roommate and I went to a nearby park and tossed a ball around. I originally wanted to head over to a turf field in Newberg on George Fox University’s campus to hopefully increase the odds of playing in a game, but my roommate – who went to George Fox – said it’d be highly unlikely since not too many students play football for fun. During that conversation, I repeated two words I don’t know how many times: “In Eugene…”

I’m not in Eugene anymore. That’s the hard truth I’ve been avoiding for a while, but can’t anymore. I’m not there. I can’t go to the turf fields on any given night and find a couple small pick-up games that need an extra guy. I can’t meet up with friends in under ten minutes for a movie, Suits marathon, or something else on TV; it is at least a twenty-minute drive anywhere to meet up with friends. And I can’t even hang out at my favorite coffee shop and randomly run into friends because I’m not there anymore. Suffice it to say, community – authentic, intentional community – has been tough to come by since I’ve been in the Portland area.

Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty of friends up here. But our schedules are so different and busy that finding a time where everyone can meet is not easy. And even if we do, it’s not a guarantee that something won’t pop up last minute forcing either of us to cancel. I’m still used to Eugene where I knew a lot more people and if I hung out at the right place at the right time, I’d eventually run into someone I’d know (like Starbucks at the Oakway Center – seriously, everyone goes there). I miss that.

I am trying not to sound as though I’m whining and complaining about my new location. My roommate’s awesome, I love my school, and it oftentimes feels pretty nice not to work as much as I used to. But that doesn’t mean there are incredibly difficult aspects – namely, having a genuine community. What I mean by “genuine community” isn’t merely a group of friends, although that is part of it. And I definitely don’t mean “a new church to go to,” either. Merely attending church isn’t community; being a church family is.

This is precisely what I’m after – what I think we all long for. Family. Unconditional acceptance. Church oftentimes creates an environment where everyone is more concerned about their appearance rather than their actual, honest condition. Obviously, I haven’t been to every church; I’m simply pointing out a common vibe I’ve felt nearly every where I’ve gone. What’s wrong with this vibe is that it doesn’t allow for family to happen.

Pardon the bad word, but in family, people know your shit, whether you tell it to them or not. They see how you act, know your ticks, and know when something’s up. And when the time’s right – or even when it’s not – they ask about it. Family provides an opportunity for people to be brutally honest with one another. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing, but it works. It’s emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually cleansing when someone knows about the things that are bothering you – or the things that are bringing you joy and for some reason you haven’t been able to celebrate them with others. Family works in both directions; acknowledging the bad and celebrating the good.

As I write this post, I keep running into another hard truth – the only thing way for authentic community to happen: I have to work at it. Granted, others have to be a part of it and as I said above, it’s been difficult simply to meet with others (not anyone’s fault; just how it is). But when those times happen, I have to take advantage and, once again, make myself vulnerable. I have to make the strenuous effort to let others into my life, so that they can know my shit and be the family I need.

In Eugene, I had all that. If I were to move back tomorrow, I know that I could very easily get it all back. But renting a U-Haul is expensive and commuting back and forth from there to Tigard (for class) would not be fun. Plus, my current roommate would not appreciate the sudden departure – despite him getting the bigger room. So for better or worse, I’m here in Portland. I’ve gotten settled into my apartment, school, and new work location; now it’s time to get settled into a new family. And if I’m honest with myself, I can see certain pieces moving together that just might produce what I long to have. Yet I have to be ready – ready to be vulnerable, open, and willing to let others in.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I can’t do this alone. No one can. We’re not meant to.

God bless.

Four Years Old Today…

In the spring of ’07, I started an electronic journal in my dorm room at the University of Oregon. Right around the same time (perhaps a few months later), I started writing Facebook notes. Much of what I write in my electronic journal (it’s a Word document) is what I’ve been emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually processing and when I started posting some those entries on Facebook, I soon found out that there was always somebody else processing the same stuff. On October 4th, 2009, I launched this blog.

I turned it into a blog to help open up various ways of connecting with people. After writing a few posts, I quickly discovered other bloggers writing about similar stuff or stuff that I hadn’t thought about. Seeing many other people processing the same stuff that I was went a long way in telling me that I’m not alone. This, of course, led me to recognize that none of us is alone.

Online communities will never replace the authenticity of in-person communities – like your local church, Bible study, book club, or even your workplace. Yet what online communities enable – via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and plenty of other social media sites – is a space for people to share their thoughts, beliefs, and questions (in no particular order) in their own time. You don’t have to wait until your next Bible study to ask a question about Jesus or share whatever it is that God has brought you through. I’m not saying the internet is going to have all the answers, but I can say that it opens up the possibility of discussion. And more than likely, you’ll find someone who’s been where you are before.

Above all else, what I have found to be most beneficial from blogging is the depth of therapy in the act of writing. You see, journaling goes a long way to allow the individual to process the things around him or her. But until those thoughts are shared in community, the individual will remain as such: an individual. They will never hear what we all need to hear at some point in our lives: “Me, too.”

As I said above, blogging (and online communities in general) will never take the place of face-to-face meetings (Skype and Face Time kind of help, but being physically present is most essential). Yet in the last four years, I’ve seen how blogging has helped enhance those face-to-face meetings. It has helped formalize my thoughts and feelings so that I can more clearly and succinctly talk things out with my various in-person communities. And it has taught me that there are plenty of other people who’ve had similar experiences in life (growing up without a father, having suicidal thoughts, seeing your church community evaporate, etc.), but processed them differently.

All I can really say on my blog’s fourth birthday is that I would not be where I am without it. It makes me excited for what’s to come (especially being at George Fox Evangelical Seminary). I’m excited for the things I’ll learn and the people I’ll meet. I’m excited for the communities I’ll grow with. And I’m especially excited to see what God is going to do through it all.

Writing goes a long way to help the introvert and extrovert in their walk with Jesus.

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Wait… Where am I?

After being in Tigard for a little over two weeks, I think I have finally been able to settle down. My roommate has moved in, my room is entirely organized, and I’m keeping up relatively well with each of my classes. What I think I am now able to do since things have become less chaotic is figure out exactly where I am.

No, my geographical location is not what I’m talking about. What I really mean is, throughout the last two-ish weeks, I’ve been focusing on things like where to put my reading chair, how to organize my mini-library, and which frozen pizzas to get. With all those things out of the way, I can finally address the city and the community in which I now live. Every time I go to work at the Duck Store at the Washington Square Mall, I find myself saying, “Back in Eugene, we…” Yet I’m no longer in Eugene. Where I identify myself with has changed. Quite naturally, I feel disoriented.

In Eugene, I knew a ton of different people in different parts of town and almost at any given point I could send them a text or call them (let’s be honest, I sent them a text) and in minutes we could be hanging out. It isn’t as easy here – at least, not at this stage of the game. And quite like my physical community changing, my spiritual community has as well.

I haven’t yet gone to a church here in Tigard, despite one being right across from my apartment complex. And no, it isn’t because I had some falling out with God; the next three years at seminary would be pretty long years if that were the case. It’s been because I wanted to do exactly what I’ve done: get settled.

Proverbs 24:27 says, “Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” In context, I have absolutely no idea what this might mean. But how I see it with where I am in my own context, it means to get settled with being in a completely different city than what I’m used to, and then get involved.

On Monday I got to sit down with A.J. Swoboda to talk about where I’ve come from and why I’m here. At the end of our discussion, he asked me what I needed prayer for and in that moment I realized I really miss the faith community in Eugene. Not to say that it was better than what it is here – I couldn’t even begin to suggest that since I haven’t gone to a church yet. But to say that I grew really close to plenty of really good people in Eugene and they aren’t physically as close as they once were.

What I can’t overlook, though, is the plethora of friends I already have here in the Portland area. They’re friends I made while in Eugene (or Lincoln City) and will most likely be the people I start to branch out with in regards to a faith community. Until all that begins, though, I think I’m supposed to embrace the disorientation. I think I’m supposed to spend some more time in solitude with God in order to get my bearings straight. I think I’m supposed to wrestle with who I am and how I associate and identify with my new surroundings. I think supposed to find out firsthand what Abraham went through.

What can often happen in a time of transition is intense moments of nostalgia – constantly longing for a time that was easier. But it wasn’t easier. It only seems easier because it was familiar. Knowing that is crucial to growing in a new place with new people.

Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, and whatever you’re doing, soak it in.

God bless.

Meeting People at Their Well…

I’m relatively new to John Green. I think I knew of him for a while, but never actually listened to any of his vlogs or read any of his books. But when I moved in with my current roommate, I was practically forced to watch Green’s “Crash Course History” videos, which are pretty phenomenal and in no way do I regret watching any of them.

One video that I recently watched was Green’s commencement speech to the graduating class of 2013 at Butler University. If you have twenty minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching it. It is well worth the time. What I love about this particular speech, though, was how he described the college graduate life – or as he said, “the hero’s journey.”

“We are taught the hero’s journey is a journey from weakness to strength. [From having no money to having a lot of it, etc….] The real hero’s journey is a journey from strength to weakness.[…] You are about to be a rookie.”

The idea here is that the college graduates he was addressing are about to go from being the most informed at one of the best colleges in the country to being a nobody (to paraphrase his words) – someone who gets coffee for other people “if you’re lucky.” And even though he was talking to the 2013 Butler graduates, I couldn’t help but listen as a two-year graduate from Oregon. Much of what he said throughout that speech is still true to this day despite being out of school for two full years. But where he turns next, the advice that he bestowed upon the Butler grads, was where I listened as a follower of Christ.

“The gift and challenge of your … education is to see others as they see themselves.”

This morning at Emmaus Life we read from John 4:11-18, which is in the middle of the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. I’ve written about this story before, but it is worth re-visiting. As Scott told us, it wasn’t common for someone to be drawing water from the well in the middle of the day. Because of the heat, people typically drew their water either in the morning or at night when it was cooler. So it was particularly strange that she was there at midday.

As Jesus converses with her, talking about living water and becoming a spring of water that wells up to eternal life, we come to find out this woman had been with five husbands and was then seeing someone who was not her husband. The text isn’t explicit; we don’t know exactly why she had all these men in her life, but we do know that she had them in her life. And it isn’t going too far to suggest that perhaps her “well” that constantly made her thirsty was relationships; perhaps she thought that if she just found the right husband, she’d be okay. She’d be happy. As it turned out, though, her pursuit of the right husband led her into a life of avoiding public ridicule – hence why she arrived to the well when she thought no one else was there.

How do we find out about this, though? How do we come to know that she had had five husbands? Jesus tells it to her. Because he saw her as she saw herself, Jesus was enabled to tell her what she needed to hear – that the well she kept drawing from was never going to satisfy. But she was also enabled to listen to what he had to say.

Of course there are several lessons within this passage of Scripture (e.g. What well are you drinking from?), but what has stood out to me today was how Jesus shared Himself with others; how there was no contract to sign, no belief statement to make, no ritual or sacrament to conduct, no strings attached. All she had to do was ask for the water which Jesus freely and richly supplies.

“Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water,” 4:15

Scott pointed this out; that Jesus doesn’t require this woman to prove her faith in Him like we might in our modern day with baptism, communion, belief statement, tithe offering or whatever. He gives it out freely. “Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is more liberal with salvation than we are?” as Scott asked.

Why is that? Why is it that Jesus, who we say we’re following, often ends up being more freely loving of others than we are? Why do we demand that people come to our church to be saved rather than us going out to them? Jesus met this woman on her level, in her weakness, where she sought escape from the realities of this world. And that’s where He turned her around. If He hadn’t done that, then it’s quite possible that none of the people with whom she shared the gospel would have ever heard of Jesus. Instead of being the strong man and seeing people from the outside, He took the weak approach and saw them how they saw themselves.

“The weakness of God is stronger than men,” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

As John Green described the hero’s journey, Jesus exemplifies as the Christian’s journey; that we’re supposed to empathize more than everyone else, to utilize our revelation in Christ to see others as they see themselves, and to make that journey from strength to weakness. In so doing, as Paul says, we become strong in the Lord.

John Green describes this whole process of becoming weaker as the college graduate’s journey (through a metaphorical use of “the hero,” of course). But Jesus shows us that if we wish to follow Him, this is the sort of thing we must do. We must cast aside our poster boards and signs telling others they’re going to hell and instead pick up our cross – willfully carrying that which makes us weak in the eyes of society – and share the living water, the abundant life of Jesus.

Maybe we’re not the judgmental type of follower. Maybe instead, we’re the ones continuing to come back to our particular well, despite never being satisfied by it. In that case, perhaps it’s time to step back, look around, and engage the people there with you – just like Jesus.

Meet people like Jesus did: At their well.

God bless.

Learn, Then Teach…

Have you ever been asked to commit a bare minimum of thirty (30) years to a job before?

Last night we were hanging out at Scott’s place talking about what it means to actually be a church and he had mentioned some missionary friends of his that were in some aboriginal community seeking to evangelize in a very cool and intense way. Before departing, they were asked to commit a minimum of thirty years to living there and working there to learn the language (strictly oral language; not written down in any manner), translate Scripture (thus far they’ve managed about four books), and teach the way of Christ to people who have never known anything but their small village. Far different from the door-to-door approach we’ve probably all experienced here in the States.

What would compel someone to make that kind of commitment? Here in the States if we show up to a church and we wind up not liking it, we’ll walk out the door, cross the street, and right into another church that we might like. These missionaries, a husband and wife, have no option. Either they commit everything to learning about their neighbors or God knows what might happen to them. It wouldn’t be uncommon for these types of environments to kill someone they didn’t like.

Of course, risking death on a mission trip is – as far as I know – somewhat common. What I’m finding uncommon is to completely remove yourself from anything and everything familiar – cars, houses, pantries full of food, friends to call up when you’re bored and want to watch a movie, cable TV packages to turn on as background noise while you wash dishes – to a place where you literally had to start from scratch. As far as I know, they had no way of knowing they’d be able to put together a meal on their first night there, let alone having a place to sleep. I’m not sure I’d be able to function without all those safety nets.

In relation to what we talked about last night (church), these missionaries did something not many of us would do even here in America with all our comfort zones. They approached a community who had no care or concern for anything American, learned their language, their customs, their belief systems, and then started to evangelize. Instead of knocking on their door with a brochure or a business card referring them to their church, they learned what these people were about. They learned how to communicate with them – taking several years just to get that far – and then started speaking about God. Gaining the community’s trust, they then pointed to Jesus.

It’s changed the way I’ve thought about the people around me – both Christian and non-Christian alike. What do I know about them? Whenever we hang out, do I do most of the talking about my story or do I get to hear something about theirs? Instead of expecting them to be interested in the things going on in my life, have I been interested in the things going on in theirs? Have I talked to them about Jesus or about me? And do I know what Jesus looks like through their eyes?

Tough questions to ask, I know, but needed questions if I’m seeking to be more like Christ. Because what I’m finding one of my own tendencies to be when it comes to friendships is requiring the other person to conform to my way of doing things. I’m sure these missionaries brought some forms of American culture with them (it’d be difficult not to), but for the most part they learned how the people of their community did things before they talked about how they did things. When it comes to making friends within a church, I’ve been prone to find people who fit my style rather than adapting my own style to fit those of others. It beckons the question: If I don’t show that I’m interested in how they do things, why should they ever be interested in how I do things?

God’s challenge to me is to start learning the various languages within my environments – be it church, my apartment complex, or even work. There are a lot of negative things about living in America, sure, but there are also a lot of positives; we have such a wide range of cultures and customs living right next door to each other. Unlike many countries in the world, we have the opportunity to learn how someone else does things simply by getting lunch or coffee with them. We have the right to speak freely, sure, but perhaps we’d better take advantage of the opportunity to listen to someone else speak to us.

If we allowed ourselves to truly and genuinely care about someone else for thirty years, can you imagine how receptive that person might be if you started talking about Jesus?

Instead of finding people who match you, find someone to adapt to – even just a little. God’s love would be reflected and therefore preached, especially if no words were used.

God bless.