Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Some questions people ask when they find out I'm an MK (and the excruciatingly honest answers) Part 3

So far in this series I've addressed the questions:  "Did you like it?" and "Do/did you want to do it?". The final question I'll be looking at is "Why do people do cross cultural missions?"

To tell you the truth I have only been asked this a few times.  Mostly "believers" don't ask.  But once in particular, when I was talking with an "unchurched" friend about some of the difficulties of living in a developing country she asked "why do it?"  Other times people don't ask outright, but express the opinion that people are better off left with the traditions and beliefs that they have held for thousands of years.

Of course I'm not the best person to answer this type of question since I have decided not to do it.  But I did have a simple and fairly good (I think) answer ready when my friend asked.  "If you believe that you have the most important message in the world you want to share it with people."  That was the whole discussion.  She was not interested in what the message was or why it was important.  I figured if she wanted to know she would ask.

Naturally there's a bigger picture.  Obedience was always a big theme in the discussion of missions when I was growing up.  The Great Commission.  Going to "unreached peoples groups."   My parents were with a group started by a pioneering missionary named Hudson Taylor.  Faith was an important part of the identity of the group.  They had a screening process to decide who to accept and required extensive training.  The goal was "career missionaries,"  although they did also work with short-term individuals and groups.

My parents started preparing for this life (although they didn't initially know exactly what it would look like) when I was an infant.  We went to the Philippines when I was seven years old.  I think that I was in high school when my dad started to talk about the importance of loving the people he was working to reach.  It might not have been a completely new concept but it was a new emphasis as far as I was aware.All of which is to say that in my experience cross cultural missions was not particularly "touchy feelly."

So to sum it up: obedience, faith and love have always seemed to me like the reasons people do cross cultural missions.  All of these are based, in the Evangelical Christian movement on an understanding that the Bible tells us who and how to obey, have faith in and love. 

All of this doesn't really explain, though, why some Christians go to "the ends of the earth" and others don't.  Personally my theory is that it has to do with a combination of personal conviction, life circumstances, personality and desire.  Although in a married couple one spouse may be reluctant and go primarily out of a sense of duty it's my experience that to a certain degree people who do cross cultural missions want to - although they may express this as a sense of calling.

My only issue with any of this (and I guess the reason this post fits into this series) is that the children in a given family may or may not have any of the above mentioned convictions personality or desire (although they obviously do have the circumstances).   In my experience missions is different from other career paths.  It's not something parents do from nine to five Monday through Friday.  It affects every aspect of every family member's life.  It changes the way needs are met.  It creates identities and changes how people look at the world.

Basically, many would argue that this is a spiritual endeavor - an attempt to live out Luke 9:23 where Jesus talks about denying self, taking up one's cross and following him.  But he starts out by saying "Whoever wants to be my disciple..."  It's supposed to be voluntary.  But for children it isn't.

This is getting pretty long, but I just want to end on a positive note.  To those who have felt that "interfering" with another culture is a mistake it has always felt natural to me to (try to) explain the difficult circumstances that most unreached groups are in.  I believe that modern missionaries typically strive to honor what is good in a culture and bring grace and light to destructive elements.  I recently read this article that talks about an academic study showing that modern evangelical missionaries have been agents of positive change in countries around the world.  Turns out that the presence of missionaries tends to lead to more democratic governments and higher rates of education among other improvements.  I find this encouraging.

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