Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#5 Why I Love My Job

The fifth reason why I love my job has not always been so. In the early years of my ministry telling the story about our work was rewarding. To tell churches in the U.S. about the Pokot and Turkana people I worked with in the bush was something I felt was educational, therefore beneficial. The transformation of an animist to a believer in the One true living God was a testimony of His power and goodness. People were fascinated with my stories as well as with pictures of people right of National Geographic.

When I became a trainer, coach and consultant to missionaries the story did not seem to be as interesting, it didn’t have that ZING factor. Mission’s is an emotional enterprise. One can become emotional about a half-naked bushman becoming a follower of Christ, but it’s hard to work up much of a heart wrenching illustration about helping others create an effective strategy for cross-cultural ministry. Of course I see the exciting transformation in the lives of my students each time I teach. People, of all ages, educational background, as well as ethnic/linguistic background come into my class with ho-hum expectations and leave with a renewed vision of how they can actually become agents of transformation!

Though it is difficult to capture the passion or emotion of my work, it is a story that I still believe is worth telling people about. The transformation of a soul, from dark to light, from ignorance to understanding, is a work of God. However, it it is the presentation of His followers that is the catalyst, the bridge, from Word to faith. Unless the missionary from Korea, Ukraine, India, America, Nicaragua grasp the dynamics of cross-cultural communication the message of hope and life will lie dormant as ungerminated seed on the side of the road.

The message of Christ is more often ignored than it is rejected. Pastors and missionaries drone through their message and irrelevant theology, undergirded by stale orthodoxy. Our speech is largely Bible babble rather than compelling reasons for people to turn from their indifference to God, their consuming lusts, their superstitions, to a message of hope and meaning. The message of the Cross will always be an offense to the majority, but I see nothing in Scripture that commands His messengers be so. If they hate us, let it be for the truth that we deliver in a culturally relevant way, not because we are careless in how we present the message in their context.

For me, the zing factor happens when I receive a note, in broken English, from a former student in Nepal who is working with a tribal group in the forest,

“Until I took your class I did not truly understand how to talk to the Raute people. Now I know better how to talk to them.”

Though I will never see this man's work or be able to take pictures of the half-naked forest dwellers, his story is partly my story. It's a story, not just of people coming to know the God of heaven, but how God uses all of us -- me, people who support missions and the Nepalese missionary who serves a people that God is drawing to Himself. I've got a great job and I love it!