International Ministries

A Contrast - Society

April 10, 2015 Journal
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My travels in training for my position at International Ministries over the past six months has been fairly intense.  September I was in India; October found me in Thailand and Japan; January was Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia and this past March I was in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Each trip has been quite different and I am thankful that on three of these trips Stan Murray was there to introduce me to partners and share his considerable understanding and knowledge of all these people and countries. We also were accompanied by a very lively and great group of traveling companions on each journey.  Each person was “tailor made” by our Creator to add much to the meetings and the travel and I saw God use them, each one in His way, to further His agenda in places of great need.  

I also have been thankful for the things God has been teaching me as I travel.

On my most recent trip I sat next to a lady with whom I was able to have a bit of conversation after our landing in Chicago. I mentioned that I had boarded a plane in Singapore with her and we had continued our journey together from Narita.  She said, “I thought you boarded in Japan.  I imagine you are an English teacher here in Japan.”  Surprised by her insight (as that is what I did for many years), I asked her how she came about that conclusion.  She continued, “Well, you are about the right age and I heard you speaking to several of the other passengers as you boarded.  You sound and act like a teacher”.  Immediately I began to think about what interactions might have caused her to think thus.  Then I remembered that upon boarding, someone was sitting in my aisle seat and I asked him about it.  He insisted that the seat was his, and I firmly (and kindly) said that the seat was mine and showed him my ticket.  Our conversation was positive. Then another interaction was with a Japanese young man who was making his first trip to the U.S. to visit friends and another was with the gentleman sitting near who travels a lot to Japan for his company.

In that short period of time, this lady had been able to “peg” me and for some reason that was a bit uncomfortable to me.  I was thankful that all my interactions had been positive and actually encouraging ones, but it made me thoughtful about “what I portray” as I go out as a representative of Christ.  

Jesus tells us how to live as he says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16.

In the book, “Jesus and Community” by Gerhard Lohfink, he says, “…to the degree that the people of God let itself be grasped by God’s rule it would be transformed - in all dimensions of its existence.  It would become a contrast-society” (Lohfink, 1982. Pg.72).  A contrast-society looks different than the society around it so that it “stands out”.  As a Christian, I want to stand out for Christ to be salt and light.  In just that small time on the plane, I was seen for what I have done.  I wonder if I am seen by what I believe and live and have been transformed by?  Am I grasped by God’s rule? Am I a part of that contrast - society as I shop, interact with my neighbors, work in a company, and live out my daily life in a community? 

It is my prayer that I am able to be salt and light and a contrast to those I meet in my travels and in my everyday life.   

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  I begin this new work with International Ministries on July 1, and there still much to do in preparation!