Over a period of about six weeks I was in four different cultures: America, Thailand, India, and China. These are the stories.
I spent my annual break at home for the Christmas holidays. I visited my brother in our old stomping grounds in New York City (even got to tour the inside of our childhood home for the first time in 18 years). I also spent time with college friends in Chicago for New Years, an annual tradition for the past decade that I haven’t been able to join until now. I got to meet new husbands and new babies I hadn’t met yet, and we rang in 2012 with much anticipation for a year that looks like it will be filled with many changes for all. Most of my time in America, however, was spent with my family in North Carolina. It was a precious time for me.
Well, mostly precious. You already heard the story of me being sick…and the way the Father answered…in a previous post. He heard and He answered…Thank You!
The journey to Thailand included a 6-hour pit-stop at my apartment in Beijing, where I unpacked and repacked for warmer climates. Trading my winter jacket for capris and a T-shirt was a nice change. Over the next few weeks I was attending leadership meetings, participating in our annual conference (with story after story of His faithfulness in Asia!), and even enjoyed things like mango smoothies from time to time. It was a good time to strategize with colleagues and fellow laborers about what it means to live in our cities in meaningful ways, while keeping the big picture in mind for what He continues to do through all of us. We continue to go before the One whose Image we bear, He who does not live in temples built by men but rather in the heart of each man and woman. And it is these men and women who dare to let Him transform their minds, change their worldviews, and embrace life and life abundantly.
After two weeks in Thailand, I headed to India. Now you have to understand something- 14 of my 31 years have been lived in various places overseas. I have a masters degree in Intercultural Studies. I’ve developed whole curriculum on cultural engagement and I could probably write the book on counseling people through times of culture shock. Yet, India was a place in which I was wholly unprepared. Of all the places I’ve been to internationally this was the hardest place I’ve ever been to- hands down! There’s really no other place like it. Like many of its Asian counterparts, it is a land of profound contradictions. Yet, I walked away from that land with a light in my step I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
This feeling was mostly because of what I was doing there. For two weeks I was in four cities traveling with an organization called “Freedom to Lead.” It is a like-minded faith-based group that seeks to raise up leaders among oral cultures. Four billion people…let that register for a second, four billion people…learn best and are impacted most through story, symbol, and song- rather than through the printed word. In order to reach these people, we need to connect on those levels. Traditional models aren’t working. Literacy is valuable, yes, but the work shouldn’t start there. It should begin at the heart. It should be expressed in song and dance. It should begin with that age-old story. At THE Story that changes people. A story that began before the creation of the world and one day will end in a city. And oh, the part that we get to play!
We’ve been missing the mark for so long. Now on this new frontier communities are being impacted. Yet, there is a shortage of leaders. Leaders of character and integrity, ones who truly desire to be like the One who came before and set the standard. It is His story into which we are each invited. This organization I’ve been working with seeks to answer to that need. It is simply about leaders developing leaders developing leaders. It is about investing in a few in order to reach many. Will the right leaders to lead this next generation of oral learners please step up?
If you want to follow my blog from my journey in India, please send me a message and I will gladly give you the link.
As I write this I have been back in China a mere week after three months away. It’s a familiar place with the same people dotting the neighborhood. The egg lady still greets me with a big smile. The noodle and dumpling shop is still bustling with people during the lunch hour. The old couple next door still plays ping pong in the court next to my apartment. The neighborhood pug still owns his street corner. The Muslim restaurant ladies still give me a knowing smile when they know exactly which dish is my favorite one to order. The morning exercises chanted by the schoolchildren across the street in the wee hours of the morning still reverberates through the walls. My work desk is still in the same space. The laughter of my Chinese and American colleagues is still a joy to hear. I have come back to a place that has become a lot like home over the past decade. Coming back is like getting back on a bicycle after it’s been in the garage for a long while. A little wobbly at first, but then remembering, “ah, yes, this has been the ride of my life.”
Yet, I can’t help but look ahead,. Or rather, to look back at where the past few months have taken me. I am back in the flow of things, but I have to keep myself from daydreaming. Sitting at my desk, I look out the window and find myself hoping…asking…daring to imagine what lies ahead.
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I esire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Is. 55)