Archive | August, 2014

Are Christian missionaries narcissistic idiots?

7 Aug

Ann Coulter seems to think so, and Albert Mohler has written a nice response.

Writes Coulter: “There is little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital, but why do we have to deal with this at all? Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first ‘risk factor’ listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90% fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”

She then asked this question: “Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”

Well, Ann, by your logic, Jesus was a fool to leave heaven for our sakes, let alone suffer the humiliation of the cross. The missionary spirit is the spirit of Jesus, and Dr. Brantley knows that Spirit.

Sadly, it’s not just loud-mouthed conservatives who ask this question. It is sometimes asked in milder form by well-meaning friends, family, and churches. Indeed, as David Platt recently pointed out, almost all the missionary heroes we read about today were OPPOSED strongly by many in their churches! In our own experience, when we were considering moving to Peru to use our gifts in technology and teaching more directly for the benefit of Christ’s Kingdom and Peruvians, I was stunned to be asked by believers a couple times, “Couldn’t you do that here?” Yes, in some ways, I could, but what would be the point? I still feel the burden of proof is the other way around. When there is so much Gospel light in the US and so little in other parts of the world, how can you justify not going?

Is it expensive to send missionaries to foreign countries? Undoubtedly. But was it expensive for Jesus to leave heaven for our sakes?

Might you risk your life by leaving the developed world to give of yourself to others? Right again! And in so doing, you would only follow in the footsteps of the Master.

The missionary spirit is the heart of Christianity and every church. If that spirit dies, the church dies. Don’t quench the Spirit. Get involved in missions! Short of moving away from home, perhaps you could teach an ESL class or participate in a friendship program with international students. These are fantastic opportunities right in your own backyard. Whether you give, pray, or go, don’t be a spectator. Be intentional about being part of Christ’s mission, and you will not regret it. He is worth it, and you will be blessed by your involvement.

What is culture shock?

1 Aug

Before we moved to Peru, many people warned us about culture shock. We read books about it to try to understand it and prepare for it. We talked to many veteran missionaries about it. Here is the best definition I’ve seen so far, from a missions Web site:

What is culture shock? Nearly every missionary, at some time in their first year to two of service, comes to the bottom of themselves, and usually, it is not a pretty place. They feel alone, even abandoned. Things that have never bothered them before are now driving them to irrational expressions of emotion. God, the person who lead them into all this, seems absent…or at least, deaf or worse, uncaring. Welcome to the experience that is, “culture shock!”

The big surprise for me is that despite being well aware of it and having prepared intentionally, it still snuck up on me. At least, I think it did. What strikes me odd is that the classic examples relate to culture: different customs, attitudes towards time and personal space, directness vs. indirectness, etc. Initially, these were challenges, for sure, but I’ve grown accustomed to and even enjoy many aspects of the culture. I try hard to accept that many things are not bad, just different.

But one thing I’ve really struggled with is the land! Parts of Peru are gorgeous, but we don’t live in those parts. We live on the edge of the driest desert in the world. We moved from an evergreen state to a place where the only green things are cactii (mind you, I like cactii, but they’re not shade trees 🙂 From an idyllic suburban setting in the forest that is Georgia, we moved to narrow streets, wall-to-wall concrete houses, crumbled sidewalks, and a whole lot of exhaust. Never mind Colorado, I’m missing Georgia and Iowa and even western Kansas! At first, I liked it. It did (and does) have its own beauty. But as time goes on, it becomes just as crushingly monotonous as western Kansas. Except there are no thunderstorms or snowstorms or even tumbleweeds. Just desert and sunshine and the very occasional cloud. And unlike driving through western Kansas to Colorado, the desert is still there the next day, and the next day, and the next. (Note: I’m extra looking forward to my visit to Colorado next month!).

So we’re thankful to report that tonight we found a new greenspace less than 10 minutes walk from our house. It is a very small park, only a few square meters, but has green grass, a lovely arrangement of cactii, and overlooks the onion fields. It’s on the nicest street we’ve seen in Arequipa. Every house is painted and immaculate except one and it just needs a fresh coat of paint. The sidewalks are smooth are there is no trash. But the few meters of greenspace overlooking the onion fields through the stone arch is the best part, and I think I shall have to visit often.

There are a lot of other factors that have contributed to a general malaise for me of late, but for me, the desert is symbolic. Culture shock is something like living in an urban desert. On the bright side, I can breathe better than I’ve been able to in my whole adult life. As we had hoped, my asthma loves the desert! For the trees and flowers I love to photograph are also those to which I’m allergic. Thus, I now feel somewhat trapped in the desert. To be honest, I don’t really know what to make of it yet. But breathing is important, after all.