|Posted on May 7, 2013 at 3:05 AM||comments ()|
This walking the two
That sees me neither
Or the Other
Seems to promise so much
Seems so unfulfilled, empty, vague
The gift of betweenness
As we journey to be
May we be generous with our
by David Michie, Perth, Australia*
I came across this poem in a Paul Hiebert book when studying Cultural Anthropology at Morling College nearly two years ago. It resonated with me the first time I read it, and it resonates with me even more now in Malawi. It resonates with me because it captures well for me the tension, frustration and hope of living in another culture. This is especially true for me as a cross-cultural missionary trying to serve effectively in the culture that i'm in, and trying to identify with the people we walk along side to the best of our ability. This road of "inbetweenness" is not an easy one but nevertheless it is a gift.
The face of missions is changing in so many ways today. One of the ways is that missions is no longer just about 'pioneering' work where traditionally the Western 'Christian' nations sends missionaries into the unreached Majority world. For the Majority world are now sending missionaries of their own into the wider world too. Missions has become "anywhere to everywhere." The importance of 'cultural mediation' is therefore important.
The late missiologist, Paul Hiebert suggests that missionaries will need to be engaged in 'cultural mediation' as "inbetweeners" - "who stand between different worlds, seeking to build bridges of understanding, mediate relationships, and negotiate partnerships in ministry" (Hiebert, 2009:179). This is so important for me to remember as I work with the church here in Malawi. While it is not pioneering work that I will be engaged in as the church is quite well established here, but its about 'negotiating partnerships in ministry' for the growth and expansion of God's Kingdom here in Malawi. I imagine a day when the church here together in partnership with foreign missionaries reach the pockets of unreached groups in Malawi such as the Muslim Yao tribe, the Chinese diaspora and the Asian (Indian/Parkistani) communities living here. The ability to build bridges of understanding between cultures is so crucial in this work.
Living in Malawi has really brought out this reality of "inbetweeness" for me. Its a tension I feel on a daily basis, walking the inbetween of cultures. Not just between the Western and African culture but also between the Chinese and African cultures too. Living here in Malawi has really forced me to think more deeply about my "Chinese-ness." While I have grown up in Australia with its western values and I consider myself "Australian", there is an inescapable part of me that is still Chinese - my looks and my family story and identity. Jo and I have been confronted to think more intentionally about our kids, and what kind of "identity" they will have growing up here. They are Australians but their heritage is Chinese. While we bring them up in an "Aussie" kind of way, we also want them to appreciate the heritage they have come from. That is why we take them to the Chinese resturant here (run by mainland Chinese) on a weekly basis so that they are exposured to the Chinese language and culture. We have started teaching them Mandarin. Yes, it is quite funny especially as my Mandarin is pretty limited! And I hope to tell them more of my family history so that they grow knowing it just as my grandparents have told me. In doing this, I hope that they will grow up confident in who they are and comfortable in their own skin, and that they will appreciate their "tri-culturalness" - Chinese Australian living in Malawi. That they will see this as a gift, the ability to walk in the "inbetweeness" of cultures but firmly grounded in their true identity in Christ.
One of the challenges of living in the 'inbetweeness' can be 'discontentment' as the poem suggests. For we are neither rooted in one culture or the other. But we need to be 'generous' with our discontentment. What does this mean? For me, I think this discontentment of being an "inbetweener" should not make us guarded or defensive because we will often be misunderstood, but rather to see it as a gift that can be used by God to build bridges between people of different cultures and bring reconciliation where there are differences. We are to be generous with our love, kindness and grace shown in our words and actions. This is the kind of generousity that we are to show. For Christ came as the great "inbetweener" between Heaven and Earth, to be our ultimate mediator between God and Man. He was greatly misunderstood but He loved us nevertheless to even die for us on the cross so that we might truly understand God and become citizens of His Kingdom.
"The gift of betweeness as we journey to be fully one" is the hope that we have that one day in the New Creation our cultural distinctiveness will no longer be barriers to fellowship, but become a way by which we worship King Jesus as His unified people. Until that day, as we live in this world of brokeness and conflict, we use our gift of inbetweeness to navigate between cultures and hope to create foretastes of the coming heavenly reality along the way.
* Taken from The Gospel in Human Contexts - Anthropological Explorations for Contemporary Missions by Paul Hiebert.
|Posted on May 4, 2013 at 5:05 PM||comments ()|
When my collegue shared at the prayer meeting a few days ago that her grandmother had passed away, it brought back thoughts and feelings of when my grandmother passed away (3/08/12) not long after we had arrived in Malawi.
During that time with alot of things going on with just having arrived in a new country and trying to settle in with the family, I didn't really have the emotional space to process the loss, and it is only now 9 months after having arrived that we feel more settled into life here that I have more emotional and thought space to reflect on the passing of my grandmother. While I felt sad that I was unable to return to Sydney for the funeral, I knew that I had said my goodbyes when I saw her at the hospital several days before we departed for Malawi. Jo and I knew that there was a real possibility that she would pass away soon after we arrive in Malawi. Jo encouraged me to take time out of our frantic last few days to go to see her. Looking back I'm so glad that I did. Using my limited Hokkien mixed with Mandarin that I knew, I was able to talk to her. She prayed for me for the journey that lay ahead of me to Malawi, and I prayed for her, and deep in my heart I knew that would be the last time that we would pray together.
One of the things that I remember most about my grandmother was her prayerfulness. She had been praying for me even before I was born. She would often tell me the story of my birth and how I was born 2-3 months premature and how God had been gracious to me in letting me live. She would tell me that it was because God had heard her prayers about granting the family peace during my birth that she and grandpa decided to give me the Chinese name "Glorious peace." Even growing up as a kid in those few short years in Singapore I remember her praying with my brothers and I. Everyday she would sit my brothers and I down and pray for us. She would pray that we would grow up loving God and serving Him with our whole lives; and that at least one of us should serve Him in full-time ministry. I was very young then, but this had made an inpression on me. As a kid you don't think too much of these things until much later in life when you are grown up and have kids yourself, and worry about their spiritual wellbeing. My grandmother had modelled to me the importance of prayer and to be God-dependent in all things.
Another thing that I remember most about my grandmother were her stories. She was a natural story teller. Growing up she would often tell my brothers and I her life stories, and often there would be a lesson associated with them! She wouldn't just tell them once, she would tell them over and over again over the years... as though she wanted us to not forget them! She would tell us her conversion story, and also what life was like in Indonesia, during World War II when they were hiding in the mountains from the Japanese soldiers, and how my aunty was born in a cave during that time, and how my grandpa was captured by American soldiers who thought he was a Japanese spy... and more! I have to admit they were quite exciting stories to listen to. I just wished that they have been written down before her passing to capture the details! In all this, my grandma had made a great impression on me by her pioneering and adventurous spirit!
My grandma married my grandfather around the age of 16 and not too long after they were married, they left their village in China and set sail for Indonesia. She became a follower of Jesus one day after being very sick and she prayed to God to heal her. Up to this point she had been a Buddhist and a worshipper of her ancestors, but due to this life threatening illness, she made a bargain with God. Not really sure how she came to know about God but I think it was through missionaries through whom she came to hear about God. She told God that if He healed her, she would commit her life to following Him. And God did heal her. By God's grace and enabling, she was able to keep her side of the bargain to follow Him to the very end.
These two things about Grandma - her prayfulness and her story telling - are important things that I would wish to impart onto my own kids and their kids. I would want my kids and their kids to grow up knowing that Jo and I are prayerful, God-dependent people and that we have family stories to tell them about God's faithfulness in keeping and sustaining us through all seasons of life. These stories are identity forming. The stories my grandma has passed onto me have shaped me into the person I am today, and the stories that I tell my kids will shape them into who they will become. My kids are TCKs (Third culture kids) and so was I to some extent. Being TCKs is confusing... Chinese Australians living in Africa. Are they more Australian than Chinese? Will they eventually become more Malawian than Australian? What will happen to their Chinese identity? I guess it doesn't really matter when they have their family stories to anchor into. Their story is embedded in Jo's and my story and our story is embedded in our parents and their parent's story and our collective stories are ultimately embedded in Jesus' story. It is in His story that we ultimately find our true identity. Our identity is bound up with His, and where we are headed is more important than where we have been.
Thanks Grandma for your God-dependent faithfulness in following Jesus til the very end, and for your stories that have shaped me to be who I am today. Thank you most of all for sharing Jesus' story.
The last time I saw my grandma in hospital before leaving for Malawi.
|Posted on March 27, 2011 at 7:22 AM||comments ()|
Just thought I would take the opportunity to provide a brief update on what's been happening at our end. I can't believe that its been over two months already since we moved onto College. This week is 'Week 7' of lectures already and half way through the semester!
Life is going at a crazy speed for us and at times it does feel abit overwhelming especially as we prepare for Baby#3 due in just over a month! Jo and I were reflecting a few days ago that we haven't really given much thought to the birth of Baby #3! Everything else seems to have pre-occupied us! Would appreciate prayer as we prepare to become a family of five!
Here are some things coming up for us in April: Jo's cake entries for the Easter Show (due 1st April) - she has been working hard on her masterpieces! Be sure to check them out if you are going to the Show! Jo will also be starting her doctrinal assessment around this time as part of our SIM application. It takes on average about 30-40hrs to complete! I'll be doing mine abit later on as I have too many essays to write at the moment! I will be busying myself with these assignments which are due around the same time as the baby's birth! Great timing I know! College Partnership Mission is also coming up too (April 6 - 10). The team I'm part of will be helping out at Hornsby Heights Baptist Church, and I have drawn the short straw to preach that Sunday! Please pray for the team that we would be effective in the short time we are there, and that we would be an encouragement to the church and the community there!
If you have not already and would like to, you can subscribe online to receive our monthly updates via this website. For specific updated prayer points, please refer to the tab "Prayer Points". I just updated some!
Gotta go! Til next time.
|Posted on October 15, 2010 at 8:35 PM||comments ()|
Trust is not an easy path, but the destination is sweet.
To be honest, I have struggled a bit with letting go of a few luxuries in the name of missions. A big one this week is the decision to not put Teaghan into Prep at the lovely Christian school I taught at, because we simply cannot afford it with Pete studying full time next year. I am more at peace with letting things go now, but for a while the cost of missions was really stacking up and I was feeling a bit down.
I was recently asked a thought-provoking question which made me think long and hard about our missions journey: ”Do you think God still wants you to go feeling like this?” In the end, I was glad to have been asked that as it served to deepen my faith in God and my convictions for the path that Pete and I had decided before God to go on almost 10 years ago.
Faced with giants?
Pete and I recently did a kids talk on Numbers 13-14, when the Israelites are at the brink of entering The Promised Land. The Bible records that the Israelites sent 12 men to check out the land, 10 of them came back discouraged by what they saw - giants. On hearing this, the Israelites complained against God. Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, stood firm in their faith in God. Though it looked scary, they trusted that God would bring them victory against the giants. We read that because of the lack of trust of the other 10 spies, all of the Israelites except for Caleb and Joshua were forbidden to enter the Promise Land. The lesson is that we need to trust God even when things seem impossible. We need to trust that He is more powerful than our human abilities. When we don't, and we try to take things into our own hands, we make a mess of things.
When we are faced with The Impossible, it is easier to go down the path of least resistance - where you can see exactly what lies ahead, know exactly where you're going, and where you require less trust in the Almighty to lead you. Even though it may appear harder, going down the path of faith ultimately leads you to unexpected joys and pleasant surprises along the way, and the end is sweeter because you have walked the path with your Saviour.
As we were preparing the above Sunday school lesson, I couldn't help but think about what it means for us to go on missions. It is not an easy journey, with many uncertainties along the way (like where are we going to live next year?!). Are we going to grumble about giants or trust in God?
His power in our weakness
God definitely doesn’t want me to go ‘feeling like this’, that is why He is going all out in reassuring me that everything will work out according to his purposes to make me more like Christ! Just like a parent guiding a child, not all the lessons will be easy but some are necessary and for my good. God doesn’t want me feeling like this, so he’s promised to walk with me all the way to stand beside me as I tackle all the challenges that lay ahead. Wow, what a promise!
Leaving for missions is not easy, not even for those who are 'mission minded'. Missionaries aren't happy magical people who prance off to a foreign land singing happy songs with no fears or worries. Missionaries are simply people who have a passion for the lost and trusts in the God of all nations who is bigger than all their fears and worries.
We can choose to stay and avoid all the uncertainties that seem to surround our life at the moment, we can choose not to go because we worry about the unknown, but then we'll also never get to experience God's awesome power at work should I choose to go down the path of faith. For it is in our weakness, that his power is made perfect.
I was recently reminded in my weekly Mums Bible Study that to say: “I will not fear” as David in the Psalms did, is an act of will based on the truth of God. David does not say “I do not fear”. This lack of fear doesn’t just happen, it is a result of daily reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness and consciously saying: “Because of what I know of God, I WILL NOT fear”
God has been further reminding me of this idea of ‘faith through trials’ thru my personal devotions. In particular, these words from my devotional book in the past couple of months have been of encouragement to me. I hope they are to you too:
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; Is anything too difficult for me?” Jeremiah 23: 27
“I have learnt to be content in whatever circumstances I am... I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:11, 13
“Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you” God’s words to Paul in Acts 18:9-10
Suffering is a precious gift when viewed from an eternal perspective, because suffering not only proves our faith but is used of God to make us more like Jesus.
God does not want compliant resignation. When life is difficult, God wants us to have a faith that trusts and waits. He wants us to have a faith that doesn’t complain while waiting but rejoices because we know our times are in His hands – nail-scarred hands that labour for our highest good.
God proves himself again
Even as I write now, I can already see the way God is taking care of us because we chose to trust in Him with our future.
The day we decided not to enrol Teaghan at my old work, Pete was armed with the task of calling around preschools near Morling college where he will be studying and where we hope to be living. By the 2nd phone call, he had found a lovely Christian preschool 5 mins from college, which on that particular day had one vacancy come up for the days that we wanted for Teaghan for next year. They accepted our application over the phone. Perfect timing. Perfect provision. One uncertainty ticked off the list.
Today a nearby church contacted us (thanks to a friend who told them about us) to say that they are interested in renting our place for their youth pastor next year starting Jan, which is when we plan to move into college housing. Perfect timing. Perfect provision. Another uncertainty ticked!
Today Pete was accepted to study full time at Morling College next year. Tick!!
How sweet it is to trust in Jesus!!
|Posted on September 8, 2010 at 6:25 AM||comments ()|
I like the saying "Being in a garage doesn't make you a car any more than going to church makes you a Christian."
So true, that going to church is not what makes you a Christian, nor is doing ministries, and it's good to be reminded of that... However, at the same time, if you car was parked outside in the elements all the time then maybe it wouldn't do so well after a while...
We learnt a painful lesson recently when we missed 2.5 years of servicing for our car... that when we finally took it to the garage - the type where they fix your car - it cost us an arm and a leg to get all the bits fixed up!! Over time, little damage had turned into major damage because we didn't get it to a garage straight away.
Likewise with Christians, I agree that going to church doesn't make you a Christian, but we need to go to church regularly to hear God's word taught. For it is only by doing that, that God can begin to 'fix' our broken bits. We need to meet regularly with other Christians, so that they can encourage us and we can encourage them, it's a little bit like keeping your car well oiled.
Similarly, regular personal times reading God's word is important - like petrol in a car. You are still a car without the petrol, but you won't go very far!
I really struggled with having regular QTs when I first had Teaghan. It's taken me a while to find my rhythm and find what works for me in getting a consistent QT going. I thought I'd start off using something short and to the point so that I can get back into the habit first, then move on to 'meatier' stuff later. I have found the below book really really helpful and a little more personally challenging than others I've read. Each day has a blurb and a Bible verse. I am daily challenged, encouraged, and humbled by God's word through it. Every night as I read it, I think "WOW!! That's spot on!! Just what I needed to hear". If anyone is looking for a good short devotional. I would highly recommend it!
So I've been reflecting on the above, on the importance to be grounded in God's word regularly. Because when we don't, the damage is gradual and most of the time, you might not even notice anything is wrong until something drastic happens (we knew our car needed fixing finally when it wouldn't start... oops!).
As we head out for missions in the near future, this is something that I'll need to remember. Because I know I can so easily slip back into the old pattern of being too busy for God.
So if you remember, would you mind reminding me of this when I'm 'on the field'?