When we were living in Indonesia, I intentionally dressed like the Indonesian businessmen. I liked the Indonesian batik style that many men wore and the Indonesians often complemented me on my dress. I felt by having an Indonesian’s appearance that I was accepted as an Indonesian businessman.
However, as I grew in my ability to speak the language, people would remark with much joy, “You are becoming more and more like an Indonesian.”
Then, over time, as we adjusted the way we set up our house, and as May began to cook Indonesian dishes the local way, people would visit and comment “Now you are one of us.”
And as I kept the fast of Ramadan, and practiced some of their traditions my friends would exclaim, “Now, you are truly Indonesian!” Several friends began to call me, “my brother” and would introduce me to people as “my brother.”
I felt like an insider, but was I really part of the community?
Recently Nasser, one of my “brothers” texted me after a visit to his home, he wrote,
Thank you for being one of my family. It was our honor to hv u here in my house and bro Patrick we really appreciate yr contribution towards me & our family. Only God will pay u back for all the kindness that u hv shown towards our family.
In receiving this text, I felt God’s peace rest upon me. I knew Nasser was seeing Jesus through my life – a life that sacrificed my old way of living to be God’s light to those I was now living among. Yet, paused and I thought back to the early years and the surface changes I had made, and how I believed by making those surface changes I was “one” with the people. I realized how much I’ve learned about becoming “one” over the years.
Today I am in Milwaukee Wisconsin, where I grew up. Earlier today May and I drove around my childhood neighborhood. It was fun to reminisce over the past and to see all the changes. Nearly everything was different. The streets are wider, the trees are taller, the stores where I hung out are gone, and the fields where I played now full of houses. Last night we met with 20+ friends. Everyone of these friends has known me for over 30 years. We discussed at length how the neighborhood and the world has changed since we moved to SE Asia. We talked about ways churches and mission organizations do things nowadays too. People realized that compared to other industries such as business, education, the arts, entertainment, even the neighborhood; that revolutionary changes have taken place the past 30 years. Yet mission structures and strategies are relatively the same. Many organizations claim to be making changes, but their changes are very much on the surface. They applaud themselves for their changes, but like my wearing batik, we wondered together if these are but surface changes. We discussed what steps need to be taken toward a needed, deeper, change. I am asking myself, and may I ask you; Have mission agencies really entered into the present times –August 12, 2015?
Jesus says to us, You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow;3 red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! (Matthew 16:2&3 Living)
What deep changes do you feel need to be made within missions to impact this, and future generations for Jesus? I look forward to hearing your ideas.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.