We finally had boots on the ground. It was surreal, frightening, and thrilling all at once. After months of applications, interviews, and scrutiny, the Foreign Mission Board (now known as the International Mission Board, or IMB) had said, “Yes!” My husband and I had stepped off a trans-Pacific flight into a bright, cold day in an East Asian nation. With our little girl standing between us, we faced a new life.
The early months were demanding and exhausting as we learned to function in our adopted land. Buying food, learning to get around in a city of millions, and studying language four hours a day for two years sorely challenged our calling. However, it was those very things that helped us to engage the people and their culture. We began to love and understand our new people with their unique language and worldview.
This process is called cross-cultural engagement. It can begin with “pointing and grunting,” accompanied by open hearts and hands, conveyed with never-ending smiles. Later, this language can grow to shared expressions of distress or a good old-fashioned belly laugh! Undignified though this may seem, bridges and bonds can often be built.
Maybe you are wondering what makes my story relevant. How are my 27 years of international relationship-making germane? According to one online source, there are 4.3 million immigrants living in Texas. The website goes on to say that one in six Texas residents is an immigrant. Surely the sovereign Lord has not only brought the people of the world to our great state, but to our nation as well.
Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympian of 1924, said he felt “the pleasure of the Lord” when he ran. I have known no greater pleasure than being involved with people from other ethnicities who love, cry, laugh, dream, get sick, and worry about their children just the way I do. I want you to know this pleasure as well.
To believers, it is mandated to show God’s glory, the witness of His creation, the sacrifice of His love, and His plan to restore all that was destroyed once and for all. The motif of God drawing the people of the world to Himself begins with His promise to Abraham, continuing through the Scriptures. It ends in the book of Revelation with the nations gathered before God’s throne. Wouldn’t you like to be involved in this great gathering?
May I offer some ways to begin? We must start with prayer:
- Won’t you ask the Holy Spirit to shape in you a passion for the internationals in your community who look, speak, eat, and think differently?
- Will you ask Jesus to make you a “fisher of men?”
- Will you ask to thrive spiritually out of your comfort zone?
- Won’t you pray for these things consistently and keep them in the forefront of your priorities?
Since our Lord Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, we need a partner to reach out as well. Most definitely, we must pray for someone special to walk with us. The disciples Jesus sent out in pairs reported that even the demons had been subject to them. You will encounter spiritual opposition, but you and your partner will face it together. This is no reason for fear. The challenge will grow your faith. You will learn new things about walking with the Holy Spirit.
Are you ready to begin your journey?
Loretta Morris is a retired IMB missionary and member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.