Not Like Me
We met Colonel Erwin in Indonesia. A formal fierce Muslim Colonel with the Indonesian army, he testified that Jesus had appeared to him while he was in a jail cell for signing death warrants for 5,000+ people. Jesus spoke and said: "I am Jesus. The God you are serving is not God!" Whatever happened between Jesus and Colonel Erwin resulted in a revolution in his life. He was released from prison and eventually retired from active duty. By the time our missionary team met him he had started nearly 100 churches. His method of funding was simple: "Give church planters Jesus and a Bible and send them out with prayer!" Six of his own children became church planters.
We traveled deep into jungle territory. No fancy buildings. No trains. No airports. Precious souls living in primitive huts. No shopping at Walmart. They survived from natural growth of plants and fruits and what they purposefully planted.
The church was a grass hut. No front wall. Just sides and a wall behind the makeshift stage.
We were received as honored guests. Ladies prepared a meal for us.
James 1:5 is a wonderful verse of scripture. I try to pray it every day. The Lord is wise and he gives wisdom.
Before leaving the United States I had read and studied about Indonesia and possible points of missionary contact. Off to the Dollar Store I went. Half of my suitcase was filled with kitchen utensils and Tootsie Rolls.
Truth of the matter is that I am a squeamish eater. Reading a menu means very little to me. I like to see the food and where it is cooked. Washing hands and being sanitary is basic protocol. Equally important is that growing up my North Carolina diet was very basic. My taste buds greatly favor Southern cooking. True the years have been gentle to me at Covenant Church as folks from diverse countries have introduced me to international cuisine.
But the trip to Indonesia was in 1996, my taste buds were in primitive formation. In addition, I do not like steaming hot foods or liquids. I do not like coffee. I cannot eat foods with hot spices.
There I was in the jungle with women cooking a meal expecting me to eat their delicacy. Time for Chapter II of the Dollar Store. I came to learn that the kitchen was behind the grass hut (chapel) and I made my way there with gifts of spatulas, stirring spoons, etc. The kitchen consisted of a fire pit with pots on it. No roof. Women carefully tended fires and prepared foods.
Realizing that a "kitchen" is sacred space to a woman I forthrightly began distributing presents. Oh, the wonder of a dollar spatula for the first time in the hands of a woman who has never been to town or seen a city. I bought a lot of grace for the meal served later.
What was put on my plate looked palatable and I judged that I would likely survive to see another sunlight. But just as I was about to take a bite of a certain portion, Bo Barredo, Filipino, stepped close and adeptly moved that food to his plate.
Later he explained that the food was so hot that his taste buds almost sizzled. He knew that my limited exposure to hot spices would never survive! Thank you, Bo.
I am not sure what would have happened if I had eaten the delicacy with hot spices. But I am sure it would have probably provided a most embarrassing episode.
By now you perhaps are wondering why precious time and effort is being taken by a pastor to write about travel and foods. Please allow me to explain.
I am trying to illustrate that there are folks "Not Like Me". They dress, act and live in ways different than me (us). They speak a different language or dialect. They have different customs and holidays. They value objects that we care little about.
The Lord has been dealing strongly with my heart as a pastor. The challenge we face is whether we care about folks "Not Like Me". Do we find them curious and avoid them? Do we find them lacking in ways that are demeaning? Do they irritate us? Do we feel threatened by their way of life? Do we turn a deaf ear to their concerns for their families, tribes, clans or countries?
Or do we feel drawn to them as precious souls, God's dear children and equally loved by Our Heavenly Father. Do we believe that people living primitively or differently are as good as we are? Do we believe that God loves them as much as He loves us?
With passion I write that we as followers of Christ must be willing to go outside our comfort zone and serve those "Not LIke Me!" The heart of Christ must drive us to see the Romans and the Samaritans of our time. We too must see the lepers, the blind, the lame and the poor. We too must be willing to brave the roughness of turbulent seas to go to the Maniacs of Gadara in our time. We must ask ourselves if every soul is of equal value. If we answer "Yes," then we must ask what price will we pay to bring souls to Jesus? Do we like people "Not Like ME (US)" enough to be compassionate for their life needs and their souls?