One of the more poignant stories to me in the Bible is where children were being brought to Jesus and the disciples were trying to fend them and their parents off. Jesus steps in and not welcomes them but notes that all of us, in some sense, must come to Him as a little child.
Clearly, this little vignette has great relevance within the context of salvation and discipleship. But I find it can be paralleled across to missions as well.
Recent story: Within the last 6 weeks, I have been ordained and received my doctor of theology. The first is a recognition of ministerial calling, while the other is a recognition of academic achievement. Don’t get me wrong… I am happy with both, and perhaps even more happy that both happened in the mission field.
BUT… also within the last 6 weeks, I have been challenged by ministry that should be super easy (it seems to me) but is not. One was speaking at a somewhat political event (I enjoy being disconnected from politics even though I believe churches should be integrated with their communities, including partnership/interaction with political entities).
The other involves my work in hospital chaplaincy. I am taking CPE (since I am administrator of a training center for CPE, I felt that I need to understand what the trainees and supervisors are going through more directly). It has been a challenge to me for a few reasons:
1. While my English serves me well in Baguio, the hospital I serve at is outside of Baguio and most of the patients and their families are very uncomfortable with English, and some are even uncomfortable with Tagalog. This makes me feel kind of stupid and out of place.
2. Visiting patients involves going up to strangers and trying to make a conversation (not even knowing if they want to see me and if they can even speak my language). This goes against my temperament.
3. As a chaplain, I focus on feelings (the affective region of the human condition) while I like to deal with facts, fixing, and instructing. This makes me doubt that I am doing anything useful.
4. A chaplain has an ambiguous role in most hospitals. Some staff doubt their value… a peddlar of superstition. Others, think chaplains are there to “cheer people up.” Yet others here see the role as power praying… a faith healer. This makes me doubt my acceptance.
What is the result? I feel like a child in a crowd of strange adults. Such children doubts that they are supposed to be there, doubts that they are valued, and doubts that they can do anything of value.
YET… there is value in this. I have seen many people, including missionaries, who become masters of their own realm or ministry. They do what they do, but feel that they can’t do other things, so they don’t try. I like to do what I feel competent in doing and things that are consistent with my temperament. I hate to feel lost and confused. I hate to look silly or simple in front of others.
But missionaries are to be willing an
d flexible in ministry. We must risk coming before other people, not as experts and not a bosses… but as little children. Jesus accepts little children, but little children have to risk coming to Jesus and running the gauntlet of disapproving strangers.