Sunday, October 2, 2011

SEAsia Trip Report & Moving Forward

Shared this morning for a rushed six minutes at the 10:30am service. I intro'ed and Ali did slides outlining organizational progress and goals, and why we should and how we could concern ourselves as a church to better support our missionary in Sabah.

From EPC Missions Committee we hope that moving forward, our church can more fully enter the story in Sabah rather than just hear and tell it, so that our engagement in this trip would bear the fruit for the kingdom that the investment of resources, time, and heart made by the church in our travels should.

Grant us discernment and new hearts to invest wisely in the kingdom, not just engage in spiritual tourism.

Having walked as Christians in NYC for some time we've accepted the responsibility, privilege, and enterprise of loving our city; Jeremiah 29:7 even reminds us from the cover of our Sunday worship bulletins. Perhaps it is the daunting size of the task (or is it really the size of our hearts??) that causes us to narrow our definition of city limits––draw boundaries on whose welfare we will seek. So I was challenged by Nehemiah's compassion and initiative when invited to Southeast Asia this past summer.
In the first verses of Nehemiah 2, the king observes that Nehemiah was sad. Why on earth should the cupbearer to the king, who himself lived in comfortable quarters and was so secure in his government job, be so heavy-hearted? The king was perplexed. Nehemiah responded to him, "How should my face not be sad, when the city... lies in ruins...?" His heart was burdened for the plight of a far away city. He was aware and informed. He was not indifferent. Ali will challenge us in a bit to begin living out our calling as world Christians by identifying personally and corporately with a situation far away, so that when the King asks, "What are you requesting?" to us as he did to Nehemiah, we would pray to God and perhaps ask for the nations. Perhaps we would ask for Sabah, East Malaysia, the old British Borneo. 
During my time abroad I was struck by how remarkably un-foreign the slums of Sabah were. Poverty there looks remarkably similar to poverty in South Bronx or Morningside or uptown in Washington Heights. And poverty in Malaysia looks the same as it does in each of our hearts. Living in filth and helpless to cleanse ourselves of it, maybe not even knowing how poor our health and quality of life really is... When I look at refugees, drug addicts, prisoners, children, widows, the least of these, illegal immigrants, aliens.... Homeless, stateless, people, do I see that I am looking in a mirror? 
So with what wealth did I go, to acquaint with and address the poverty there? What abundance compelled me? What resource enabled me? My gold grew dim.
  • Not financial wealth, although a dollar is more than most of these people live on per day––but really, not monetary wealth, I'm as well-off as any college student. 
  • Not linguistic capital, although I am a native speaker of the English language of global currency they are trying to teach to the schoolchildren. 
  • Not hygienic wealth, for I was not safe from their drinking water or germy children's open sores or from their bathrooms and mosquitos. 
  • Not evangelistic credibility, for I have not suffered as they, and historically my people have exploited their people, even in the name of my God. 
  • Not ethnic, although for once, in Southeast Asia, as an East Asian and an American, I represented on every front, the privilege and access that belongs to the power elite, the imperialists, the colonizers––as opposed to the inculpable middle class minority I represent here in the States.
  • Not political, although I hold a passport that means I need not live in constant fear as they do of police raids and deportation, that I wasn't a vulnerable alien in a foreign land, not unlike the Israelites were as strangers in Egypt.
  • Not any worldly wealth or statistical advantage, economic or social or otherwise.
For all these indexes are still merely a response to a ratio of income, a guilty and unsustainable comparison of status in society, as opposed to a response to the character and call of our self-emptying Lord. 
With the new hearts he gives us and the renewal he keeps working in us, we can care and be concerned, as confidently as we have been commissioned. And we can give, as freely as we have received. 
Dear Church, what global world missions and EPC's missions endeavors require of us first is not our pocket change, but our heart-change.

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