When you leave your world behind, you learn things. That’s always true, even if it’s a quick trip to visit a friend in another state or a long trip across the world. This trip was about an experience that changes our own little view of the world–and I was the facilitator for our young leaders at Hope in the Praxis program.
For all of us, life becomes familiar–quick. In that familiarity, assumptions creep in. It’s easy to think our joys, our challenges, our problems are unique. It’s easy to develop blindness to obstacles, comfort even in our sin. But over the last ten days, here’s a few things I’ve learned about the way the world works:
People are more similar than different.
We all have the same needs. We want to be loved. We want to be known. We want to feel worthy of purpose, of affection. We want to be safe.
Relationships make the world go round.
Here we are, worshipping with the folks at East Mountain. East Mountain is an equipping ministry in South Africa, designed to impact churches, non-profits and businesses with training in theology, spiritual formation and practical leadership. Our Praxis residents lived alongside their year-long interns, and out of great questions came conversations, and out of conversations comes community, and out of community comes change. Who knows how our lives will intersect in the future, but it’s through experiences like this and through relationships that the world truly changes.
Culture impacts everything.
Where we grow up impacts what we believe. When God invites us into his kingdom, into his “culture”, we leave our own. When I travel, I’m reminded that there are cultural norms that I can easily accept without thinking about them. In South Africa, we spent tons of time talking about history–about apartheid, about the complexities of race, about injustice. The culture there reminds me that the culture here also suffers. Our problems may not come in the form of shacks and corruption but they come. American culture struggles. We struggle with technology replacing relationship. We struggle with finding our worth in what we do and how much we have. We struggle to rest, to resist the siren call of “more” for the soothing reality of “enough.” As Christians, we must interpret the culture we live in.
God is on the move.
This trip was a ministry immersion experience, so we met with all kinds of churches. We worshipped at an Anglican church in a township, at a charismatic church on a college campus, at the ministry house where we stayed. We met with church leaders on every end of the spectrum and yes, God is on the move. God will redeem his people, reconciling them to himself. He is looking for passionate, devoted, obedient followers of Jesus. And I got to meet many of them. Worshipping in other languages, leading in other contexts. But living lives that have been interrupted by Jesus Christ, who truly will reign. When you see Jesus in other cultures, God just gets bigger in your heart. Christianity is not a hobby that gives you a place to belong on Sundays. Christianity is a radical, heart-changing, life-shifting relationship with the living, true King of Kings. One day, we will all give account for our lives. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
All of creation sings of his glory. The worst of humanity, the most difficult suffering, the most confusing injustices do not negate the diverse, untamed, unbridled beauty of creation. The world sings of His glory. There is order even in what appears chaotic. There is spring even when it seems that winter will never end. Suffering produces growth. Growth brings change. God is the author and creator of the process of metamorphosis.
He invites us to always, always keep learning, changing, growing. Our souls continue to deepen through the experiences, both the glad and the hard. This is what we’ve been given, and every day is a day that we can turn our hearts back to Him, know Him more. Today is a day you can start to know this God who is at work throughout all of history and all of the world.
Hope is currently accepting applicants for next year’s Praxis class, which is my joy and honor to lead. If you are interested in vocational ministry, check it out!