Here is a response to my last post, A Brunch, Tears, and the Question “Who will go?” . I wanted to share it with everyone because this woman labored hard for the Gospel in Japan and attained much wisdom through her years of cross-cultural ministry to the second-largest unreached people group in the world, the Japanese.
Kimberly, I resonate with so much of what you wrote. Having spent 16 of the past 17 years in (or preparing to return to) Japan, and now re-adjusting to life in these United States, I’ve noticed some of the things you mentioned, both your observations of American Christian culture and your observations of our hearts.
When I returned to the States two summers ago for a year of Home Ministry Assignment, I attended my share of missions conferences, with the ladies’ brunches, dinners, etc. Some of them were decorated, but for the most part it was a missions theme, maps, globes, artifacts, etc. Then God re-directed me, and I am now married, living in the Midwest, and settling in to life here in the U.S.A. And I’ve experienced other types of brunches.
Shortly after our wedding, we planned a local wedding reception here at my husband’s home church, for people who hadn’t been able to travel South for our wedding. I really struggled with moving forward on the plans for it, and wondered why. If it had been in Japan, I would have jumped in with both feet to plan it, but here … what was the point?
Was anyone going to come to a church building for the first time? Was anyone going to hear the Word of God for the first time? Was there going to be ANY outreach woven into the event? EVERYthing our team does in Japan is to support the goal of a thriving, reproducing church planting movement. I find it hard to get motivated to help out in ministries here that don’t have such a specific and strategic purpose.
Recently our church was looking for people to help with a mother-daughter banquet. I asked a friend who grew up in the church what the purpose of the banquet is. She could not tell me. It turns out I’ll be out of town the day of the banquet, so I couldn’t help anyway, but I’m definitely trying to figure out how to get involved with ministries in the local American church, without compromising my desire to be involved in intentional ministry.
Last fall I attended two church women’s events in the area, and experienced culture shock, as I saw the magnitude of the decorations, favors, food, etc. The standard for “nice” seemed higher than necessary, or at least DISproportional to how much spiritual food was offered by the speakers. Shortly after one of the events, we were with another couple, when the husband asked his wife how the retreat had been. She hesitated, and said, “It was fun, with just enough Bible thrown in to make it a Christian meeting.”
Your sister-in-law Maggie responded to your brunch blog, by writing that she has been “ruined for this world.“
What a privilege to be ruined for this world! I think it’s how Jesus wants His followers to be. And if He wants that, then I think it’s a guarantee that He will give grace for each step, on a path that seems so unfamiliar after we’ve grown up in a comfortable American lifestyle. Maggie writes that she is praying against a self-righteous critical spirit; that is the step where I almost always stumble. How sad is it that it’s so easy to want to do intentional, meaningful ministry like Christ did WITHOUT a heart of love for those around us?
Besides reading God’s word and spending time with Him, one thing that helps me see the blindspots of my comfort is to read blogs like yours and Maggie’s and to read biographies of saints who went before and gave up creature comforts in order to go to the ends of the world. You (and they) are my eyes and ears … a “show and tell” of sorts to move my eyes off of this little corner of America. Keep telling your story!