I was at my induction at CMS yesterday and heard someone tell this amazing story.
This group of pioneers were there, a danger of feeling a bit smug and self-assured as they talked animatedly about “mission on the edge”, “Pioneering Evangelism” and “Fresh Expressions of Church”, it was at a Bishops garden party(!) Just then a little old lady came and chatted to one of the group saying “I know what you mean?” The guy smiled not wanting to be patronising.
The little old lady told this story.
She was a missionary in Nepal. In Nepal there was a large wealthy ex pat community. They lived in English style houses, with gates and walls around them, with flushing toilets. The Nepalese people lived just in simple mud huts.
This lady realised she would never reach this community from inside the colonial clique of middle class westerners hidden away in a gated compound.
If she wanted to reach the local people she would have to go to them, and meet them where they were at.
She began to dress like them too, and tried to do all she could to meet them on a level place.
This was tolerated but not really approved of in the white middle-class encampment.
One day she took the bold step of adding the ‘bindi spot’ to her forehead.
She was taken aside by the other missionaries in the encampment and scolded.
She realised that to engage with the new culture she had to turn her back on her old culture, which she did (and that must have been painful).
Yet in stepping into their lives and their culture she began to be accepted and welcomed into the new culture, and because of her bravery and faith, many people came to know Jesus.
It made me think too often we set out to sea, but never leave the harbour, or at least the sight of land, the challenge with mission is to push out deeper, to have the faith to see the familiar shore disappear onto the distance.
CMS brought new ideas to the established ideas of mission, mission which had become a career, a project, a short term thing.
The early days of CMS missionaries, they packed up their belongings in coffins, a symbol that they were going for good and their expectation was they were going to live and die in the new community God was sending them too. Their tickets were one way.
The call of Christ is an “all in call” a place of total surrender to him, a turning our back on our old life, dying to our old ways of being and being alive to live our lives Christ’s way from here on in.
I want to have that wonderful old ladies crazy missional heart that gave up everything for the one who also gave up everything for her.