I like to play on Google Earth sometimes. It’s fun to be able to see the globe from space, to spin it around like a toy, and turn it from America to Asia in an instant. I like to use it to get a lay of the land from high above then gradually zoom into certain parts of the world.
I pick a nation, like Thailand, and then eventually a city, and then I zoom into the center of town and began to notice the patterns of the landscape, the colors, the structures, and the roads. I can even get a pretty good view of streets and houses from above, but it is still always limiting. I can never see people’ faces and I certainly can never know what’s in their heart and mind.
It’s not until I am actually on the streets that I begin to experience the life of the city that the map represents. Everything from above seems so simple, so easy. Statistics like, 65 million people, less than 1% following Christ wholeheartedly, are easier to swallow from above even if they are somewhat disturbing. But it’s at the street level where you see a number like this put on flesh and blood. Here you see people’s faces, what people do on a day to day basis, how they live their lives without knowing their Creator, what they value or focus on, and you begin to try to unravel the mystery of it all.
For those following Christ in this context, you begin to see their struggles, know of their victories, and understand their limitations. You find yourself comparing notes from your experiences in the West and applying solutions that you know have worked for others, but then you realize this is not the West. This is a whole different world with a completely different world view, understanding of history, and limited access to tools I have been prone to rely upon in the world I just came from. Yet we are all human beings and we were all created by the same God who calls us to Himself in relationship and sends us out into all the world to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and plant communities of disciples that love God and love people.
So, I begin to settle in, to learn the language, to reverse my role from being a teacher to being a student, to put my hands to whatever work the Lord allows me to do, to seek God for wisdom, and to meet people that God puts in my path on a daily basis. I remind myself that this work is not a quick fix solution. This is not something I can simply throw money at and hope it will take care of itself. This is a work that requires lives radically committed to the Master, nothing more, nothing less. He will take the little “loaves and fishes” of our lives and multiply them into a great miracle that will feed many.
The weight of this new world tries to lay heavy on my shoulders, along with the burdens of cultural adjustment and even a little shock, the normal pressures of family life, and my own sense of what I want to accomplish. I find myself overwhelmed at times with it all. But then I come once again to Jesus, the prince of peace, and exchange those things for his burden and yoke which is “easy and light.” He carries the burden for this nation and these people.
He sees them from afar and knows them intimately.