Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word & Way article

The Baptist General Convention of Missouri publishes a page in each edition of the Word & Way, one of two Baptist state papers in Missouri. The Word & Way is one of the five institutions being sued by the Missouri Baptist Convention. Those of us on staff with the BGCM alternate in writing articles for the BGCM page in the Word & Way and it was my time to do so again this month. I thought I'd share as a post the article that will be appearing in the upcoming edition of Word & Way.

As residents of the United States, we sometimes mistakenly assume that everyone celebrates Christmas just like we do, but that is far from reality. Allow me to briefly share some Christmas traditions in places we have lived and served as missionaries. In Costa Rica, the traditional Christmas Eve meal has to feature tamales. They’re not the long, thin style tamales that are associated with Mexican food, but large, square tamales wrapped in banana leaves. In Argentina, you could forget about going to bed early on Christmas Eve because the whole neighborhood erupted with fireworks at midnight that carried on for more than an hour usually. The stores would stock mountains of loaves of pan dulce (which translates as sweet bread). It resembled fruitcake, but despite its name, it wasn’t very sweet. In Mexico, families re-enact the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and their search for suitable lodging once they arrived in the town. They go from house to house singing a song to request lodging. The Mexican children don’t receive their presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but on Dia de los Reyes—Kings Day—which falls on Jan. 6th and commemorates the arrival of the Wise Men bearing their gifts.

One of the challenges for missionaries living south of the equator is that the Christmas season falls in the summertime and not the winter. It took us a while to get used to celebrating Christmas in 90+ degree heat, but we learned to adapt. The fact is that missionaries have to be fairly flexible individuals, for despite the best orientation and preparation one can have before traveling overseas, invariably things are never exactly like you anticipated that they would be. When one’s best laid plans are frustrated by forces beyond anyone’s control, flexibility becomes a great virtue. Just as it would be a mistake to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas as we do, so too we would be wrong to presume that everyone around the world shares the same mindset or worldview that we do as North Americans.

A great way to gain a broader perspective on the rich variety that exists in our world in terms of cultures, languages, traditions, religious beliefs, and so many other variables is to participate in a missions trip. You will not only obtain a more comprehensive understanding and appreciation of other peoples and their cultures, but you can make a difference in someone’s eternal destiny as you allow the Lord to use your giftedness to touch lives with the truths of the gospel. A wonderful place to consider going on a missions trip is the beautiful country of Guatemala. It’s relatively close to the U.S. (just a short three-hour flight from Dallas), and the people are warmly receptive and welcoming. The BGCM’s partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention provides us with some wonderful opportunities to minister alongside Baptists in that country to impact their nation for Christ. I hope that you’ll prayerfully consider how you and your church might plug in and become directly involved in a hands-on missions trip with our Central American partners. Please pray for Owen Taylor and me as we travel to Guatemala in January for the third in a series of leadership training events for pastors and leaders in the western region of the country. I’ll also be leading a group from our church in February to work with three Baptist churches in the town of Cantel in that same area.

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