I grew up in church, as did so many of my generation. As kids we would often compare, “Oh, you’re Baptist? I’m Presbyterian.” Or, “I’m Catholic and he’s Lutheran.” The Baptists were the Amen-ers, and the Presbyterians were stoic. Catholics and Lutherans were the kneelers and others spoke in tongues.
Despite the differences…whether Christian or not, just about everyone knew who Jesus was. We heard the same Bible stories, were taught similar doctrine, and enjoyed friendships cemented in those circles.
Life experience, environment, family background and cultural influences, determined how we interpreted ‘church.’ It also laid the foundation for our worldview.
Sunday School exposed me to a world beyond my own.
Sunday mornings, leaning forward, on the edge of my cold, metal folding chair, I was held captive by story after story. We heard of people living and working in worlds much different than our own. People like Jim Eliot, Nate Saint, Adoniram Judson, and others from our own church! They were called Missionaries in those days. My imaginings tried to capture what it was like to live miraculously in those jungles of some tropical island, or Africa, or South America, or Asia.
A photo of a young girl held a prominent spot at the front of our class. An orphan from far away. We supported her with our weekly pennies eagerly dropped into the offering plate. Once in awhile, she would send a letter, translated to English, and our teacher would read her words to us.
Before digital anything – those days opened the door of our imaginations, and beckoned us to reach beyond our borders.
The very idea of becoming a missionary wasn’t so simple.
As young marrieds, my husband and I sought counsel from our pastor and various agencies into whether we could be one of those families. Taking the Story across cultural boarders was planted in our young DNA. We were discouraged by words such as, “It would take several years of university training,” or, as our family grew, “You have too many children to support.” The ‘going’ part was out of reach.
And, so, we settled into our lives, embracing the next best thing. Our home became the ‘going’ place. Foreign students, refugee resettlement, offering respite and a listening ear to those arriving home for rest and recharge – these and others filled our home and lives.
The world came to us.
Hosting became our front row seat to the world. We learned so much by observing, engaging in conversation, walking along side while praying with our friends and their work. We comforted the foreigner and learned “our way” wasn’t always “the” way.
Having a foreigner in our home required humility, grace, patience… literally on-the-job-training. Not always realizing how my American ideals affected our guests whether for good…or not. It was a constant challenge ‘not to offend’ as our visitors adjusted. Always wanting to help, I wasn’t always helpful. Not speaking the same language required creative understanding. Allowing the other woman in the house freedom in the kitchen gave opportunity to learn new meal options, while her own place was vital to survival and adjustment as wife and mother in a new land.
Yet, through all this, something was missing, and I yearned for more. What compelled us to continue, and why did it matter? How did God fit in this picture, or did He?
And, along came Perspectives.
Following an Urbana conference back in 1974, hundreds of university students determined to “go into all the world” to share God’s Story. But, most were ill-equipped as to how or where. The Perspectives Study Program was developed for just this purpose.
Now, forty years later, Perspectives is reaching global proportions. Translated in languages such as Chinese, S. Korean, Indian, Spanish, and others, it continues to equip the world for greater understanding of God’s intention for His world.
I got wind of this program while attending a mission conference here in my own city. A flier included a checklist of Next Steps for after the conference. Scanning the list, mentally checking off various suggestions, there it was – “Take Perspectives.”
And, so, I signed up for that 15 week course. From as early as the first session, I gained insight missing from my church upbringing. It isn’t a missionary class, or one to recruit missionaries. Perspectives is an experience.
My world view was challenged. What I thought I knew, I didn’t.
I learned afresh the purpose for why the Church even exists, and its importance.
I grasped on to the ‘why’ it’s important to be a World Christian, and what that means.
Aligning my heart with the heart of God grew out of these lessons
By the end of these intensive 15 weeks, I had a greater sense of purpose and affirmation. As my family engaged in hospitality, I realized it was not only from a natural ability to organize and administrate, but also a natural and compelling desire to speak of Christ love. I was able to accept that going overseas wasn’t necessary to prove my “Christianity,” or my abilities to be a support to those who do. In fact, those of us remaining behind are just as vital as those going.
I decided to train as Coordinator for future classes. It was a perfect fit for me, a person who loves to encourage. I wanted to see more classes offered so others could experience this life changing journey. Also, coming alongside students gave me opportunity to nurture, pray and process along with them. To this day, I continue relationship with several students who have moved to foreign opportunities. It’s like I’ve been able to go with them as they share their stories with me.
“Take Perspectives, it’ll ruin you for the ordinary.”
I’m still learning. And, I can’t recommend this course enough!
Have you taken the course? Share in the comments something significant from your experience.
If you haven’t, and are curious, go here for more information.