In this week’s video we have a special guest, Chelsey M! She’ll be sharing about her decision to become a full time missionary as well as answering some questions for any of you curious about overcoming financial and/or cultural boundaries before going abroad.
There are two types of people this blog post is for. First, the older generation within the Malayalee (Indian) church who like myself (as a teacher in a different culture than my own) often lack awareness of cultural differences or the desires of the younger generation to express themselves differently and creatively. Next, the younger generation who needs to go back to God and his words first as a means to better serve our churches.
For Pentecostals (particular branch of Christianity), Acts 2 is a pivotal piece of scripture. The chapter details what happens when the holy spirit comes at Pentecost. It’s some crazy stuff. Vs 2 explains, “Suddenly a sounds like blowing of a violent wind came from heaven.” Then “tongues of fire” came and “allof them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” I remember my brother once pointed out to me that when people are praying in tongues, to the bystander they don’t look happy! People are yelling, crying and praising. It looks insane if you don’t understand what’s happening. And that’s touched upon. In fact people made fun of them thinking they had too much wine.
So now that epic scene has been painted- now imagine my horror when experiencing something very different at a conference this past weekend.
Carefully pick speakers and always think of the Vision
I encountered a book, “For White Folks who teach in the hood…and the rest of ya’ll too” and was captivated as a teacher but also as someone who loves psychology and trying to understand people. I just came back from a region meeting for Indians who are in ‘church of God’ pentecostal churches. Being honest, the Sunday service was dead. In Emdin’s book he refers to Pentecostal pedagogy as a model for teachers. But as I watched a Pentecostal preacher elicit call and reponse to no avail, my heart broke. This pastor poured his heart out to the audience and there we were- dead, as was I as a part of said audience. I felt uncomfortable praising loudly because everyone could hear me. I wanted to be back in my church where my praises mixed with the congregation in a beautiful melody. Some of my church friends had to remind me that the “norm” in my church isn’t the norm everywhere. In fact, today the main speaker reminded the audience that when he was young the meetings were all in Malayalam and the only portion of the message in English was one song. We’ve come a long way. Many people left my church leaving the current youth with a much stronger voice. We used to always threaten that we would leave but when some people actually did, everything was different. People weren’t leaving after marriage or as older adults, they left as college students and young adults. As a result, my service is entirely in English, the speaker speaks English and everything is catered to me, not perfectly, but our pastor tries. He advocates for our youth and makes a lot of mistakes but still sacrifices so much for the younger generation. However, despite my appreciation of my church, this past weekend wasn’t my first “dead” service at a larger gathering of malayalee youth.
Maybe it was that the call and response method isn’t enough? He would call out Amen only to hear faint amens respond back. Or perhaps it was because he asked men of God to imagine how God would use them to speak and women of God to dream of being pastor’s wives. Heck, maybe it was because he was a 60 year old southern white man speaking to a group of young 13–30 year olds. Whatever the reason, the room was hard to work with and I found myself saddened because it was a long time since I attended a meeting like this. I’m reminded of the book I referenced earlier, “For White Folks who teach in the hood…and the rest of ya’ll too” It’s really hard for white teachers, or even suburban minorities to come into the hood and expect to understand our kids, their music, clothing, food and so on. The same holds for my parent’s generation. Our worship sounds different, our idea of church clothing looks different, we prefer Amerian food compared to rice and chicken- we are different. So when you transplant someone unaware of our differences, it will be hard, as it is hard in teaching. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just as a teacher in the “hood” I need to be aware, but my students can still learn from me. And in our churches we are all still unified under Christ, we just need to be aware of the needs of our youth.
The scene I encountered this past weekend was not the scene of holy spirit coming to Pentecost, it wasn’t anything close. In college I got involved with a group called InterVarsity Christian fellowship and at our region gatherings it was a dance party- literally! We would go twice a year and the room would be packed and my worship with inaudible in the room. I could sing and praise in such freedom. The same thing happened at our conferences once every three years called “Urbana”. I felt such a freedom and strength in a room surrounded by fellow believers. The enthusiasm I once felt is drastically contrasted with the overall feeling from the meeting I attended recently. It felt like the preacher was pleading with the audience to offer something to God and we stood their limp and lifeless.
Go Back to the Basics.
The same message would have been very different for the older generation’s audience. Something was missing and I don’t believe it’s as simple as I would like to make it. I would like to just blame the older generation for not be culturally relevant, which they weren’t. But I know it goes deeper than that. What was the difference between the men who were praising on Pentecost and those who stood and laughed assuming they were drunk on wine? Well Peter addressed the mockers , “These men are not drunk as you suppose.” and explained that God had poured out his spirit on the people as he promised. Peter essential threw down the gospel for these people detailing how the world was made perfect, but then sin came in and created a division between Christ and us. Jesus was then sent as the bridge between that division created by sin. “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose…But God raised him from the dead.” Peter points to the first thing we need to do.
Ultimately, so many people fall between the cracks and need to be reminded once again what Jesus sacrificed for us and how much he loves us.
In a culture of triple shot espressos, rush hour trains, city-speed walking and endless work/class hours- how can I not worry? Living in New York City is not for the faint of heart and I’ve grown accustomed to intimate train rides with strangers at least once a week. I worry about pretty much anything and a strange part of me enjoys the worry. I rarely admit this to myself but feeling worried makes me think that I’m at least working. But in the midst of my “busy” and “stress” I hear God asking me, why do you worry Nina? God points to the lie that stress and worry should be a work day norm or even that I can blame my job for my worry. Matthew 6:25-34 warns us against embracing this culture of worry and anxiety.
1.Worry is rooted in a lack of trust.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
God reminds us that the opposite of worrying is trusting that God will provide as he does for the birds of the air. Ultimately worry stems from a lack of trust that we hold.
2.God will give you more than you can ever find yourself
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
How many times have I tried to find my own solution to problems and acted in haste? I think back to when I needed an internship for my Communications major. I couldn’t afford to work unpaid and all of my attempts at securing a job always seemed to lead me to illegitimate internships. I finally trusted in God and only interviewed for two places. The first place offered me a better position after meeting me. I ultimately accepted the second offer which was at a company I never thought I was “good” enough for. I still remember college friends telling me I was wasting my time with the “Christian club” and yet during my interview, my work with said Christian club got me the internship. It was completely out of my control and I thank God for how he gives.
3.Instead of worrying about things, seek God, the ultimate provider
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The secret to this passage is hidden in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I am making a choice to seek God instead of money or prestige or success. Because every time I seek perfection out of my own strength I come to a striking halt. Instead, I choose chai lattes, quiet time in the mornings, long walks in the sun and trust in God. I lie to myself when I say that I am worried because of my job or graduate classes. Worrying is ultimately my choice and I can also make a decision to stop.
It’s the last day of PYFA and I’m leading children’s ministry. We’re almost done for the day when a frantic mother comes up to me and tells me her kid is missing and more importantly that this is my responsibility. (Spoiler Alert: He was with his father and brother)
You can imagine what happened next. Our volunteers stopped everything and, much like the parable of the lost sheep or the lost coin or the parodical son, we left everything behind for that one out of 80 kids we lost. (I might add we actually didn’t lose him) In that moment it was our responsibility that drove us to search for this ‘missing’ kid, but sitting with my mother she reminds me of how we serve a God who with a much greater love, not responsibility, searches for that one lost sheep. Thinking back I can’t imagine the love and pain God feels for us because he sees beyond our physical circumstance and knows who is truly lost is the crowds. He sees you and I and He, with great urgency, searches for his lost sheep.
Our supposed lost kid was with his father and brother- safe and sound. And I honestly never felt so happy to learn that a child was with his parents! I imagine how great God’s joy is when we choose to follow him and that he chooses to look for us when we’re not his responsibility- he does everything because of love.
This Sunday there is no “Sari Sunday” post. To be honest with you, before deciding to teach, I never imagined myself in children’s ministry; I’m now a Special Education Resident and will be a full time teacher next year at a high school. If anything, my passion is to work with teens, and managing large groups of young kids always seemed as a daunting, if not impossible, task.
When I thought I lost a kid I was filled with feelings of panic, sadness and doubt. This is my future career, isn’t it? But today I learned a lesson of how much it hurts to lose that one sheep in just a VBS. I worry about this VBS when I hardly think of one’s eternity.
Luke 15: 4-7
4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the [b]open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.