Change – an MK reflects on the only constant

Source: www.freeimages.com

Language is what we use to describe the world.  The philosopher Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language define the limits of my world,” and speaking two languages, as MKs often do, expands those limits.

In Portuguese the word that means you miss someone or something is saudades.  Saudades is such an expressive word that the Wikipedia article for it is over 3,000 words long.  It expresses a longing that gnaws; it is the sense that a part of you is gone and has left a gaping chasm where your breastbone should be.  I’m glad to know the word; without it I would still have the feeling, but not be able to express it.

Being an MK isn’t all mangos and cream.  Difficulty and loss are frequent companions on what can be a lonely road.  By the time I was 13 my home had moved 13 times.  Twice I moved back to a place I had already lived in, but the problem is that those who say ‘you can never go home’ are right.  Once you’ve left, even if you do go back it won’t be the same.  The people have changed, you have changed, the place has changed.  You can rebuild, but not from where you left off.  Weeds will have grown in between the cracks, rain will have swept the earth from beneath your feet.

And things are different in every new place.  Always different.  Rules are different everywhere.  Should I call my teacher by her first name (and title), or her surname?  Why does that lady from church call me ‘filha!’ (daughter) when she tells me off?  I’m NOT her daughter!

New school, new church, new ‘home’.  God and family were the only constants.  So my identity was change; I was the exotic one who was new, the one who always knew she would soon be leaving.

Gill Gouthwaite grew up as an MK in Brazil with her four sisters and English-speaking parents from different countries.

Take up your crib and follow me

Source: www.freeimages.com

Source: www.freeimages.com

At this time of year, it’s common for many of us to think about a newborn baby lying in a manger.  It’s a sanitised, sentimental scene where we’ve airbrushed out the smell of cattle dung and the sounds of a teenage girl giving birth in squalor.  We think humanitarian thoughts about peace and goodwill to everyone.  It’s a vaguely aspirational time when we try to be kind and be slightly generous to those who have less than us, generous enough at least to salve our consciences about how much high-calorie food we will throw away and how much alcohol we will consume.

What we often overlook is that this little child who is the focus of our nativity scenes is the ultimate cross-cultural mission worker.

He gave up a wealthy, safe and comfortable existence to live a life of poverty, hardship and danger in order to tell people that God loves them.  Many didn’t listen, or were only interested in the food handouts or his medical ministry.  Some of those who followed his teaching clearly misunderstood it, or cracked under pressure of persecution.  One even betrayed him to the authorities.  In the end he paid the ultimate price for his mission.

Today, many millions of people claim to be his followers.  Many of them live their lives like he did, boldly taking his message of good news to those who haven’t heard it, or don’t want to hear it, and they count it a privilege to pay the price for it.  We salute you, and pray that you will be encouraged in your ministries this Christmas.

Sadly, many of his followers are too much like the thousands who liked his catchy stories, and loved being entertained or fed or healed by him, but were all too obviously absent when the time came to stand up and be counted.  We wish these people not peace and joy but challenge and conviction.  We re-tweet his call to costly discipleship – take up your cross and follow me. The path to genuine peace and joy is not a safe and comfortable one.  The road from Bethlehem to Heaven runs through Calvary.