If you know me, it won’t shock you to know that I grew up pretty America-centric. Though we heard from missionaries pretty regularly in our Covenant church, being overseas or living in another country was never normalized. In fact, I was terrified of the idea of trying to live anywhere else. Word association with “missions” for me still can conjure up images of little fabric dolls, wooden bowls, outdated clothing, grass skirts… things like that. (I know, ridiculous) For me, anyplace other than the United States was feared or ignored, and the missionary life always seemed, honestly, a little weird. And that was me trying to relate to Americans living in another culture!
As an adult, I have at times just tried to tune out what goes on, for better or worse, around the world. Having been somewhat naive to international politics and still somewhat of a “homer” in terms of my cultural sophistication, I confess with sadness that I haven’t even appropriately valued the idea of the church in other cultures. The American church has been where my interests lie, and the “important things” have been about me and my world. Ugh.
In the last few years, however, I’ve begun to see God doing something a little more winsome in my heart. I, like most of us, have begun to see more clearly that this country I really do love is not only imperfect but is limited in its scope. Maybe I’m just getting old and wise-ish enough to see that what fits within the boundaries of my world is not all there is. (I know, I know, duh.)
I think, though, that what tipped my heart a bit differently on its axis was when my daughter went to India in 2017. I now have a fondness for India that I never could have before, because part of my heart has been there now. Delhi is not just a random place on the map, or a place I have no connection to. I feel pulled toward India because my girl is. She walked, talked, ate, taught, laughed and cried there, and she left a little piece of her heart there.
Why does this matter? It illustrates a bigger truth. I am one, connected, joined with the One who created the entire world and its people. He has no special affinity that I’m aware of for the American people or any other nation. He really does love the little children, all the children of the world. They are precious in His sight.
So my heart can sing when I see the faces of those He loves around the world. I can rejoice when they come to know Him. I can cry when they are abused, left alone, sick, starving, persecuted, or blinded to the truth of who He is. He not only has been everywhere but is always everywhere. He made everywhere. He knows all of it intimately, and it all matters to Him every bit as much as we do. Because my Jesus loves people all over the world, and indwells believers in every corner of it, I can love them too. This beautifully expands my frame of reference and paints my life in beautiful colors. Now when I see images of other cultures or hear other languages spoken or international music played, my heart is more likely to swell with joy because it’s not unrelated to me. Because I am His.
Everything is His. And He shares everything He has with us. And in the end, my brothers and sisters all over the world are the ones I will live with and worship with forever. I honestly can’t wait.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”