While my brother and sister-in-law are away, we walk my Mom’s dogs every morning. This morning, on our way home, I found clumps of an air plant growing in a tree.
I’ve been trying to cultivate my own air plant. They are totally independent. They don’t need soil, they don’t tap into the plant they are on, they photosynthesise to make their own food and absorb water from the atmosphere. They might be more successful at that in Gqeberha which is on the coast than in Randburg where we live.
Air plants remind me of missionaries. They are taken from their home clump and placed somewhere geographically different. They are exposed to all the weather conditions of the new location but retain their dependence on the water in the atmosphere and not on the tree or construction that supports them.
Our church supports a number of missionaries in different countries. They have to learn the language and culture of their new home, sometimes before they even leave South Africa, yet retain their distinctive Christian identity in their mission country, relying on the Lord to sustain them.
Sometimes God organises His own mission and it is usually on a much bigger scale. I was reading Daniel 1 today and that is exactly what happened.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” (Daniel 1:1-3 NIV)
We all know the amazing way God saved Daniel from the lion’s den and his three friends from the fiery furnace. In each case the pagan king involved realised that the God of the Hebrews was far greater than all other gods and decreed that the people of Babylon recognise Him as such. Quite a significant outcome for a mission!
On this occasion, the language learning and integration took place at the expense of the mission country, not the sending one. Daniel and his friends did not compromise their faith although they remained respectful to the Babylonians they encountered.
When God transplants us to a different location or situation, it is up to us to retain our identity as children of the Risen Lord and to rely on His Spirit for all our needs. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
Thank You, Lord, that You sustain me when I am out of my comfort zone and away from my support system. Help me realise that You are all that I need to live a godly life. Amen.