Integrity- no matter the cost Living for Christ “24/7” is how a married Lutheran missionary couple approach their crucial Gospel work in Central Asia. The passion of Jane and Ben* to share God’s word a long way from the comforts of Australia, boils down to one challenging command for Christians everywhere: maintain integrity. Jane and […]
Integrity- no matter the cost
Living for Christ “24/7” is how a married Lutheran missionary couple approach their crucial Gospel work in Central Asia. The passion of Jane and Ben* to share God’s word a long way from the comforts of Australia, boils down to one challenging command for Christians everywhere: maintain integrity.
Jane and Ben* are supported in their service in Central Asia through Interserve. The LCA has established a Memorandum of Understanding with Interserve as we work together to further the Kingdom of God.
When I am asked, “What is it like living in Central Asia?’, I’m sometimes lost for words. It’s almost as if I’m expected to give a story about aliens from another planet. The truth is: people are people wherever you go. From another planet? No. Live in a different place? Yes. Speak another language? Yes. Have different culture and values? Yes and No.
Crossing a border can mean a lot of different things to different people but, to us, it is simply living with other human beings. If you travel interstate or overseas, the principle is the same, even though the lifestyles may be different.
To live successfully in another culture doesn’t mean losing your own. In fact, when we retain who we are and let another culture be as it is – allowing God to bridge the gaps – we learn to live as God’s people, wherever we are.
Integrity is a fundamental part of being a child of God. Integrity is not always a matter of knowing the correct answer or getting it right all the time. It is how we respond in a godly way to whatever we find ourselves doing, thinking or saying – sin, warts and all.
Given our human weakness, integrity is one of the hardest values to model, maintain and discern. Having a reason for a problem doesn’t mean having an excuse for lack of integrity. But seeking God’s way out of our mistakes always brings the best outcome. We are always his and he always looks after us.
In Central Asia, I trained a group of students wanting to start a micro-processor business. Like all the others in the group, Timbek*, saw the possibilities of the business to provide work and income for local people. All members of the group studied and worked hard at passing. Towards the end of the course, though, it became obvious Timbek’s own selfish motives of personal profit and gain were driving his participation. He was with us all the way, did the same things, and appeared to be just like us, until the end came and he didn’t pass.
It was disappointing and stressed us all, but it was for the best that he didn’t pass. Integrity was maintained. This made me reflect upon what it must have been like for Jesus with Judas who, at the last, revealed his true motives. I also further understood Scripture which said, ‘Not all who call me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven’.
In religious terms, Timbek was an accepted member but not a true believer, as I believe may be the case among some church members in Australia.
Integrity is an issue on modelling. The focus of my wife and I is to help people to be more Christlike, not necessarily more “Western-like” or “denomination-like”. Our values include: “We do not change culture; we facilitate culture change as God’s word infects it.”
This may not necessarily be towards a Lutheran, Baptist or other Christian denominational model, though. When people in Corinth were divided and saying, “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos”, Paul said: “Who is Paul, who is Apollos?” I usually add, ‘Follow Jesus, read the Bible’.
The challenge is to help locals see that godly men (such as Calvin and Luther) can give us advice, but they are no substitute for knowing Jesus and reading the Bible. In my mind, making local people “Baptist”, “Lutheran” or whatever, can lead to misunderstanding and confusion about whether a person is their denomination, or is a Christian. I tell locals that I am a Christian who is happy being in a Christian Protestant denomination. Being a Christian always come first.
At times it is so much easier to stay within our own comfort zones, whether within Australia or overseas. However, when we don’t or can’t go to people from different cultures and countries, God is now bringing them to us.
Not having our identity in Jesus means we tend to find other areas (idols) that suit others and help us feel acceptable. This should not be our response as God’s people. We are called to be God’s people irrespective of what others – even our friends – expect. Living overseas has brought this challenge into our lives. It has challenged us to our very cores, where we have learned that everything begins with our ‘me-to-God’ personal and spiritual life with him. Thoughts affect attitudes, (and vice-versa), attitude affects words, words affect actions and actions have consequences!
The challenge for us living in another culture and place is: “Are we willing to live as God’s children in thought, word and actions?” It has led us to see that as we live personally and communally as God’s children of God, we are witnesses and Christians wherever we are in the world. Borders don’t stop this or make one palace more important that the other. Living as Christians wherever we are, 24/7, without regard to importance of location, worldly achievement, status or person, leads to our witness, our opportunities and a godly life.
I rang a local person one day to thank him for the wonderful help he had been to us. His response left me speechless for about five seconds. He said, “Thank you”. I asked for what, and he said, “You led me to the Lord Jesus Christ”. Truthfully I had no idea I had done that!
Our lives are formed by our vision: “we love, honour and serve everyone whom God brings into our lives”. I will add, “no matter how difficult it may be!”
As my wife and I live 24/7 as Christians in close relationship to God and his word, we not only find peace in ourselves, but we also find deeply fulfilling the people and work that God puts in our way – even when it seems impossible.
God be with you.
*Names have been changed to remain anonymous.
This story was also published in the April 2009 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.
If you would like to consider the opportunity to serve as a volunteer in mission, serving in practical ways, teaching English, teaching in the seminaries and institutions of our partner churches, or in local churches, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to http://www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/volunteer/
Read more stories about volunteering at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/join-gods-mission/volunteers/