In February I was in Mazatlan, Mexico, with a team from the Vineyard. (The picture at the left shows my daughter Maddie in the yellow t-shirt, Canadian Dave Newton in the middle and Ellen Benefield [soon-to-be Mexico missionary] in the blue t-shirt second from the right.) A week ago I returned from being with another Vineyard team for two weeks in China. Both were great trips. Here are few things I’m pondering:
** How to you start churches in countries that have been "Christianized" (like Mexico) but where few people now attend either a Catholic or Protestant church? One of our people on the field in Mazatlan said he thinks that about 2 percent of people are in church on any given Sunday.
** How do you train indigenous leaders and then completely turn the work over to them, including the finances?
** How do you earn the right to be heard in a country with an Eastern mindset when you have spent your entire life in a first-world Western country?
** How truly effective can you be if you never learn to speak the language fluently? A westerner in Southwest China, now a fluent Mandarin speaker, told me it takes 2 years of very diligent study — total immersion — to be comfortable in Mandarin.
** How can you really recruit young people to give their lives to a certain country or people group if they never have a chance to travel to that country and spend time with those people?
Lots of questions, for sure.
By the way, someone asked me what I thought was the most interesting contrast I saw in China. It would have to be seeing lots of people (about 50) hoeing in a field with a man in the middle of the field holding onto an ancient plow being pulled by a lumbering, slobbering water Buffalo. You might think you were watching a scene from 2,000 years ago until you notice the guy guiding the water Buffalo and plow is talking on a cell phone. 🙂 [I think something got lost in the translation with this sign in a restaurant cautioning against the low ceiling. It reads: "Be care for your head."]