There is this memory of some scruffy college professor rolling through the dirt and avoiding snakes, booby traps, and bullets. Often this hero is chasing after some relic and becomes tangled with some type of missionary. Now as much as I would like to continue creating fictitious exaggeration of people trying to save something from being in the “wrong hands” especially being the purpose of keeping something from the wrong hands in itself can be debated, this little rant is actually about something else. What is on my mind is the “act of sending” someone to “witness across cultures.”
I personally tend to place the term missionaries with those nuns-like people who live among some third world tribe and teaches them how to pray in English. These missionaries also set up schools and medical services. They teach them how to grow crops and help them build housing. If you look at the entire benefit these individuals provide to this under developed tribe, a very small portion has to do with religious scriptures. In reality, the Christian belief is being taught through the act of kindness. If you take some of the most recent religious factions that are in the news, such as the Islamic moments spreading across the east or even the strong opinions of some churches right here in the United States, their actions speak much louder than the words they should be preaching. Rather than show the goodness of the gospel they claim religious wars and protest on the basis of their own earthly beliefs and misinterpretations.
I am certainly not well versed in any biblical scripture, I went to Sunday school and church on Sunday mornings, afternoon, and Wednesdays, and Thursdays and one other day my mother felt we needed to go. However, just going to church doesn’t mean I know the book. It certainly doesn’t mean I am a good Christian and I admit that I have not lived my life as a good Christian. I do believe that how I live my life reflects on other people what my beliefs are and what kind of person I am. Throughout the years I have developed a set of beliefs that have been my logical way of answering these questions about life and it is these beliefs that help me understand why things are and they keep me moving forward.
I stopped going to church more than 30 years ago for many reasons. Organized religion seems to be just that; “organized” and it has turned into a form of social club rather than an unbiased unity welcoming all to worship beliefs and find guidance and even sanctuary. Some of these organized churches have grand castle-like churches like crystal temples reaching directly into the heavens. They have a sense of pride with these grand structures and may even feel that they will be closer to God in such a building. I see an enormous amount of money spent to build a building much greater than needed. There is no logically reason to need a four or five-story cathedral ceilings. What is the purpose of such? Some religion has been lost due to the righteous beliefs and judgmental attitudes of these churches. If you listen to their teachings only a small portion of society meets the requirements of the obedience needed to be good Christians, that must be why we all need to be saved.
Between the judgmental discrimination and the outright display of greed and even at times hate, I felt it was easier not to go to church and not to fall victim to someone else’s’ beliefs. As I have stated in the past, I am a God Fearing man. I didn’t really understand how my position was with my own faith until these missionaries started visiting the shop. They weren’t some nuns with wooden rulers going to beat the sins out of me. They were young adult women who seem to have something about them, something like an aura around them, as cliché as that may sound. For some reason my inner self wouldn’t allow me to shoo them away or “slam the door in their face”. I listened and they offered kindness and concern, in fact they were more interested in my situation and my family than they preached of their beliefs.
I was waiting for the opening to fight back the accusation that I am living a “sinful life” and the point at which they will tell me I will end up going to hell if I don’t change my ways. … Never happened, these missionaries showed a great amount of respect for not only me, but also for my beliefs and personal position in religion. They made me feel as if I always had a choice and they listened to my story and concerns and when they couldn’t answer my questions they went and found the answers, or at least tried. They invited me to go to Church and never forced the matter upon me. They visit on a weekly basis and check in on how I am doing both physically and mentally.
This all seems kind of “cookie cutter” brochure from the help section, but it really is more than that. These young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25 volunteer to spend a year and a half to two years in a place at which they do not get to choose. They spend most of that time going from stranger to stranger offering kindness, compassion, and guidance. While they could be doing something much different at this stage of their lives, they chose to place themselves into society for what they believe is God’s work just to have many push them away and shun them.
What amazes me is that many of you will allow some salesperson in your homes to trick you into buying a significantly overpriced vacuum cleaner, which many have to pay installments on, yet when someone approaches with a little black book you batten down the hatches. These young people are not the drug dealers, who still haunt our shadows. These young people are a representation of what we tend to wish our society should be. How many, non-missionary people approach you and just ask you how you are doing and are willing to visit and listen to what’s on your mind. Some of you can’t even get your own family to do that let alone a complete stranger.
I admit that in the past I have acted poorly towards travelling religious solicitors, manly because of how society views them and my pure ignorance. I was led to believe that these individuals were going door to door trying to change how people thought of the Bible, and that they were spreading lies and deceit. I once had a Witness come to me as I was working outside, he was someone I knew from town and I knew based on his attire that he was “spreading the word” and I bluntly told him that I believed in God and if he wanted to discuss religion I would sit down with my Bible and we can debate page for page. He respected that I had strong beliefs and the strange thing was he came back a few weeks later and just talked to me as a normal person without his little black book.
I also admit that my intentions toward these missionaries were initially similar to that at which I have previously used on the Witnesses, but they were different and something told me to be patient and to listen. Now I have not “joined” anything nor have I allowed them to try to drown me in the river. I have visited their church, although I didn’t stay for their entire service but I did go, three times actually. In fact, after I left their church I stopped by a different church on the way out just to see the difference between the two. I have not converted and I am stubborn in my beliefs, plus I am in need of much more discussions and answers before I become a part of the club. However; I did go to church after more than 30 years of staying away and my perception of this is slowly evolving.
Now these friends I have made will soon leave and move on to other troubled souls and eventually make their way back home to continue on with their lives. I can’t say for certain that they saved my soul nor have they converted me to a saint, but they did touch my heart and made me think about my life and where my faith was. I did not see any slapping of rulers, yet I’m sure if I gave them one they could have used it, but I they did reveal to me that there were nice, kind, and caring people out there. They showed me that not all churches are about joining a club or spreading ill-founded opinions. Most of all they showed they actually cared and told me that I needed to find out for myself what I needed in regards to faith. Surprisingly to me, they also said that I was always invited to visit their church even if I wasn’t a member, I expected a free pass but once that pass expired you needed to sign on.
What I gained from these new friends was that what they were doing made sense, in fact I feel that all churches should be sending out people to show what Christians actually look like. These were humble young adults who displayed genuine kindness and a sense of positivity that seem to pass from person to person. At times it seemed as if they came right when life was a little dark and they listened to my problems just so I could get them off my chest and then their act of kindness put a little light in my heart. It seemed as if they actually came to me with a purpose, and not necessarily just to save my soul or drown me in the river. I have thought a lot about where I stood with God and where I feel I need to be and these type of thoughts are usually hidden by a lot of pain and sadness.
The short of the story is, when you see these kind souls approach remember that they are only acting out of kindness so don’t throw things at them or curse them away. They follow the same path as all Christians and believe in the same God. They will not force anything upon you but if you allow them to visit you will feel a warm feeling deep within you. These young travelers will do mostly nothing but visit stranger after stranger hoping that someone will take a little bit of time not to be rude and slam the door. It is amazing to think that I felt they displayed so much love and compassion after thinking about how many people they visit from day-to-day and how many of them could be just down right awful. To add to this, they end their day with a prayer and wake up the next to do it all over again.
These missionaries are not just spreading the faith, they are showing that there is light beyond the darkness if you just take the time to see it. I am glad I listened to my inner self and allowed these souls to become my friends even though it will only be a short portion of our lives. Their time with me gave me a positive perspective on life and made me think about where I wanted my faith to be. There were often times at which I looked for a feather or too but even they thought that was a bit silly. It is possible that in the end they might of just saved a part of my soul.