One of our own, E, serves in Central Asia. We support his work as a community developer, English teacher, cycling advocate, and Jesus follower as he lives and shares the gospel to his friends.
Happy (late) New Year from Central Asia.
Last week, the foreigner community had a service for Epiphany, the tradition celebrating the arrival of the royal astrologers and their gifts to the feet of the toddler Messiah. We talked about the history a bit—apparently the best research finds the astrologers to have been extremely literate and wealthy Persians, specifically Kurdish (or northern Iraqi) in ethnicity, and probably Zoroastrian by religion. They also probably were not just three men, nor did they probably just bring one small box of each gift. Travelers along the frankincense road were recorded to typically have been caravans of 1,000 or more camels, and if these men were undertaking a multiple-year journey to find such an important child (and if they were really Persians, like my ultra-hospitable neighbors here), then we can assume their gifts were probably in the “dozens of camels” range at least. Enough valuables to have helped with supporting the Holy Family’s flight to and life in Egypt for however many years they needed to be there.
I love this story, because right off the bat, God welcomes “outsiders” into the Kingdom, giving them a special purpose, meaning and significance regardless of their merit or background. These Gentile, pagan star-worshippers, who’ve only read some ancient religious text from (to say the least) a very “unorthodox” source, by grace alone become some of the first ones to see and believe the Messiah. And on top of that, he uses them to protect the family from Herod as well as to financially provide for the family as they are forced into exile.
It’s a reminder to me to walk in humility—for one reason, I was an outsider to the Kingdom as well, and many times I still act like one. Any partaking in the Kingdom I have is by grace alone. And two, I also walk among “outsiders” (according to our typical box) here—and it seems like outsiders are exactly who God loves to use in big ways. So I need to be looking for those ways and those moments—and that requires the humility to want God’s best for the other person. Not easy with many of the people I interact with around town, but it’s what I’m called to do.
Couple of highlights since I’ve been back:
- Friendships with the national brothers I’ve known for years are still going strong and about to go stronger as one of them finishes up his exams and we have more time to hang out, confide, pray and study. Went to my first “khairât” —memorial lunch for a national brother’s mother who died last week. By the way—the guy who is about to finish his exams, let’s call him Tantai. Last year in August he asked me (and I asked you) to pray that he’d stay out of jail for 2 years to be able to finish university, and so far God answered one-half of that request! Please continue to pray that he will stay out of jail (he would go on charges of conversion from the big religion here) so that he can continue to become more useful for His work here.
- Had a non-likeminded guest up for tea one night this week. We talked for about 1.5 hours, all in Dari, about basically everything. Really good guy, 43 years old, married with kids. We’ll call him NB. He works for the NGO whose property my apartment is on (he’s the night guard, so he’s here almost every night). Hard to recap on a really long conversation and also all the cultural things associated with different topics, as well as the act of hospitality itself (especially open-door hospitality shown from a foreigner to a national like in this case). But I will just say that it has put a real kernel of joy into the relationship that I think will continue to grow. And I am grateful for God’s provision of this opportunity—what happened was, NB knocked on my door to ask about an issue with the generator—and all I did was ask him in, plop a cup of tea in front of him … and an hour and a half later we were both laughing, yawing and almost crying as we committed to praying for each other as well as for this country. Wonderful time.
Please pray for …
- My team leaders, P & C, who are returning at the end of this month. P donated a kidney in November, and he is now well enough to travel (so says the doc) but please ask for easy (and non-injurious) travel for them.
- My relationships, that they would grow—and that I would leverage them to share freedom and light and truth and all the things the Good News means.
- Hearing and obeying God’s voice, both in the day-to-day and in the long-term. And thanks for a firming up of my calling here recently … it is starting to feel not only “normal” in a language/cultural/lifestyle sense, but “right” in a Spirit/calling/purpose sense as well.
Happy 2012. Peace and love.
[Photo by evanistan @ Flickr]