What Do You See?
We've been in Hawaii now for three weeks, and I'm beginning to be asked the question, "What are you doing?" And while I understand the sentiment behind this question- the longing for some kind of change to be immanent, the new haole* face that is both hopeful and suspect in the same smile- I can't help but think the more appropriate question might be, "What do you see?"
It's really easy to jump into a situation and start doing a bunch of stuff without taking the time to observe. For those who are driven to be a part of any kind of social and spiritual transformation, the slowness of listening is borderline drudgery. We fool ourselves into thinking that our doing equates to positive movement. Not all movement is equal, especially in relation to a new context with different issues, different people, and different identities. If we don't take the time to observe and learn, our hasty actions may cause more harm to those with whom we wish to be friends.
Learning to see is always the first step in any work. We must ask the question, "What's going on here?" How does the story of this community in Kona relate to the story God's redemptive work? And, we can't understand how God is moving and will continue to move in this place unless we first understand this place. Joy and I enter into this community like infants, dependent on the community to teach us their pattern of life, their culture. If we don't take this time, remaining blind to the nuances of life in Kona, our ministry here won't be effective. Without dedicated time to observe, we will continue to carry our cultural heritage and language over/against this place, expecting conformity to our way of doing things.
Ultimately, our guide is Christ's move into humanity- the Incarnation. Just as God fully immersed God's self into our state of living, taking on human flesh and the cultural heritage of Jewish life and all the social and political instability of first century Palestine, we too must fully immerse ourselves into a different culture, allowing our cultural blindness to be restored. We must be given new eyes.
Pastor Ryan is in the middle of series on Vision. He preached, "Our witness to this community cannot begin with a crow bar, using texts to prove people wrong, but with our posture praying, 'My Lord and My God.'" For us, this means entering into this place with humility. We do not want to force our way into change, especially when we do not yet understand the measure of change that God desires. And that's the rub, we know God is working here in Kona. We know God has gone before us preparing people and places for our arrival. We know there is a general darkness in need of Christ's light. The Kingdom of God is real, physical, tangible transformation that can be seen and touched through God's people. But we need to first learn what God's salvation looks like in this place. What needs saving? What gifts and graces in the community are latent and just need to be watered? What powers need to be critiqued and countered, and who are the ones who have been marginalized and oppressed by those powers? Who are the ones open to our presence in this place? What work of God has started already that we can join?
The next few months, we'll be in the process of receiving new eyes. And we'll be sharing some of our observations and reflections with you as we learn to see again.
* Haole is the term used in Hawaii for foreigners, tourists, mainlanders, or just plain old white folk.