(We are celebrating David Faust’s 25th anniversary of writing weekly columns by sharing a few of his favorites. Read a different classic column every day through Aug. 3.)
DAVE INTRODUCES THIS COLUMN FROM JULY 1, 2001: “As young adults, Candy and I were blessed to minister for 10 years with a multiethnic congregation near New York City. Later, my college and seminary jobs in Cincinnati opened doors for me to travel to other countries and allowed our family to host dozens of international students in our home. I wrote the following article because I have benefited so much from worshipping with, laughing with, and growing alongside so many faithful members of God’s worldwide family.”
_ _ _
By David Faust
A GREAT MISSIONARY hymn reminds us that we have “a story to tell to the nations.” While that’s certainly true, we also have a lot to learn from Christians who live in other nations.
Several years ago I decided that, as the Lord gave me opportunity, I would try to go on at least one mission trip each year. That decision has had a major impact on my life.
Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). As most people who go on short-term mission trips will testify, you go to serve but end up on the receiving end of humbling acts of love. Missionary friends have invited me to come to their countries and teach, but in every case I’ve received more than I’ve given.
In Korea my hosts asked me to remove my shoes before I preached. Ever since, I’ve had a keener sense that whenever I preach I’m standing on holy ground.
In Japan people greet one another with a bow. This warm, respectful gesture helps me understand more deeply the biblical exhortation, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).
In Venezuela I was challenged to be bolder in presenting the gospel. A missionary preached to a crowd on the streets of Caracas, while a group of believers nearby sang enthusiastic songs of praise accompanied by guitars and maracas.
In Haiti a group of about 50 men sat for hours on plain wooden benches, taking notes eagerly while I spoke with the help of an interpreter. They were some of the most attentive students I’ve ever had the privilege to teach.
In a grass hut in Ethiopia, a dignified but weathered-looking old man in a tattered sport coat thanked God for our food and asked for a blessing on his American guests. After the prayer, his daughter served us a large pan of flat bread (made with coarse grain the family ground themselves) covered with a mixture of pea soup, melted butter, spices, and something resembling cottage cheese. The old man tore off a large chunk of bread with toppings, and smiled as he handed it to me. I can’t say it was the tastiest food I’ve ever eaten, but I have never experienced more gracious hospitality.
In Austria I taught a class for Christians who lived most of their lives behind the Iron Curtain. It was humbling to hear them tell how they had suffered under totalitarian regimes where atheism was the official state doctrine. The night before I flew back to America, a man named Alexander gave me a thank-you gift: a coin engraved with the face of Lenin. Alexander told me that his country had minted the coin to celebrate the achievements of Communism’s failure. “Take this coin with you,” he said, “and tell American Christians that we thank them for praying for our freedom.”
God has used Mexican Christians to teach me about contentment, Canadian Christians to teach me about perseverance, and Arabic Christians to teach me about courage. He’s also used these experiences to give me a glimpse of Heaven. When the apostle John viewed the throne room of God, he saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).
Someday God’s people from all nations will stand before him in united worship. Until then, let’s keep telling the story of Christ to the nations. And let’s listen to God’s people who share our faith although they do not share our culture.
We still have a lot to learn.