I was at Fred Meyer the other day and found a rockin’ deal on blueberries. I was thrilled because I love blueberries! I dread the day when I don’t have blueberries for my granola. That had me thinking about the fact that my days with blueberries are growing shorter. Life without blueberries is going to be tough. My only consolation is that we are headed to the land of mangoes.
There is a reason I will not have great access to these magnificent berries…they don’t grow in Swaziland. It’s too hot, too tropical…too…different. I dare say that everything will be different. It kind of has me wondering if I will grow there too. I wonder about my (and my family’s) spiritual health, church and ministry. Swaziland is different. We will be different.
Over the years various entities have questioned the validity of sending foreigners to a place for the cause of Christ, more specifically rich westerners to the 2nd and 3rd world poor. Are we relevant? Are we helpful? Does it work? I’ve actually had some of these same questions myself. The last thing I need to be is the “great white savior” (as one friend put it) and I pray… on my knees pray… that this endeavor is not about …. me. My church, my worship style, my priorities, my culture. I pray, in fact, that it is about those I have gone to serve and the King who guides my hands and feet.
So what’s the deal with blueberries and mangoes? Well, I thought you might enjoy a little analogy of how I view our role in Swaziland. We all talk missionary philosophy and blah, blah, blah … but adding “visuals” to the conversation somehow cuts to the chase and we can quickly get to the same page.
Stick with me here … blueberries, which grow in the north, and do particularly well here in Washington where we live, don’t do well in the south. Mangoes, which thrive in the tropics and sub-tropics, don’t even make an appearance here in the north. To give you a picture, I have about 10 blueberry shrubs in my front yard here in Gig Harbor and when we move to Swaziland, mango trees will litter the farm landscape. I think sometimes we, as blueberries, plant ourselves in places like Swaziland and pray that we produce fruit. Actually, I’m not sure we even pray about it … we just sort of assume that we are producing something valuable in the new place. It only makes sense, right? We produce fruit here at home, so why not there?
I am a blueberry, and it is going to be difficult to get anything but blueberries from a blueberry plant. The key here is, can I share my blueberry fruit without insisting that the mangoes (Swazis) produce blueberries too? Or…for that matter… not be disappointed when mango trees only produce mangoes? I think we are all guilty of looking at others through the lens of ourselves. While I understand the life of a blueberry, my Swazi counterparts understand the life of a mango. I am the foreigner… it will be my job to adjust and embrace the life of a mango. My role will be to understand the language, the culture, the life …. different, but excellent.
While Rob and I were on the farm, one of the things we noticed was that all the kids were eating mangoes. They would climb the trees and grab whatever they could. Rob and I, showing up there in November, couldn’t help but salivate at the thought of eating fresh-picked, ripe mangoes. Holy smokes! It’s like the holy grail for fruit enthusiasts! until we realized that what the kids were eating were small, unripe, hard-as-a-rock mangoes. Why would they do such a thing? Why would they raid these trees … only robbing themselves of the gold mine of delicious fruit later? One answer: their present need was greater than the reward of waiting.
I view our work in Swaziland in a similar picture. The church in Swaziland is like the mango tree. The needs in Swaziland are so great … so desperate … that the “fruit” the local church provides is being consumed prematurely and at a rate that no one can keep up with. This is our role: to be a blueberry in Swaziland. We aren’t there to ask our mango friends to act like blueberries or create a climate where blueberries will thrive, but rather offer our “fruit” to help provide for the desperate needs in Swaziland. I pray that Rob and I can bring enough relief that at least a few mangoes ripen … ripen enough to have viable seed! In the end, we will all share in the provision.
There you have it, our mission philosophy developed at the grocery store among blueberries … the best buy in town! I hope it means we’re on the same page.
Interestingly, blueberries and mangoes make a to-die-for fruit salad!
PS. Following is a copy of the last paragraph on the “New Life Homes” page. Just thought it might be good to add here in case you haven’t read it:
“In all the good work New Life Homes provides; education, food security, economic development, orphan care and more. It is important to remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Jesus Christ that remain central to its purposes. It is in service to the poor and marginalized that we are given the tools to share the love of Christ and in this fashion we draw others to Him.”
A Note from Rob: A thumbnail sketch on our progress into the mission field: We seem to be in the final throes of settling on a price for our home with an interested party…that said…in this economy the process is fragile. We pray that we have good news for the next edition of the Taylor Weekly Review. On the fund raising front, we have heard from a great many people who say they will support us. This is great! The flip side to this is that so far only a very few people are supporting us. Our hearts long to be at the farm, doing the good works that God has asked us to do. Please make good on your pledge, log on to the Antioch Partners site and sign up. Thank you. Rob