I wrote a note for my church in North Carolina. It was supposed to be an update and a thank you letter for all their support, but you know me... once my thoughts started flowing, it turned into an outlet for so much more (and I decided NOT to share it as a newsletter and start that over later). I thought this might be a better outlet for it here:
This morning during church I thought about you all at Spout Springs Church. I thought about how different church is here. And then I realized that you probably have no idea how different it is for us so I should share a bit of that with you. Here’s what our Sunday morning looks like:
We get up and get dressed but instead of jumping in the car we walk outside our apartment into the busy street and grab a tuk tuk, which is basically a covered two seated fancy wagon that is pulled behind a moped. The driver takes us the 2-3 miles to our church, where we invite him to stay.
We invite him to stay because the service is in his language, not ours. Yes, that’s right. It’s a Cambodian church. So, as we enter, we stop at a desk and pick up a small FM radio with a headset for us to later listen to a translator while the sermon is preached. During the worship songs, words are projected on a screen, much like they are at Spout Springs, but they are written in both Khmer and English. Khmer is the Cambodian language and is made up of symbols and letters that look nothing like our phonetic alphabet. Everyone in the congregation sings the songs in whatever language they choose while the worship leaders sing in Khmer.
It’s neat because most of the songs are familiar to us... songs you would sing at Spout Springs and so they sound great in English. However, as anyone who’s ever learned a language knows, sometimes it takes far more or less words in one language to say the same thing in another language. That makes the songs confusing sometimes.
They have only one English speaking childcare class for kids age 4 to 12. That means our 3 year old son has to sit with us for the service. And it’s a 2 hour service. Any of you with kids know how fun that can be.
So needless to say, church isn’t easy. In fact, some days, it’s downright hard. Like today, when my headset wouldn’t work and it kept getting all staticky when the translator was talking. I couldn’t hear anything! I began praying and asking God why we can’t just find a church like Spout Springs where we can go, know our kids are in great hands, worship without changing up the wording, and have a “family” that understands us because we are all from similar backgrounds and cultures. And God answered me.
He told me it isn’t supposed to be easy.
It never has been easy for His followers. In fact, I even opened my Bible, hopelessly trying to figure out what passage we were in because the lady next to me was using a Khmer Bible and I couldn’t read it, and it opened to Matthew 10, where I found the passage where Jesus prepares the disciples for their future of persecution. He tells them “brother will betray brother to the death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (10:21-22)
Wow. I realized that they had it rough, but that is pretty much as bad as it gets. “All men will hate you” and “brother will betray brother to the death” sound pretty awful. I’m glad I never had to face that in my life.
Yet I was standing in a roomful of people who did.
See, in America we say accepting Christ is easy. After all, all you have to do is accept Him. Salvation is a free gift. Well, here, where families worship Buddha and the spirits of dead ancestors, choosing to accept that gift means choosing the One who is different than the one their family chooses. Often these men and women are not allowed to see their families anymore. Sometimes their salvation is accepted but sometimes these words, these red letters that we sometimes forget are words that our Savior spoke out loud, come true. “Brother will betray brother to the death, and a father his child.”
That little headset that was making static in my ear didn’t even count as a problem compared to that.
Church isn’t supposed to be easy.
Living for Jesus isn’t supposed to be easy.
After all, following Jesus means becoming more like Him every day, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing easy about working to become perfect. Following Him is about losing our lives. “Whoever loses His life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39
If it’s easy, maybe we aren’t doing it right.
That’s the end of the letter. Oops. I didn’t mean to end so abruptly. I mean, that’s kind of depressing, right! But really, when we are talking about eternity, as in: this life is but a blink of an eye and we have forever to live on after it eternity, isn’t it worth it? Isn’t every struggle on this earth such a miniscule thing compared to the thought of an eternity away from our Creator? Do we want to take the easy way out?
And I don’t want anyone else to have to, either.
Lord, help me be a blessing to everyone I meet today. Help everyone who reads this to pray that prayer with me today. Help us to live so that you may be glorified in all we do. Help us to be missionaries to the world wherever we are. Yes, Lord, I do pray you send another to Cambodia. Right now, Lord. And I pray that you send more to all ends of the earth. But I pray too, that the rest of us can be missionaries right where we are, in our workplaces, in our own neighborhoods, in our homes, Lord, where those who love us most are always watching. Help us be more like Jesus so others will want to know You. Help us BE the church. And not just on Sundays, Lord. You deserve so much more than that. Keep our minds focused on eternity and help us be a blessing to everyone we meet.