Living in the Tension


It was just about 11 days ago that I was standing on the deck of our ship leaving Croatia with a gentleman named Charles having a friendly conversation. He worked on the ship as a bartender and was able to cut out of work for a few minutes to come see the beautiful Islands we were in the process of sailing by. Jan took off to get ready for dinner and I turned and asked him if he had ever been to this part of the world before. He looked back at me with a huge grin and said that he hadn’t and mentioned that his home was in India. I was immediately intrigued, as I know very little about the country, other than any media bias I have picked up from the news. I asked him a bunch of questions ranging from his family life in India to the working conditions he was living under on the ship. He shared with me that his mother worked in Iraq as a maid to support his family while he was growing up. She only was able to come home every 2 years, so he was forced to raise himself and take care of his alcoholic father. I was touched by his story, while being fascinated that all throughout his retelling he had a very joyful expression, full of peace and gratitude. It was as though he was able to experience moments like these sailing through the islands of Croatia with a perspective that was far richer than most because of what he had seen in his life.

Further along in our conversation, he asked me what I did for a job. I told him that I am pastor and he immediately told me that he was also a Christian. Because of my limited knowledge of India and its culture, I was surprised to hear this. He went on to explain that there are a lot of Christians in his country as a result of Portuguese missionaries that populated their land long ago. This led to further conversation about India’s history and led all the way up to the powerful, non-violent influence of Ghandi and his legacy there. That was nearly the only name and story that I recognized in our discussion. I was humbled and even a bit embarrassed by the limited international history that I had to offer. Even though he knew the detailed history of India, a substantial amount about English, Russian and American history, he was gracious with my ignorance. I asked him how he knew so much about so many countries and he simply said he was taught most of it in school and his country held international history as a core value.

I’m not here to slam our American educational system, but I do question our(my) willingness to objectively hear the detailed story of the counties that co-inhabit the earth. We live in a culture that breeds the “us VS them” mentality and it creates a toxic disconnect with people that God has called each of us to love.

In my travels these past few months, I have been surrounded and blessed by conversations much like that of the one I had with my Indian friend Charles off the coast of Croatia. I am so grateful for these friends that have humbly and willingly taught me a perspective that is much more rich and whole than I previously held. I hope that I have also been used in some way to help shape the perspective of those I have come in contact with.

To say the least, this has been a fertile learning experience saturated with the presence of God in all these places and people. That being said, I now step back into “reality” at home and am faced with the task of re-entering a culture and context that can tend to be one sided and blind to the issues of the world. I am having a hard time. I hope to be a critical, yet hopeful voice, without being a cynical one. This is the beautiful tension in which I(we) must live. I am FAR from having all the answers and these “revelations” aren’t new to me as I feel that I have been wrestling with them for years, but I now feel more passionate about bringing them to light and into reality today.

One Response to Living in the Tension
  1. July

    Keep that passion alive Jon! That is my prayer for you and Jan today… I Pray that you will both be able to keep the passion alive from the wisdom you both have returned with. It will be a challenge. Gabe and I both feel the same as you guys about our World, Our Country, Our Society! It is a harsh reality to come back here after being in another country for any length of time. We unfortunately live in a country that breeds ignorance…this “us vs. them” mentality is all too true and very disheartening. It is all too clear why we face some animosity from other countries. How blessed we are that people of our generation are waking up to these realities…especially people like you Jon. Because you have a strong influence to really make a difference with our youth of today.
    Hope to hear from you guys soon… Things seem to be progressing with our Canadian Immigration…we went for our Consulate ordered health exams yesterday.

    Much Love in Christ,
    July