Conflicted. That is often how I feel when I come to a place like this. Brooklyn. The Promenade. The address is Brooklyn, but its so different from my Brooklyn address, or the address of the school where I teach. A completely different world.
It’s beautiful here. The architecture is exquisite, the foliage is impeccable, there is a Starbucks around the corner, and I don’t even want to know how much the people in those apartments are paying for that view of Manhattan. Tourists and intellectuals stroll down the walkway. Some snap photos, some chat quietly, and some walk their little yippy dogs. A completely different world from weeds and chain-link fences, mice in my apartment, and blaring profanity from the speakers of cars driving down the streets. A completely different world from rice mats, bamboo huts, and jungle snakes. A completely different world from sandy deserts, one-room shacks, and wondering where your next meal is coming from.
Beautiful people, chic cafes, expensive coffee…why is it so easy to forget in a place like this? I look at the people in the designer clothes and I feel so much less of a need to share the Gospel. Why do we have this mentality that missions should by only for the poor and underprivileged? Why is it easier to share our faith with people who are of a lower socioeconomic status than us? Do we honestly think that the poor and destitute are the only ones we have a responsibility towards?
What about that preppy, spoiled college student who never had to work a day in his life? Why are our hearts not moved with the same amount of compassion for his lostness as they are for the drug addict on the street?
Yes, I know poverty moves us and tends to spur us on towards missions, but that brings us to another question–what “missions” really is. If our real concern is the state of peoples souls- if we really want to bring about true equality both socially, morally, racially, and economically, than it has to go both ways!
I think this is especially an issue with the Mennonites. We aren’t afraid to get dirty, and we know how to work hard. It’s easy to give compassion when our hearts are moved by the plight of an adorable child or a starving family, but what about when we are called to minister to arrogant, snooty rich people? People that disgust us. People that aren’t easy to love. Why don’t we see them as a mission field?
Could it be that we are scared? We are scared to go into our college campuses and wage war with the intellect. Are we scared to go into the corporate world, or the literary world? Jesus said to go into ALL THE WORLD! Being a “missionary” does not mean you have to go to a third-world country and sleep on a rice mat-although, God DOES call people to that type of action. But maybe being a missionary is also choosing to go collosege and intentionally infiltrating the secular classroom with the Gospel instead of simply getting your GED and making a lot of money working in a factory.
I think maybe our limited view of missions needs to change. We need to stop thinking of “missions” as being something that certain individuals are called to. We need to start LIVING MISSIONALY wherever we are at. We need to get uncomfortable, not just physically by going to a poverty stricken country, but lets get creative and start influencing every level of society. It will take effort, and it may mean we need to move out of our comfy little anti-intellectual bubble. It will take boldness and intentionality, but God is no respecter of persons. What does that mean for us? Think about it.