Had a good holiday?” asked my neighbors when I returned last weekend after a two-month working stint abroad. The same bright question had greeted me not long ago after a longer sojourn in Asia. Nothing will convince them that traveling 33,000 miles over fourteen countries, sleeping in planes and in twenty-five different beds, losing ten pounds in weight, being jostled at countless airports and hotels, is anything but a joyful junket.
They tell me and each other how lucky I am to have had all that Oriental sun, and please would I not forget the church jumble sale tomorrow. Seldom do they ask questions about the places I visit or the purpose of my work: perhaps they have experienced too many tedious sessions of holiday slides. I leave them to the only world most of them have known. I feel dismayed and a little superior at their insularity, yet envy them their innocence. I know that when Christian Aid or the Seventh-day Adventists collect for relief work and medical missions, the generous hearts of my neighbors will shame me.
Should I try to tell them of the leprosy clinic and resettlement villages that so impressed me in Korea? Of my embarrassment in Indonesia when the poor workers building their own church, with whom I had prayed in their little hut, insisted on driving me back in their ancient van to my expensive hotel? Of those eager, likeable theological students in Burma who hailed my Saturday afternoon arrival as “providential” because “the elders” who usually monopolized Western visitors were for once out of town? Of another country that now has no Christian church building, but in which the Christian presence is making effective impact through medical work? Of another sensitive area in which ...1
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