Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The first Missionary I ever met.....

The first missionary I ever met..shipped home huge crates and boxes- from where ever he was.... I know missionaries usually receive boxes, but this one was different.

The boxes were always full of surprises. Exotic surprises that dazzled us and taught us about the land where my Grandparents were living.

For a year- the boxes arrived postmarked : Tehran, Iran. Those boxes were full of brass camels and ornate brass trays, sparkling embroidered veils, traditional Iranian clothes and the softest silk persian rug I've ever touched. There was a huge brass samovar, which, although never used- still sits in it's place of honor. There was a three legged, brass stool that is to this day, causing children to fall over.(Children+ three legged stool= not good.)

For another year- the crates and boxes were marked "Seoul, South Korea". They contained mother of pearl- inlaid black lacquer-ware and art from Korea. This was all nestled among bright colored silk robes and custom made suits. "The best tailoring in the world" The missionary exclaimed.

There were boxes from Equador, these held a conglomeration of interesting artifacts. Most memorable, (some possibly smuggled through customs) and a story of salt-water fishing- with a native guide, that resulted in a record catch marlin, that "fed the whole village"....

Even the time he spent in the Southwest of the United States, brought shipping crates. They contained silver jewelry and handwoven Native-American pieces, pottery and yes- even a set of bison horns.

The missionary saw each culture he encountered- as one to become involved with and to experience.

When the missionary returned home, (which he always did, eventually;) He regaled with stories of the people he had met and come to love. He absorbed the cultures where he had visited. And like a squeezed sponge- he shared them on his return. He grew to love the people, even if he didn't always understand them.

The most interesting fact about this missionary? He wasn't a Christian. (at the time) I suppose you could say he was a missionary of business. But- a missionary just the same. (He went to other places- learned their cultures, grew in understanding and respect for them, and then shared what he had with them. Which is really what missionaries do, isn't it? What he shared with them, just happened to be business related)

He was-also, a wonderful grandfather.

I know- because he was mine. I am convinced, that this is where my love for people of different cultures, started to grow. I remember sitting on edge, listening to the stories of meetings in Tehran where soldiers stood guard on the tops of ancient walls. (At the time we didn't know how dangerous it would soon become for Americans in Tehran- This was just a bit before the hostage crisis in the 70's) I remember my aunt's (she was still living at home and went with my grandparents) letters about teaching English to Iranian children. I remember the hours (and hours) of slide shows viewed in the basement.

I remember thinking... "Someday, I'll go to exotic places and meet new people and see new things..."

Little did I know- that my taste for these things- could be satisfied, right here, at home.

Somedays- if I walk down my street, I can smell dinner cooking, as I walk past my neighbors yards. There are scents of curries and lamb on the grills, in addition to the more American fare of ribs and hotdogs. The world has changed- where we once had to travel far to experience other cultures, we now just need to walk down the street, or travel to the next town over.

Near the end of his life- my grandfather experienced another and even more exciting adventure. He met Jesus. He grew to know and love God. It was another, new experience. One that changed not just his perspective (as did his travels) but his life.

Sometimes, I wonder--what would have happened had he not gotten so sick with cancer. I wonder, if he would have continued to travel, with a new purpose? Would he have become a missionary for Christ, instead of for business? I suppose it's possible. (he'd already "retired" from 2 different jobs, I doubt he would have stopped- traveling- had he not become ill)

I know this much for sure....

All along God had a plan that He was fulfilling, in my Grandfathers life, long before my Grandfather ever knew it. He was teaching us both a love for people, both those who are like us- and those who live differently. He was teaching me- through my Grandfather's example, that people are to be respected, and appreciated as they are, same or different from us as they may be.

Funny- but after all these years- I realize, God had been preparing me to be a Missional Mom... my whole life....

Dear Lord- I pray that you'd help me to be a missionary- right here- where I'm at. Help me to love your people, to learn about them, their cultures, their struggles and concerns, help me to share the love I have learned and received from you, with each one I meet....Oh... and Lord? Thanks for such an awesome Grandfather. I love you Lord- amen.

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing.