12.08.2008

the stoop down challenge

I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. There’s no doubt it tops my Most Influential Books list, which I’ve been meaning to post for a while. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It plays into so many aspects of my life, with leadership and missions and preparing to live in Africa for three months next year. Maybe it’s good I can’t stop thinking about it.

Nathan Price never cared enough about the people of Kilanga to stoop down and meet them on their level. He wanted to implement “American Christianity” on this culture that was so different. It would never have worked. He didn’t bother to learn that the water scared them. He didn’t care enough to pronounce the word bangala so that it would mean “precious” instead of “poisonwood.”

He NEVER stooped down, and he never even realized that some of his girls did, and that they had a more effective ministry than he could even dream of having in this jungle of Africa.

Isn’t that the same danger with me? I carry “American Christianity” around in my pocket. I will soon be carrying a bachelors degree in Intercultural Studies and Leadership around in my pocket. But it’s all worthless unless I stoop down and meet people where they are. They could be Africans next semester or the girls I live with right now. It could be my family or my closest friends. When I hold an air of superiority because I have this degree buried somewhere in my house, my credibility shrinks to nothing. If I don’t stoop down and care about people first, my message will be lost.

So here’s the stoop down challenge for everyone. May we seek first to understand, and then to be understood. May we listen instead of saying, “you’re wrong” right off the bat. May we stoop down like Ruth May, and Paul and Jesus, and all the other great servants. May we forget our education for a second and appreciate the people around us for who they are, and where they’ve come from.

May we love.

1 comment:

trixie jean said...

Lenny!
I'm so glad you've read this! I kept wanting to ask you about it when I was home, but I never got the chance/kept forgetting.
I thought it was pretty incredible. It reminds me so much of you -- in that the one twin reminds me of you a little -- and that I see so much of the world in you. I hope you are well, my sweet, as I know you carry so much more than "American Christianity" with you as you go.
(I also thought Poisonwood Bible was 150 pages too long! More on that later.)
Love. Tibs.