Reflections of an Overseas Missionary

This past week I read Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. in which he tells the story of how the church he started in one of the most unchurched cities in America grew to over 4,000 people in weekly attendance. Both humorous and honest, Driscoll shares nuggets of wisdom he’s learned in the church-planting journey. This book not only gave me a deeper appreciation for him, his work ethic, and his love for Jesus but it also challenged me to look deeper at the soil God has called me to cultivate.

Part of what makes Mars Hill so beautiful is the way Driscoll understands the culture of Seattle, Washington. Home to Tooth and Nail Records as well as famous bands such as Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie, Seattle is a music haven. It’s also home to fundamentalist and liberal churches barely holding on. In the midst of it, he built a church true to the gospel while embracing the surrounding culture.

Naturally, this made me reflect on church here in Cayman.

Though I initially felt as if a number of them failed to engage the culture because I rarely saw it, as I thought deeper I realized the real reason behind my uncertainty was because even after a year of being in Cayman I still have difficulty discerning the culture.

With over 125 nationalities represented and a population where less than half of the people that live here are local, Cayman is an amalgamation of sorts. Whereas other countries with a more pronounced difference in culture force you to change, in Cayman you never have to. While it’s nice, and key factor in what makes Cayman one of the world’s friendliest countries, it’s made me lazy. How does one start grassroots ministry unique to the country if one can’t figure out the country’s culture?

Cayman is constantly shifting. As more countries take up residence here and subsequently influence younger generations societal expectations change. What was once a part of Cayman’s culture becomes extinct.

Reading Driscoll’s book helped me realize I may have come to Cayman with an idea of what I thought this culture needed. However, without taking the time to listen to the people I’m no better than churches that replicate themselves regardless of the context.

Cayman is beautiful and deserves to be celebrated; its culture preserved. I’m realizing I don’t want to change it as much as I want to be changed by God with it, for the church in Cayman to be the church that Jesus has called it to be and not the church according to me. I want to build a ministry that is true to the gospel, embraces culture, and loves the church but that means I must first learn the culture in all its fluidity.

One of my greatest pitfalls as a leader is sometimes I must learn things the hard way. On my shelf are books I’ve failed to read on Cayman history and how to cross cultures meaningfully. After finishing Confessions I’m challenged to go back to the drawing board: to repent of my arrogance and allow God to show me his vision for this country. This means reading, listening, observing, and asking questions. It means being the missionary Jesus has called me to be and letting go of my own cultural biases to better love the people. It means saying yes to call again.

I think I’m okay with that.

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One thought on “Reflections of an Overseas Missionary

  1. Tomy,
    I think that you have overcome a major milestone. Thank God for allowing you to grow in His love and wisdom! I love yoU!

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