Philippians 2:20-22 (ESV) – “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”
Will we be willing to go back to our roots; serve our people and live alongside them at where they are? I first met Caleb and his wife, Esther (not their real names) in a region of Asia characterised by decades of ethnic unrest that at various times and places, escalated into armed conflict and pockets of insurgency. An attractive young couple, both are highly articulate and progressing well in their respective careers. Caleb has an advanced post-graduate degree in theology and Esther is a medical doctor.
What inspired me was that they both made life-changing choices. They chose to come back to serve, and in doing so, they had to forgo what others might regard to be better opportunities elsewhere – academic, professional and financial. Caleb serves as a very much-needed Christian leader, theological educator and trainer among his people, who for decades have seen many of their best young people leave the region for better opportunities elsewhere. Esther works with the local government, building the local medical infrastructure.
Christianity came into their area of great tranquil beauty through missionaries about a hundred years ago. Through waves of revival and large-scale people group movements, Christians now form the majority in the region’s population. However, although churches are now to be found in practically every street in their towns and in the surrounding villages, they face a host of challenges.
There is a constant brain drain – due to better education opportunities elsewhere, and in the decades prior, because of security concerns, families who could afford it would send their children out of the region. Eventually, entire groups of these families would resettle outside the region. Opium poppy is also planted in the nearby hill districts. This brings with it, many attendant issues. Local Christians are enticed to plant it and to engage in different aspects of a destructive trans-border activity. Drug addictions are an increasing concern.
Hence, choices of individuals such as Caleb and Esther to return to their roots to serve are more than a breath of fresh air, in situations that are otherwise, extremely challenging.
Caleb and Esther exemplify the spirit of Timothy described in Philippians 2:20-22. The challenges encountered by Caleb and Esther in returning to their roots are not unusual in much of the less developed and rural parts of Asia. Where the situations are accompanied by socio-political unrest, they add layers of difficulties through undeveloped economies, the lack of adequate educational institutions, relatively poor infrastructures and a variety of other issues.
The Holy Spirit is still speaking to Christians to give their lives in service. Travelling in Asia, it is a privilege to meet other Calebs and Esthers. They do not call attention to themselves – they just serve. They represent a growing band of Asian Christians who are making life-changing choices as they serve in different parts of Asia. They are privileged in their education and family backgrounds, but they choose to live a life of service in locations that are often challenging. That is an essence of missional living.
Peace and Grace,
Chan Nam Chen