June 10, 2014
By Brittany Tedesco
I remember our South Asia Director shaking her head as she told me about how some of the young Christian women in Nepal were taking great pains to have American weddings, complete with big, fluffy, white gowns. Traditionally, Nepali brides wear red saris. They had confused American culture with Christianity.
I’ve heard similar stories from other area directors throughout my years at Christian Aid Mission. The Africa Director told me how African men in primitive villages would hunt down suits and ties to wear to their thatched-roofed churches. It’s what they’d seen foreign missionaries wear, and they believed it was a “Christian” practice.
You probably know that one of the reasons Christian Aid believes indigenous missionaries are effective is because they don’t bring a foreign culture with them when they share the gospel with the unreached.
But even though they don’t set out to change cultures, a funny thing happens when the gospel takes root in a community. Some cultural practices change on their own…
Our Middle East Director told me about the time he found himself inside the tent of a Bedouin family in Jordan. Making conversation with the mother, he asked her how many children she had. “Two” came the response…and yet our director clearly saw more than two children.
He soon learned that Bedouins do not consider children born with mental disabilities or crooked limbs as real offspring. It’s just their culture.
In Kenya, there are approximately half a million deaf people, representative of the deaf population in Africa as a whole. A marginalized group, the deaf carry a stigma from birth until death. Like the Bedouins, Kenyans do not like to claim their deaf children. It’s just their culture.
Some Tibetans still believe a girl needs to prove her fertility before she can be considered worthy of marriage. This ritual creates a situation where the paternity of the “proof child” is unknown and the baby is associated with trauma—the product of a union that was not consensual on the mother’s part. Potential fathers don’t want to take responsibility for a child that may not belong to them and the mothers often do not bond with the baby while pregnant. These children are not the children parents keep. Instead, they are frequently discarded in trash heaps or killed at birth.* It’s just their culture.
Here in America, we’re much more “civilized.” A baby might be born with a mental disability or crooked limb and we “take care” of the “problem.” After all…it’s just a clump of tissue, right? And it’s just our culture.
But Truth has a way of taking what’s crooked—a worldview, a culture, a mindset—and straightening it out.
We know that abortion is wrong, and that those with crooked limbs are equally as valuable as those without because the Bible tells us that God Himself “knits together” the unborn child inside the womb, and that He saw our “unformed” bodies and ordained all the days of our lives before one of them came to be (Psalm 139).
In the news last year was the story of a man in South Korea who created a “drop box” for unwanted babies as an alternative for mothers considering abortion or abandonment. He and his wife, both Christians, have chosen to care for the surprising number of babies that continually appeared inside that little drop box—a good number of whom are physically or mentally disabled.
The world paused for just a brief moment to stand and applaud this man. Why? Because deep down...beneath all of our cultural conditioning…at a soul-level, we all know what’s right and what’s wrong (Romans 2:15).
And this is why Christian Aid Mission supports a ministry leader in Jordan who spends part of his time trying to secure equipment to furnish a rehabilitation center for disabled Bedouin children. It’s why we’re looking into how we can help a Christian woman in Kenya, deaf since the age of 13, fulfill her vision to minister to the deaf population there. And it’s why we support an orphanage in Tibet that takes in unwanted or abandoned children.
Communities see the good works of these native missionaries and glorify their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:26).
In the words of Brian Ivie, who filmed the award-winning documentary about the drop box in South Korea, “I became a Christian while making this movie…just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul…and the day we stop realizing we are disabled is the day that we stop fighting for Christ as the only one who enables.”
Truth transcends our crookedness.
*This passage comes from “This House Is All Thine Own,” a soon-to-be published book by J. Rachel Reed.