March - Sowing with Arisa

March 2004

Sowing With Arisa

Recently I met a Japanese girl who just graduated from a Christian university here in the states. This girl, Arisa, received a scholarship to attend the university because of her high test scores. Upon moving into the dorm, she met many Christians for the first time, most of whom were really eager to get to know her. Perfect situation, right? … Wrong!

Arisa began to get to know them and learn about their culture. She even desired to learn more about their religion and attended church with them each week. But cultural and lifestyle differences became apparent as she displayed behaviors contrary to the Christian culture.

Being displaced from home, Arisa tried to make friends with her new dorm mates. While learning more about Christianity and life in America, Arisa needed to share her culture, too. "I poured my heart out to them about my culture, but they did not want to listen. They only wanted to make me a Christian" she remembers.

Arisa perceived that their only interest in her was as that of a project: making a new Christian. Their interest in her went only so far as her interest in the Gospel. She also believed that her behaviors turned them away. What we know is Arisa's perception of the situation. What we don't know is what was going on with the American students.

At first glance, it's easy to be angry about the project mentality. But really, as I look deeper I can imagine how easily this miscommunication took place. 1) They may have been girls who were in love with the Lord, and all they ever wanted to talk about was the Lord. 2) The semester set in and they got so busy that they just got too busy to spend a lot of time getting to know her. After all, it does take effort to cross cultural boundaries. 3) Perhaps as they saw her going to church each week they perceived her to be more interested in the Gospel than she was.

I can't know exactly what happened. I do know we must share the Gospel and to be unashamed. Jesus' example is to love and meet the needs of others. Then, and sometimes only then, are their ears, eyes, and hearts opened to the Truth that we have to share with them. Our friendship with these internationals is to be a friendship that is set apart and looks different, because we love them in the way Christ loves them. Honestly, it also needs to be a true friendship of give and take, not just us ministering to them. Even Jesus had a band of people who ministered to His needs, while He brought redemption.

Our love, which originates with Him, is a testimony to the nations. God asks us to love despite hardships, including an international's lack of interest in hearing about Him or their sinful habits. Our job may not always be to reap the harvest. We may merely be the messengers who plant the seed ... over … and over … and over …

As we see in scripture, God will have His way. One day there will be worshippers from every tongue, tribe and nation standing before the throne and in front of the lamb (Rev. 5:9 & 7:9). Most often, as believers who understand and embrace the Scriptural mandate to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28: 19), we think that the only way to make that happen is by going to the nations. But God, in His foreknowledge of our lead-footedness to get to the nations, is sending representatives from the nations to us. Most often they come as a college students seeking a degree from an American university. Who but God knows the reasons they come: perhaps to learn English better, for training that will provide more lucrative opportunities in their home country, or to seek opportunities here. Truly, His reason is different. His reason is to give them opportunity to encounter Him and us opportunity to be witnesses of His grace.

Praise God that He is faithful! I see that in the fact that Arisa continues to meet Christian, after Christian after Christian, most with the desire to see her know Him through His son Jesus. Our God is faithful to protect His reputation from our miscommunications and apathy and cultural mistakes. So, Arisa is by no means a hopeless cause, and her continued friendship with faith sharing Christians is no accident. Praise God for second and third chances to plant seeds and spread His fame.

Go forth to befriend internationals, and pray, pray, pray!

by Alicia Willard