Just as with the work I’ve done in India as part of my dissertation research on human trafficking aftercare practices, it has not taken long for Africa to begin to change and shape me.
If you’ve ever truly traveled or been on a missions trip, you probably know what I mean. Having spent years living over seas, and having traveled to somewhere around 40 countries in my time, it still changes me.
The Kingdom of God is represented by every tribe and tongue. Spending time with those “tribes” and submersing myself in those “tongues” always seems to do something deep in my spirit. It is something I can’t describe in human terms which perhaps that is the best indication of the Spirit of God working in my heart. As Jesus himself described, the Spirit of God is mysterious and comes and goes like the wind– not seen, but keenly felt in ways that one cannot deny.
If you take the time to travel and serve in a cross-cultural context and take time to get to know the needs and struggles of others, you’ll undoubtedly find something awaken or reawaken within you. For me this reawakening is almost always the desire to live like Jesus– to completely pour myself out in love and in service to others.
Oftentimes on trips like these I’m traveling with colleagues from a justice oriented NGO I help run in the states. They end up being trips where downtime is spent “thinking big”, like the time we tried to figure out how we could open up a child care center in the brothels of Mumbai, or how we could facilitate trafficking leaders in Assam to help trafficking victims develop marketable job skills.
I’ve always been one to dream big and do bi; “go big, or go home“, I’ve often said. But recently, I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ve been wrong all this time. This “go big or go home” attitude marginalizes the thousands of small, but crucially important things people do every day that build up the “Kingdom” every bit as much as those few big dreams that actually do come true.
As I sit in the heart of Africa waiving away malaria infested mosquitoes, I am reminded that changing the world might not be a matter of failing to think big enough, but rather a failure to not think small enough.
You see, sometimes we fail to fulfill God’s calling for us by actually shooting too big. With all this talk of building the “Kingdom” we dream of radical, massive change while we actually forget that instead of a Kingdom created building by building, this Kingdom is built brick by brick.
One small change at a time.
I think my friend Lawrence Garcia said it best the other day:
“Most of us can’t change the world in large scale ways, but we can do “little” things which cumulatively make this pain filled place just a bit brighter, even beautiful; we can say, “thank you,” “please,” “you’re welcome,” and “good morning” and “evening.” We can tip a bit more, hold the door open for a stranger, smile at the cashier and gas station clerk or bartender; we can lend a compliment, ask someone how their day is going, even pay for a meal. These and thousand other little things we can do (and which cost very little) to pick up the oft broken pieces of ourselves and society and mend them into something truly glorious.”
My friends– if we really want to lead radical lives that subversively flip our culture upside down, we’ve got to break the American mindset of going big or going home. We must resist the cultural conditioning that success is equal to how big we think.
Instead, let us do things by way of Kingdom principles– principles that are almost always backwards to what culture tells us.
Let us change the world… by thinking smaller.
We might not all have “big” things we can do, but if I remember correctly, Jesus said something about the last being first– that the little things are those which count the most in the Kingdom of God.
Let us continue to radically change culture.
But let us do it by changing mindsets by thinking smaller.
Let’s think and do smaller, but do it with more fervor and consistency.
Then, and perhaps only then, will we see the Kingdom of the mustard seed sprout high before our very eyes.