Sunday, April 29, 2012

A self-indulgent, reflective post

If there's one thing I don't like, it's being self-indulgent.  And when I say that, I really mean, I don't like being perceived as a self-indulgent guy who makes most circumstances and events about me.  In reality, I do things for my own gain all the time, but I also think I am most satisfied when the bigger picture is before me and visible. When I am a small part of something awesome going on. I had a going away party this week with around 25 good friends from the city I live in and made, what felt like, an uninspiring minute and a half speech thanking everyone for coming and investing in me.  I'm glad it was really low key and that no one presented me with anything over the top and that no one was expecting me to shed any tears.

This post will probably end up going against all of these things.

For 4 of the last 5 years, I've lived across the ocean working with a mission I heartily agree with and am motivated by.  The 1 year I wasn't here in Asia, I worked with the Asian students at UNC doing many of the same things I do here, building movements of students who sacrificially love Jesus and want to see their peers know God.

Pretty heavy stuff, huh?  That's really what I signed up for when I came over here.  When I prayed about my decision to do this for the long haul.  These were the things I prayed for.  When I write my memoirs as an old man, I want to have stories of transformation on college campus, and more importantly, in the hearts of formerly lost students.

I'm ecstatic to get married soon and transition into life with a nicer-smelling and prettier roommate (sorry Harrison...), but part of me will certainly mourn the things I'm leaving here.  What I thought I'd mourn the most would be the memories of students fellowship meetings or Bible studies I'd led, or freshmen guys breaking down in repentance, or preaching to groups of people who have scarcely heard of Jesus.  But the things I'll really miss the most for now are found in the picture below.
That's right, eating exotic (often mediocre) Asian food in dirty restaurants with my peers.  Waxing philosophical about communism in education and venting about frustrations communicating in a foreign language where so many things are lost in translation. Complaining to waitresses that the rice STILL hasn't come out and to each other that "this is good, but it's not as good as ______ (some other exotic, slightly less mediocre place they know of)." People-watching as partially senile vegetable vendors clang on bells soliciting to wealthy cadres, still buzzed from their 3-hour long lunches.  And above all, just being normal American dudes living as pilgrims in a strange land, enjoying the company of people who "get you" in ways your friends on campus just can't.

"You come for the mission, but stay for the people," my friend said recently.  I think he was very right. The kingdom of God is like many things in the Gospels, but one of which is a mustard seed.  A small, unsightly and unimposing sprouting seed that can produce the greatest harvests.  That is to say, sometimes the things you don't expect to make the biggest differences in a Christian's life are the ones that end up making you the most committed to Jesus.  I thought it would be ministry success at first that kept me coming back for more, but in the end it was guys like on my crew and the ones who eat at dirty restaurants with me.  They've done more to encourage me in the Great Commission than any number of ministry successes I could point to as my own.  


  1. Great post Daniel! Kinda wish all 1st year guys could read this and be convinced that family dinners aren't a total waste of their time :)

  2. Thanks Meagan! Yeah, I agree...though as a first year, I was always eager to do family dinners because it meant I didnt have to eat fangbianmian or cafeteria food...