This past week while reading Paul Hiebert’s discussion of peasant worldviews in his book Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change, I was reminded of a numbing truth I feel from time to time in our village here: “Although individuals and groups of people who come from outside and pass through the village may participate in its life, they remain “others” or “them.” (p. 126).
While traditional society here has and continues to be affected by modernity, postmodernity, and “glocalization”, I still often feel very much like a “them” here. For example, I am often welcomed “to go drink tea” according to the culture’s code of hospitality. And when the Mid-Autumn or Chinese New Year comes, invitations to join others often come as well. Sadly though, due to cultural, lingusitic, and faith differences, at other times the feeling of distance and disconnection from the community feels so palpable you could cut it with a knife. For example, the other day I was riding my scooter around town to visit folks and felt a little discouraged as to how few folks I could really call friends here, although I have many acquaintances. After three years!
God encouraged me when I parked by the phone company to change my service. Just as I was getting off my scooter, a mother and her two children also parked to go in to pay their bill. Just this past Sunday, that same mother and two children had walked unexpectedly in the front door of our office to attend our small group. The previous day, the two children had attended the Children's English Club for the first time. In the small group, the mother shared her open-mindedness to the Christian faith, and asked us to pray for her husband, who is suffering from cirrhosis and some other serious health issues. So I was reminded once again that even though we don’t have that many close friends here, the Great Physician indeed is still subtly at work behind the scenes introducing spiritual, emotional, and physical healing to those of us who are sick and in need of a doctor.