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catalystWhen Pastor Sean told us that he would be sharing the pulpit with a missionary, I cringed. I know that as a Christian I’m supposed to be all gung ho about missionaries and evangelism, but I cringed nonetheless.

Maybe it’s my background in history and anthropology, but when I hear about missionaries I always think “rice bowl Christians.”  In Imperial China, missionaries would come in and offer to feed the poor, but only if they converted. Traditional Chinese called these people “rice bowl Christians” It’s that “I’m right, you’re wrong, I have food, you have hunger” approach to mission that makes me flinch.

Then Sean introduced us to Pastor Juan, the evangelism catalyst for Presbyterian World Mission.

Yeah, I didn’t have any clue what it meant either, so I kept quiet and tried not to draw attention while I listened.  He talked about the Presbyterian Church, as moderates, being invited into Egypt to help create change for the better.

He talked about missionaries going into communities and sitting down and talking to the people.  What are your problems?  What do you need?

He talked about building schools and helping children learn.  He talked about clean water and safe food and housing. His enthusiasm was obvious as he told us about helping people all over the world and in our own communities simply by doing Christ’s work.

Finally, he also talked about people coming to the church.  Yes, they want the education and the water, but they also want to know more about the One who has inspired people to help so much.

The term missionary still makes me cringe.

But the thought of being a Christian catalyst? An agent for change in a troubled world?  That sounds like something I could do.


They rang the bell. Twice. Then they knocked. They weren’t going away, so I opened the door. I could see copies of “The Watchtower” in the hands of one of the men. Ugh, Jehovah’s Witnesses! Maybe I could quickly blurt out, “I’m Catholic!” and slam the door. But I didn’t.

Instead, I listened to their spiel. And you know what? It was sweet, all about bringing God’s will in heaven to our earthly plane. Of course, we are bound to have doctrinal differences, and my view of God’s will being done on earth almost certainly does not strictly adhere to their vision. But it was nice, being near people who cared enough about their spirituality to slog door to door, undoubtedly facing plenty of rejection.

I understand rejection — or at least apathy. It is difficult to be a spiritual person in a consumer-driven, “might equals right”, “he (and I do not choose this pronoun thoughtlessly) with the most money rules” society. And it’s terribly difficult to keep putting yourself out there, knowing most people won’t listen or care…that they may, in fact, think that you’re a fanatic, or worse, just loopy.

I asked the Witnesses how they deal with rejection. It did not seem to get them down. “Some people just don’t understand,” said the retired minister. “But remember, Jesus could not get everyone to understand, either. He was simply happy with those who did get the message.”

Eventually, they moved on. On to face slammed doors, a mass of “no thank you’s,” and similar reactions. Having a blog and a radio show, I don’t get to actually see the slammed doors or hear the polite excuses, but I know they’re out there. I sometimes hear the more virulent responses, the ones from those who not only think I’m loopy but actually dangerous. But even that is a rare thing. Mostly, I live in a void, not knowing if anyone hears me at all.

And you know what? I can live with that. But is sure helps to know that I’m not alone. You don’t have to proselytize to show your spirituality, but it sure doesn’t hurt to let the world know you exist, that you and your faith are not going away. Keep knocking, people. Keep knocking.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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