MISSIONARY SURVIVAL GUIDE #15: MARKS OF THE CROSS

nat geo india 2I opened the small door to the cave and, after a moment’s hesitation, knelt down to crawl in.  It was the summer of 2009, South Korea, and I had graciously answered an invitation to visit Osanri Choi-Jashil Prayer and Fasting Mountain, more commonly known as “Prayer Mountain”.  Operated by Yoido Full Gospel church, the largest in the country, it was created as a retreat for Christians who wanted to spend more focused time with God.  Locking the door behind me, I settled in under the dim glow of a lamp, it’s light revealing nicely remodeled walls.  I opened my bible and tried to focus, slowly realizing that I had never had this depth of solitude with the Lord, or even myself.  Then, I heard something through the walls, the muffled sound of a woman weeping.  Though I had not learned much of her language, I knew she was praying in Korean, until she wasn’t, that is.  Her pleas to God changed into tongues, and though the meaning of the words was hidden from me, the Holy Spirit began to stir in my chest.

Remodeled caves at Prayer Mountain.  It's said that in the 19th century there were many such mountains and those passing by could hear the distant cries and prayers of persecuted Korean Christians.

Remodeled caves at Prayer Mountain. It’s said that in the 19th century there were many such mountains and those passing by could hear the distant cries and prayers of persecuted Korean Christians.

Prayer Mountain arose from the 19th century tradition of persecuted Korean Christians and their need to find a place to call out to Jesus.  However, one can see the marks of the cross all over the world, and as a missionary, it would do you well to explore the traces of Christianity left in your own post.  Why?  There are so many reasons, but a few immediately spring to mind: to understand the work that has gone before you (we may not be reinventing the wheel, but keeping it spinning), some practices that are biblical but lost or unpopular in your home country may be thriving in your missions location (ie: fasting), joining your new brothers and sisters to worship in the way that they’ve known can help to build strong bonds of spiritual kinship in your corner of the body of Christ.

An Edo era tsuba, or handguard, to a Japanese sword etched with Christian imagery.  Christianity was outlawed at the time.

An Edo era tsuba, or handguard, to a Japanese sword etched with Christian imagery. Christianity was outlawed at the time.

You could learn songs and hymns that have been sung by Christians for centuries in that country.  These can reveal notes of pain and victory in the very lyrics, a record of persecution that the people have faced in the past.  Visiting ancient communities of believers or mountain top chapels can also be rewarding experiences.  For instance, the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala India claim to have a lineage that they trace back to the missionary efforts of a rejuvenated Apostle Thomas, the man who originally doubted Jesus’s resurrection.  Here in Japan there is a rich history of Christianity that takes some digging to discover.  Head to Nagasaki and you’ll find tombs and memorials dedicated to the executed Japanese Christians who thought that a government renewing international relations meant freedom of religion.  Some Buddhist temples even contain secret Christian relics, hidden for fear of the government.  The marks of the cross are found worldwide, we just have to explore and continue the legacy.

"Martyrdom of Saint Thomas" by Peter Paul Rubens.  Tradition says he was allowed to pray before being speared.

“Martyrdom of Saint Thomas” by Peter Paul Rubens. Tradition says he was allowed to pray before being speared in India.

Isn’t that what the missionary call is after all?  To extend and strengthen the borders and citizens of the kingdom of God?  From the very beginning of the church, we believers were being fished out of the oceans of darkness from various races and tribes.  Now, we thrive as a symbol of God’s ideal, a united humanity restored to a right relationship with our Creator.  So, let’s try to view the path of the cross; the trials, setbacks and successes of the gospel in our new brethren’s lands, no longer as just “their” interesting story but as our family history, since we are now joined by blood, namely Christ’s, to our fellow believers.  Is that too radical?  Too far out there?  If it is for us, it wasn’t for our ancestors in the faith.

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”  – Apostle Paul, Ephesians 2:11-16

Links:

o  Japanese sword “tsuba”

http://www.satcho.com/Japanese%20Artifacts.htm

o  Prayer Mountain retreat homepage

http://www.fgtv.com/n_english/prayer/p_index.asp

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