This is the eleventh in a series of blogs written by alumni of the Student.Go program. This year Student.Go is celebrating 10 years of providing summer and semester missions service opportunities for college and graduate students in locations all over the world.
This blog is written by David Sistler who served through Student.Go with international students in Los Angeles, CA during 2007.
Jesus asked the blind men in Matthew 9, “Do you believe I can do this?”
Jesus undoubtedly saw a lot of similarities between those two men and me, a 27-year-old graduate student from the Midwest, when He plopped me down in Southern California for a summer. Questions of my belief were posed many times in 2007 while I spent three months learning how Jesus is incarnate and how He so strongly desires a very personal relationship with each person. My Western Evangelical ears had heard those words and I sure thought I understood them as well; however, this guy who thought Los Angeles was just another big city was certainly in for an awakening.
To hear that Jesus wants everyone to know Him personally is very familiar to people who already know Him. If I were to ask another Christian if God wants us to worship him, that Christian would probably be incredulous to think otherwise. Many believers might even cognitively accept that Western Christianity is not the only form of following Jesus. What eventually shook me to the core was applying the idea that Westerners do not have a monopoly on God-following expressions. Throughout the book of Acts the Holy Spirit speaks clearly and frequently to the disciples regarding spreading the Gospel among the Gentiles. Diet (10:15) and circumcision (15:11) were topics of debate, but even whether the Gospel was for the Gentiles (14:27). Even before Jesus’ resurrection, Simeon recognized that redemption was not only for the Jews (Luke 2:30-32). That’s all well and good, but how could attendance at a typical American church service isolate someone from his or her family? Why would I have to change my diet to follow Jesus? How is conversion a bad thing? May I eat a banana instead of unleavened bread for communion? Am I not called to deny myself and take up my cross? So what about my culture?
The questions are endless.
This is the perspective I gained from my time in California. Epiphanies were rare; instead, I essentially soaked in a new and glorious life (John 17:3). Bits and pieces have come together ever since then, gradually building a picture of Jesus I never would have seen. Much of the time I still feel like one of the blind men, but far more often now than before that summer, I see Jesus.