I have traveled to over thirty countries and enjoyed the unique forms of hospitality and cultural distinctives of each place. My mind is filled with indelible memories of the crazy traffic in India, the amazing food in the Philippines, the familiar language of Romania (so similar to Italian), the 13-month calendar in Ethiopia, and the smell of the fishing villages in Sri Lanka. Ministering to God’s people in these many countries has been the greatest blessing of all.
But then there are times when the countries come to us. Such is the case here in South London. Karon and I have just completed ministering to three Afro-Caribbean churches in Croydon, South London. Our gatherings were filled with people from places we have never been—places like Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, Ghana, Guyana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone , Trinidad and Tobago—just to name those I can remember. Of course, there were spatterings of us Europeans in the crowd (French, English, Italian, Scottish, Irish and even some Romanians).
In America we have a melting pot, where people from all over the world blend into one culture: Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Asian-American, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, etc. However, I am told in the United Kingdom it is more like a stew, where people gather in one place but maintain their cultural distinctive.
That may be true on the outside, but our experience with these Afro-Caribbean churches is that they have chosen to set aside their cultural distinctives and have chosen to unite around their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In a few days we will be in Poland, at another gathering of 700 evangelical leaders from forty different countries. I expect, once again, to see the same thing. As I have seen in past years ministering at the European Leadership Forum, any spirit of nationalism will be replaced by an emphasis on our unity at citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
While I am here in Europe, I am memorizing (once again) Colossians 3:1-17. It is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing passages ever written. I am especially fixed on Colossians 3:11 “…there is no distinction…but Christ is all and in all.” Here in these gatherings of people from so many walks of life, I have rarely experienced such unity of the Spirit. The Family of God is truly amazing. Although sometimes we are prone to bragging about some the unique qualities of our own countries, Christ truly is our all.
Onward to France today to spend a few days with some fellow heirs of the King of Kings.