A week ago, I spoke at the closing session for Global Grace Seminary in Houston, Texas. I was aware that it was being live-streamed around the world into the hearts and communities of people around the planet.
And so in that moment I did something I had not done before publicly. I asked for forgiveness.
I am a Third Culture Kid, a.k.a. missionary kid, who grew up in the highlands of West Papua and I asked for forgiveness, as a white, male, American, who represents the spread of a Western European gospel, and implicitly ‘white’ culture as normative around the world.
Yes, undoubtedly our well intentioned missions and endeavors were a mixed blessing, the good of loving the poor, education and health, along with the assumptions of white superiority and theology. We couldn’t help ourselves, lost as we have been inside of what was first delivered to us. (If interested in this, read this brilliant piece on this by John Metta.)
Perhaps the apology is long overdue, but I am not the quickest or smartest guest to the party.
A number of years ago, I was invited into a Tongan neighborhood in Palo Alto, CA, one of the poorest counties across the freeway from one of the richest.
I was driving with a tall, strong Tongan man. He told me how much he was struggling being in America, especially with the sense of loss of his roots and those things most precious. He told me how he was working hard to adapt to the white man’s world as best he could.
I told him what came to mind, quoting a couple verses near the end of the ‘Revelation of Jesus’. The context is a magnificent revealing of the woman Jesus is in love with, the bride dressed as a city, the New Jerusalem. This is the hope for all humanity, our true identity to which we have already come (Hebrews 12:22), a reality that most of us are blind and ignorant to.
“And the city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it.” (Rev 21:22-23)
I, this little white man, hugged this towering Tongan while he cried.
I told him, “We don’t need you to become white and Western. You are a king of the earth, and we need your glory to bring light to who we all are together.”