“Who are you? Why are you here?” demanded the Muslim woman, dressed in traditional garb as she held the garden hose she had been using to wash her garage door.
“Thank you for asking,” I replied with a smile. My name is Glen and I am from the church next door. I visit the kids and families in these apartments once or twice per week just to say hello and brighten their day.”
“Oh.” Her grim demeanor remained. She asked again, “Who are you?”
I repeated my answer again. Scruffy the puppet looked on in my arms as the children gathered from throughout the complex to touch him and beg for his attention. She didn’t seem impressed, but then she asked, “Do you have a good hose? This one isn’t doing the job.”
“I am sorry, but I don’t.”
“Oh, that’s okay.”
“I wish I did have a hose, but maybe one of your neighbors has one you can borrow.”
“Maybe.” She went back to scrubbing, seemingly satisfied–at least for the moment–that I was harmless. So, I turned my attention to the children and let them play with Scruffy. The other adults seemed amused by it all. Several children I have not previously met were attracted by the commotion and felt emboldened to approach me for the first time in several visits to the complex. It was a positive time of first contact with many.
I then went to the other apartment complex. I received a warm reception from many of my regular kids and I was introduced to a new family who, as it turns out, intend to allow their children to attend within the next couple of weeks. I invited them to come as well, and they may do that. Then I spent some time with several dads I have gotten to know. We talked about the building industry of which some of us are a part. I shared that I am a truck driver and warehouseman in floorcovering. I could feel the credibility gap closing with that comment.
Being missional means being relevant to the culture in ways that create connections without compromising moral standards. The puppet. My workboots and comments about the workplace. The friendly conversation about a garden hose. They are what helps me to be all things to all people the best that I can. It is about life together through common interests. It takes time, I know. The cultures (plural intended) I am attempting to reach are, in most cases, tough nuts to crack. Language barriers. Differing customs. Religious barriers. Misconceptions to overcome. An interloper who does not live in the immediate community. This is why I spend time there without making demands or only trying to recruit people to attend church activities. Sure, I do invite them, but I do so in the natural flow of our conversations. I want them to know that I am interested in them even if they never attend. And I am. So is God. Are you?