Third Culture

Where are we?
Our girls trying to figure out where they are at Granville Island, Vancouver, BC

Last night I had the privilege of attending a gathering of mostly Asians involved in Christian ministry in Vancouver. Some would say it was a coincidence, but too many “coinkidinks” have come across my life for me to think that God’s hand was not in it. I was introduced to a Korean-American pastor serving in a prominent “traditional” Canadian church (by “traditional” – I mean that most of the congregants are Caucasian Canadians) here in Vancouver by a friend in Washington State in the U.S. This pastor thought it would be good for me to come to this gathering that was meeting for the first time. A request was made through FB, and within a few minutes, I was invited. Sitting through the gathering, I couldn’t help but to feel hopeful for this group as they discussed race, culture, and how to live the message of Jesus Christ so that it is relevant to the people that they lead.

We live in an increasingly third culture world. An example of a third culture person is the Korean-American pastor serving in a traditional Canadian church. He was born in the U.S. to a Korean immigrant family, and living and working in Canada. My family is another example. Because I was born in South Korea, lived in the U.S. from age 12- my fourth decade, became a Christian in Haiti, and now live in Canada, I sometimes introduce myself to people as having been made in Korea, assembled in the U.S., refurbished in Haiti, and shipped to Canada. So, what is our culture? Am I a Korean as many people think I am because of my looks? Am I an American, because that is where I hold my citizenship? Or am I a Canadian because I have now adopted this country as my home? Truth of the matter is that I am all of the above and at the same time none of the above. The writer of Hebrews wrote this about the followers of Jesus:

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:14

Before this he wrote: “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. – Hebrews 13:11-13

There are times when our “distinctness” causes us pain, but when we compare that to the pain that Jesus had to endure to sanctify His people, my present sufferings are much more bearable. Thinking about the racial, cultural, religious, socio-economic, and myriad of other sufferings that Jesus had to go through, I am not only comforted, but strengthened to march on my pilgrim journey.

In between meetings, yesterday, my family had an opportunity to visit the famous Granville Island Market area. Our youngest picked up a map to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go. She studied that map to tell me, “Daddy, we need to go through here (pointing to a street on a map), and get there. Let’s go!” Did I tell you she is only 6 years old?

I am so thankful that God has left us a road map – the Holy Bible – not necessarily to give us a detailed direction, but to point the way. Vancouver, like many of the cities and places that we visited this summer so far, and will visit still, is beautiful. But these are not lasting cities. We are seeking a city that is to come.

James

3 thoughts on “Third Culture

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