Kingdom Lessons From PNG.
Welcome everyone to our first official “Guest Author” post on Kingdomology. The post comes from a friend of mine named Todd Owen who served in Papua New Guinea for over 10 years as a Bible Translator and now lives out the Kingdom in IA. Yes, people really do live in Iowa. Todd’s a lot smarter than me and I look forward to his contribution to our efforts in days to come. So enough of me, here’s the ball Todd. . .
I was once a missionary in New Guinea. Life there was rugged, absent the conveniences I enjoy in the U.S. Power came from the sun, water from the rain, companionship from a very rare and special people living on a mountainside at the edge of the world. One of the more tedious and challenging tasks I faced was learning an unwritten language, which involved finding patterns in endless strings of utterance, attempting to understand the building blocks of language; wrapping myself around alien ways of viewing the world and verbal means of expressing that world view. I learned a few things about the Kingdom of God along the way that are worth repeating.
First, it is the differences within the language that make it understandable, not the sameness. For example, think about the difference in English of the difference between /tame/ and /lame/. One sound distinguishes these words, yet it is that one sound that determines the real meaning of the words. So it is in God’s Kingdom. The gospel becomes meaningful for people of every stripe as it finds expression through our differences. Just like on the nickel, e. pluribus unum: “out of many, one.”
Second, despite the political bent of the government who issues my passport, “the Kingdom of God is within” (Luke 17:21). The immigration officer looks at my U.S. passport and sees an American. The Christian I visit in a jungle village sees a brother in Christ, not an American. . . perhaps he sees a comparatively well-heeled brother, but a brother nonetheless. I am constrained and compelled by the love of Christ because he is in charge of my heart. My loyalty is to God’s Kingdom. That’s where my citizenship is.
Finally, I’m reminded that people matter—more than the stuff of earth, a lifestyle laden with cheap idols of materialism, or a fine meal at any number of favorite restaurants. Jesus showed us this in every exchange, every word, every action.
The Kingdom of God is formed in the heart in our surrender, is expressed in our loving service, and glorified in our singleness-amidst-diversity.