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May 2014

 

By José C. Hernández, Jr. 

 

 “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’?

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35 ESV

 

As the son of a pastor in Puerto Rico, I learned at the early age that the mission of the church is to proclaim the Word of God and disciple converts in all the nations of the world. But in our daily practice we only loved and ministered people in our own neighborhood and region. Hence, we only ministered in our comfort zone.

 

In our minds, the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) was Latin America. According to that understanding of missions my father planted eight congregations in the Dominican Republic, and I began ministering in Colombia, Argentina and Costa Rica. It never occurred to me that the meaning of the Great Commission was something far beyond the Spanish language context.

 

In 2006 I traveled to China for the first time. This was my first cross-cultural experience outside of the Latino world. Although I was excited about being in a different setting, I was also apprehensive. I had many questions in my mind. Yes, I was happy to be there learning about the Chinese people, their dreams, hopes, customs and foods. But I was stressing about my inability to communicate with the people and my lack of understanding of the Oriental culture. These loomed in front of me like the Great Wall. In spite of my fears, or perhaps because of them, God had my attention. I was trying hard to pay attention to what God was about to do with my life.

 

On our first day in China we walked around Tiananmen Square, one of the most historic and sensitive spots on the planet. While I was taking in all the sights, I was approached by two curious young men. They asked, “Are you an American?” Although I am an American, for some reason I responded, “I am Puerto Rican.” In that precise moment one of the men spoke to me in Spanish. “Luis Muñoz Marin was the first elected governor of Puerto Rico.” I was shocked to hear those words in my native tongue. It was like God had thrown a bucket of ice cold water on me. He forced me to shake off all my fears and my insecurities as a Puerto Rican guy with a heavy strong accent when I speak in English. God showed me that He can use me in a country where the masses speak Mandarin. But some speak Spanish!

 

I later learned that the Chinese government encourages university students to learn Spanish as part of a plan to establish commercial relationships with Latin America. Although learning English is still the most popular option for young people, more students are also learning the language of Cervantes. As we learn from each other in these cultural exchanges, the Hispanic church can be a blessing to our Chinese friends living in our communities or studying at local universities. Furthermore, we can be a cultural bridge reaching out all the way to China. In the context of respectful relationships we can share our lives and God’s story in creative ways as we watch the Holy Spirit work.

 

As I travel around the world and I am blessed to see the great harvest of souls in places like Spain, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and China. And yet I have to remind myself that many millions have no knowledge of Christ. I remind myself that we have all been commissioned by God to do this job of proclamation and discipleship. May God help us build bridges of friendship and create cultural exchanges through which we share our faith.

 

There is no “great wall” stopping us from sharing God’s love beyond our comfort zone. The choice is ours. It is my prayer that God will use these words as a bucket of ice water that shocks you and me into a new awareness of His calling. Let us respond as beacons of light in the midst of a dark world. Amen.       

 

About the Author

José C. Hernández, Jr. is an Adjunct Faculty of Biblical Studies and Global Missions in the Latino Latina Studies Program at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando. He also teaches in the Spanish language graduate program at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. He has published the books “Y Me Sereís Testigos” (And You Shall Be My Witness) and “Vida, Obra, y Ministerio de James Hudson Taylor” (Life, Work, and Ministry of James Hudson Taylor) and serves as a District Leader with the Free Methodist Church in Central Florida. José and his wife Ada live in Titusville, Florida. 

 

A word from James

Jose’ is one of my favorite people in the world. His joy, love, warm faith and passion for the mission of God to be accomplished in all nations is contagious. Hear his bold testimony and challenge, and do something uncomfortable this week. Is there some way FollowOne can help you, your children and your church use the blessings of God to serve lost and hurting people?  

 

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