Author: Sadiri ’Joy’ Tira
Category: Unreached People Groups, Media and Communications, Diasporas
Since moving from Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (my home city from 1984-2008) in September 2011, Millwoods Town Centre Mall has become my favorite place for relaxation, exercise, shopping, meeting friends and new people. Millwoods Town Centre is located in the southeast quadrant of the city. In the last decade and a half, Millwoods has become increasingly multi-racial, multicultural, and pluralistic. Twenty-five years ago, there were but a few Chinese, but when the British turned Hong Kong over to China in 1997, there was an accelerated influx of Chinese immigrants to Edmonton. Today there are public schools featuring Mandarin language and Chinese culture immersion in partnership with the Chinese government -- my grandson attended kindergarten in one of them. Twenty-five years ago, there was no South Asian restaurant. Today there are over 46 Indian restaurants and the Indians have "built" their own “Bombay Village” along 34th. The Filipinos have also become a dominant visible minority here; for the first time electing a Filipino-Canadian Member of Legislative Assembly. When my family arrived in this community over two decades ago, there was but one mosque and no Hindu temple or Sikh gurdwara. Today, we find several of them in most strategic intersections of the community.
Today, at 7:00 a.m., I went to the mall for a walk. Yes, I walk inside the mall. How can I brave the -10°C temperature outside the building? And I don’t walk alone! There are others including a seniors club who meet there and together they walk for an hour before the shoppers arrive. Well, in recent days, I have been observing a distinguished gentleman (his name is withheld) who also walks. For five days we had walked together without saying anything to each other. Then yesterday, we walked and we looked at each other to say "hello good morning”. Today, we again walked and finally introduced ourselves to each other. After 45 minutes I caught up to him again, and I courageously asked him to join me for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. His response was: "Do they serve tea? Do they have Chai?" "Of course they have, let us go" was my enthusiastic invitation. "I have half an hour to join you, Mr. Tira." So there, we found our way to the Starbucks.
What do you think? Did I just buy him a cup of tea without a purpose? Do you think that I just talked about the cold and bitter winter months in Canada? He is from Punjab, wearing his turban and loose green kurta and pajama. So do you think I invited him just to talk about Punjab becoming a separate state, or talk about the shooting and ultimate the death of Osama Bin Laden? No, I shared my immigration journey to Canada and of course I talked about this Creator God, the Supreme Ruler of the universe, this powerful spiritual being who is invisible but who introduced himself to humans in the person of Jesus Christ. For 10 minutes, this man listened attentively and was fascinated when I spoke about the Gift of God i.e. eternal life or Jesus Christ!
After half an hour he said: "I need to go. Tomorrow, let us walk together and you can tell me more. I like your story. I like your faith. I want to know more about Jesus. I must have this gift before December 25!"
Then I said: "Thank you for your time today, my friend. Mr. Randhawa (name changed) I will see you tomorrow at 7 a.m. at the food court. By the way, I have a gift for you. Let us go to my car." There, I had several copies of The Jesus Film DVD designed for international scholars and translated into 16 languages, including Mr. Randhawa’s Urdu language. He took a copy. We shook hands and said "goodbye. Have a great day. See you again, tomorrow..." He walked away towards his SUV. Then I heard him say, "Mr. Tira! Wait. Please give me 10 more of DVDs."
Early this year, I got hold of the book, Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the 21st Century by Drs. Terry Muck and Frances Adeney (2009. Baker Academic). In one of the chapters, the authors talk about Giftive Mission in Practice. They posed the following questions: How does gifting express itself in terms of mission practice? Once giftive mission’s bona fides (as biblically, based and theologically viable) have been established, does it work?
According to them, gift giving is a universal practice. It is the "focal figure" of Jesus Christ’s "insistence that his gracious gift was for all people... not just for the Jewish people." They go on to say: "all cultures, all people, have an understanding of gift giving and receiving... For Paul, giving God’s grace to others was an indispensable sign of Christian maturity" (pp. 373-374).
During the Christmas season, some evangelical Christians disapprove the practice of "giftive mission". For them gift giving is associated with Santa Claus, and hence pagan practice while others see the massive giving as synonymous to "commercialism" and "utilitarianism." I must argue that the massive and lavish giving must be put into the context of Kingdom advancement and missions. Furthermore, gift giving is not limited to material things, but can be extended to include the gift of one’s kind words or precious time during this increasingly hectic season. This is the best time in our calendar year when people are most receptive to the gift of God. Even people like my new friend, Mr. Randhawa, would receive a Jesus DVD and then come back to ask for more!
This Christmas season start giving the gift of God’s grace (be it in printed form or electronic format) to the many diasporas within your reach. In this simple but meaningful way, the Whole Church can actively participate in bringing the Whole Gospel to the Whole World.
Sadiri Joy Tira (D.Min., D.Miss.) is the LCWE Senior Associate for Diasporas; Vice President for Diaspora Missions at Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM); Director of the Institute of Diaspora Missiology at Alliance Graduate School (Philippines); and Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College (Canada).