Evangelism I


From 1998 to 2001, I taught English in China where the Christians drove me crazy. Not because of what they said to me, but because of what they said about me. They told my friend, a convert from Islam, that I was not a Christian. “How do they know?” I demanded. “They’re never asked me; we’ve never discussed religion.”

“They say because you don’t go to church,” she explained. “They know everyone who goes to church and you don’t go.”

It was China, a place of few churches; they would know.

My friend, the convert, explained, “They told me don’t be your friend, you’re not a Christian. They say I need Christian friends now I am a Christian. I told them you go to church as a little girl and you pray, but they say you’re not a Christian if you don’t go to church.”

Their assertion angered me. Who were they to decide? I was raised Lutheran and confirmed Lutheran. Even if I was a prodigal daughter, Jesus taught I belonged. I was appalled at their arrogance.

I admit that I, myself, was not sure if I was a Christian. However, this was an identity between me and God and I was secure in that relationship. Certainly, I was a cultural Christian, but I couldn’t say beyond that what Christianity meant to me. I was sure that God was too big for containment in one religion.

Not only was I upset that the missionaries presumed to know something about me and my relationship with God that I did not know. Also, I was furious with the missionaries for spreading a narrow-minded exclusionary interpretation of Christianity among the Chinese people who had already been harmed by a narrow-minded totalitarian government.

I came back from China to a new presidency that combined government and religion and defined Christianity in the narrowest form. I came back from immersion in another culture in search of my own people. I came back needing to understand my roots.

I found Pilgrim Lutheran of St. Paul when I attended a Scandinavian evening service on a Sunday. There is nothing like listening to Ruth MacKenzie improvise herding calls to feel called back to home. The following Sunday, I attended a morning service at Pilgrim Lutheran. I liked the service, so I stayed for a new member meeting.

Whereas God cannot be contained, I can be contained, but I don’t like it. When I was asked to introduce myself, I announced I was a member of a Buddhist meditation center and I planned to continue that membership. The pastor nodded. She had heard me; she was not going to limit me. I had found my church home.

Reva Rasmussen


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