It was two o’clock in the afternoon. As I sat sipping my Irish cream latte, I noticed the African and Middle-Eastern men gathering in front of the café. It is a daily ritual: the men gather outside no matter what the weather, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and slap each other on the back, laughing of things only men understand. I watched an African man approach the register and order his drink in loud, halting Norwegian, and I suddenly realized that I am not so different.
I think I am different, of course, because I am quiet, and my features help me blend in a bit more in Norway. In fact, I pass these men each day, thinking how different my life is from theirs. Nevertheless, I too am an alien. Even though I was not forced to be here because of political or financial reasons, I am here—a fish out of water.
What compels me to be here, thousands of miles from family and friends? It is as simple as Christ’s love, which after four years has become my love for this place. I am learning that ‘home’ is a relative word. I never know where God is going to lead next, but I am learning to be content wherever He calls me. I have an apartment, a ministry, and solid friendships here. I am learning to adapt. It has not always been like this, but when Christ’s love compels, we often find ourselves in unfamiliar roles, reinventing ourselves so He might be known.
I have known about Christ’s love for as long as I can remember, but it has been only a few years since I truly began experiencing it myself. When I think of what He has done for me, I have no choice! He is real. He is a man, a spirit, God—and He came to earth and lived for me. He lived to show mankind how to live. Often His death and resurrection are heralded over His life here on earth. However, as I read through Scripture and enter into a more intimate relationship with Him, I realize more and more that if He had not lived, He never could have died. And without His death, there is no point to life. I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had not grown up in a country with so many choices and freedoms, or without Christian influences. Life with Christ is hard enough; I do not think living would be appealing if I did not know Him.
John 8:32 says that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. That is truth, but it is not really truth until experience shows us that it is the truth for us. (I know about the Law of Gravity, but until I experience that gravity is in fact what is keeping my feet planted on the ground, I cannot speak about it with much persuasion.) As Westerners, we receive information through head knowledge. Heart knowledge usually seems to follow much later because we want proof. “Show me the facts,” we say. However, the person of Christ is not defined by facts. He is who He is. We all have different ideas and a version of Him in our minds, but until it is enough for us that He is God, the truth will mean nothing—and the world will not change if we do not know the truth for ourselves.
Even as we are involved in missions, the truth of who we are in Him often escapes us. We become caught up in ministry, relationships, language learning, and adapting; we forget why we are where we are. We are in missions because Christ’s love compels us! His love knows no culture, no language, and no nation.
Maybe we really are not that different after all.