My mother’s house is a delightful world of small treasures from around the world. When we visit her home, we see photos of people from different countries, scarves, hand-made art and other precious items packed with meaning. I am a child. I can touch and smell, hold, listen to and gaze at these objects, and they tell me stories about the people around the world. They spark my imagination and comfort my soul. As an adult, I live far from my mother’s home. But whenever I visit, I am comforted, inspired, and attracted by these treasures. They tell me that my heart is at home, and I open up my child soul within.
Small children are very tactile. We must engage all of their five senses to learn about missions, about music, art, and cultures around the world. How else do we capture their hearts so that they learn to embrace the heart of God for cultures? We must do more than just tell them about the Great Commission. Such lofty ideas are made simple. God loves and enjoys the cultures of the world. So can we. And this is how.
I am a child of missionaries. God has enriched my life with opportunities to encounter worlds upon worlds. With my five senses, I can relish and take zestful pleasure in the simple pleasures of life, much as I think God would. I can listen to the loud singing at parties, and taste the spiciness of the foods. I can fall in love with the beauty of the classical buildings in old cities. My boots crunch over the crispy fall leaves on a busy street. I can smell the wonderful smell of street vendor food as it mingles with the smell of diesel from vehicles weaving in and out of crowded streets. As I step into restaurants of my past and future cultures, I know what I want. The flavors and smells instantly transport me back to the loving times spent in other lands.
As you open up your five senses, my child, you can love your new friends in different places. Let your inner child be open, to be very, very open to new experiences. Children, let your hearts be open, your lives as an artist’s palette for God to mix His colorful paints of world cultures and experiences.
The snow was gently falling around us in subzero Moscow. It was 1998, and I was returning to America after spending some time in Russia. Yet though the weather was cold, my heart was warm. I lovingly and eagerly looked at the bright displays of Russian tourist merchandise that the outdoor vendors so proudly displayed. With these small Russian treasures, I would bring my friends a taste of the nation that had so captured my senses. They were sparkly, they were beautiful, they were intricately designed and special.
For months, I had been hosting pelmeni parties to make friends with Russians. With those small dumplings, we exchanged recipes and techniques between nations. I shared Chinese ways of making jiaozi from scratch, and my friends taught me the Russian ways. We invented new recipes and techniques together. There were countless delightful hours in warm Russian kitchens that warmed our hearts in the middle of the cold winter.
We cooked together, painted, danced, and sang. We covered the tables with feasts. We had loud and lively parties. We ate food samples from vegetable and yoghurt vendors in farmer’s markets. We tried on boots and coats, and we conversed with migratory traders from neighboring and exotic countries. We picked apples from apple trees and then lugged sacks of apples on trains back to our home, where we could then make a year’s supply of apple jelly. There were apple cakes, apples on bread, apples coming out of our ears!
Take time when you are young, and love people in a different culture. Oh! Do not let yourself grow old without having done this!
I have heard that when people grow old, learning becomes more difficult. Our five senses are at their peak in early childhood, when God designed language learning to come easily. So decades later, we try with much effort to capture some of that when we call upon our senses to engage with a new place, a new person, a new thing.
Today my daughter was licking ice cream off her spoon. Oh, the look of delight and excitement on her face. What would it be like if we took some of that essence of delight, and used it as a spice to liven up our world, to enlarge our horizons beyond our boring selves?
I wonder whom we could impact with this attitude of zest for life and adventure spirit? I can see children, and youths. Old people, have you become hardened in the routines and structures of life? Take some time and reawaken the child within, and then let the love of Christ flow outward to energize the people around you.
Touch. There are some lonely people in your lives. Give them a hug. It has been a long day for someone in my family. No words are necessary. Just a gentle touch on their shoulder, a gentle look of encouragement.
- No, you do not have to say much. Just listen to their stories. Listen.
See. As I close my eyes, I can see the look of weariness upon that woman’s face as she stepped off the bus. She did not need to tell me that she was tired. It simply showed.
Smell. Smell can be such a welcoming thing. When someone special comes into your home, are you welcoming them with the smell of their favorite food? And then finally, taste.
Jesus welcomes the little children into His arms. Let us take a hint from Jesus. Look at the children. They have such unshackled use of their five senses! With their five senses, they experience and touch Jesus; they experience and touch the world. They easily receive love from Jesus, which they easily give to others. We can do the same.
My heart has been embraced by the love of Jesus, and Jesus used people from around the world to embrace me as they opened up my world. Allow God’s love to touch you, and others, as you step into the lives of people who are…different from you. Through them you will be comforted, inspired. These friends will be your treasures. Through them, your heart will be at home, as you open up your child soul within.