This past week I had an amazing opportunity to fly down to the Dominican Republic with an organization called The Initiative. The Initiative is a leadership based program that helps students put their faith in to action. We took a team down to the Dominican to teach a school how to use The Initiative program and implement it in to their school. The response was overwhelming and the students were ecstatic by the end of the 3 day conference.
While in the DR I got to experience a completely different way of life. Our house had no hot water, people ride small motorcycles and scooters everywhere, and the terrain is much different from where I live in New Jersey. Out of all of the many differences, there was one blaring similarity. I realized more and more how the Kingdom of God is the same no matter where I go. There are people in completely different cultures worshipping the same God. These people are our brothers and sisters, people we are spending eternity with, people who are wrecked by the Gospel and compelled to give their lives to it.
One of the most sincere people I met (even though I only met him for a short while) was a pastor working in a part of the Dominican called the rails. The rails is an extremely poor community. The people live in small huts with no plumbing, most of the kids walk around barefoot, and it was clear this area was extremely poor. Little kids ran up to me grabbing my hand and tugging on my beard calling me Santa Clause. Other kids ran up to some of the girls on my team grabbing their hand and not letting go the whole time. This was where the pastor devoted his life. With help, he built a church that he sleeps in, and devotes his time to helping the community around him. At the end of our visit we gathered around him and laid hands on him, praying for his work. It was a moment where we all realized that we were united in Christ, that this man is our brother, doing the work of the same God I serve here in the states. What a sobering moment.
During our time walking through the rails, we got to sit down with 30 or so people (mostly children) and sing songs praising God for His goodness. If there is ever a time where you get hit with the reality of how God’s kingdom is all inclusive it is in times like that. We were in the middle of tiny huts, surrounded by people that had no money and were barely scraping by, worshipping the same Jesus who gives us all the same hope.
The rest of our time was fantastic. The conference we put on for the students was received extremely well and we got to know these students as people. We worked with a couple named Mitch and Debbie who devoted their lives to reaching the people of the Dominican. They are radicals, people who gave up their life in the states to become like the people of the Dominican to reach them for the gospel. God has blessed their ministry immensely, and it was great working with them.
I want to get back to my point. The Kingdom of God is so diverse and inclusive. Sometimes it’s hard to see that in the states. Being so jaded by political affiliation and other things, we think sometimes that being a Christian means that people have to be like us, that they have to think the way we think, and if they don’t, then they know don’t fully understand being a Christian. This at times, can’t be further from the truth. God’s kingdom is way beyond us. Heaven is going to be such a diverse place full of different cultures, full of different ways of living life all under the banner of God and His kingdom. Jesus expands beyond our suburbs, our nice and neat church buildings that we spend so much money on. Jesus goes way beyond the limits we put on Him.
Right now, as I type this, there are millions and millions of my brothers and sisters worshipping God, living life with Jesus in a much different way than I do here in the states. The best part? That’s ok. We must begin to realize that there are other worlds beyond the States, that we don’t always do things the best, and that we can learn from other Christians in other cultures.
One of the most shocking things I learned while in the Dominican Republic was hearing Debbie tell me about groups who come from the states and come with an attitude of superiority. Debbie told me about a guy who would call the Dominican people stupid and try to correct everything that he thought they did wrong. Another group that was coming in said that they need pizza every night and that they don’t want to eat any Dominican food. What a shame that sometimes we travel to other parts of the world with arrogance and pride. Thinking that we have the corner of doing things right and that everyone else (especially people in third world countries) are not as smart or as intelligent. Pride is something that God hates, and we need to rid ourselves of it and walk in humility, always looking to learn wherever we are, and help when we are needed.
I talk about the Kingdom a lot because it is what Jesus talks about a lot. Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God over and over in the Gospels. The Kingdom is tangible, it is everywhere, and it is the future. Eternity will be spent with God in his kingdom, in His world, and He has entrusted us, his sons and daughters with being agents of that Kingdom. We are called to be Little Christs, and Christ modeled the Kingdom life for us. He constantly told us what it looks like, what it feels like, and what it’s going to be like. We are called to represent that Kingdom with our lives. That means putting aside everything else and making it our priority. Christ offers us new life, and that life is the Kingdom of God. Everywhere we walk, the Kingdom is walking. It doesn’t matter if we live in the rails, or in New York City, it is the same kingdom, the same God, and the same freedom.