I have mentioned in several of my previous blog posts that our unique perspective impacts us deeply. Our vantage point and context for living inform us in ways that we often only understand in hindsight.
Many writers today talk about globalization and the shrinking of our world. I have had the privilege of watching many of these changes unfold from a front row seat. For the first fifteen years of my life, I lived primarily outside the United States. As an adult, I have traveled to countries as varied as Liberia, Thailand and Azerbaijan. Each place has shaped me and my view of the world.
As a boy growing up in Trinidad, I fondly remember our family reading letters from my grandparents that took three week to arrive. Now, that same kind of communication with my brother, who lives in Panama, takes place instantaneously via Skype. There is no question that this ability to connect immediately with people in almost any corner of the world has radically changed the way we live. How ironic it was to discover that cell phone coverage and internet access existed in Liberia in 2008 (when I last visited) when public running water and electricity did not.
It is no wonder then that the encroachment of the gospel in written form via the Bible and evangelical Christian books is so strongly resisted in certain parts of the world today. We used to refer to certain countries in the Soviet Union and other communist nations as closed countries. Today, with the exception of North Korea, the concept of a closed country does not make much sense in spite of the attempts of some to block access to parts of the internet. The ability for the gospel to reach into these distant places is greater than ever.
Despite this, or maybe because of it, there is great pressure on the ground to ban Christian books or filter Christian content in some countries. While Christian radio and the internet are making incredible impacts in places where missionaries are not allowed, they are not sufficient. A local presence or place where people can come and ask questions, get Christian resources and find a physical Bible is more important than ever. This is especially true in nations where they proclaim religious freedom, but do not practice it in reality.
With all of this information about Christianity widely available, people have lots of new questions and need someone to help them understand what they are hearing and reading – in some cases for the first time. We live in a world where there are many people just like the Ethiopian eunuch in the Bible waiting to find their Philip so that they can make sense of who Jesus is and why God loves them.
I have the joy of working with brave people all over the world who open the doors to CLC Christian resource centers every day and step into this breach. Many of these folks work in places once considered closed to the gospel and that are still hostile to Christianity. They recommend good books, provide Bibles, pray with people and answer questions of eternal import.
Occasionally, I am asked if organizations like CLC, Wycliffe and others are needed in this age of instant access to communication and information. Having been on the front row of globalization for a while now, I can say with confidence that it makes a world of difference if a local Christian resource center exists or not.
As I consider the future, it strikes me that this globalization has also produced a worldwide over-saturation of information and in many places a sense of communication overload. There is a growing skepticism of the status quo and a desire for truth and authenticity in people’s lives. The little CLC outposts in these distant lands provide the ideal place for conversations to take place about what all of this means – one book, one person and one transformed life at a time.