15FebOur mission opportunity today with the Bell People
- Category:Around the Episcopal Church
- Written By:The Rev. Loren Fox
“Can I still be a Bell if I’m a Christian?” James asked himself when he accepted Christ. It’s a question that troubles new Bell believers in S.E. Asia.
James is a good-looking young Asian man in his mid-twenties. He joked around with our small survey team from Florida and Virginia last summer as we met his buddies in an English school they’d started.
The recurring phrase in our conversations was, “I am local people.” This was how these young Bell men and women introduced themselves. Most of them grew up in remote mountain villages, but attended college in the big city. It was in college that this group of students had met waiguoren (literally ‘outside people’) who introduced them to Christ.
This local connection was what we as a survey team were interested in.
Over pizza one night, we sat and listened as they told us stories about their families and friends. One young woman made her family proud by studying at college, but her father threatened to burn her Bible if she became a Christian. Another Bell student worried about whether he could respect his ancestors without worshipping them. A third said that a local government official was pressurizing her friend to reveal who the local Christians were. “You have wisdom as a Christian,” she said, “but you can’t tell lies.” She does not know what to do if she is questioned.
These young Bell twenty-somethings are emerging as leaders from impoverished, remote, mountain communities. They search for jobs in cities far away from their parents. This is tough enough as an ethnic minority, but it’s even harder as a minority Christian. As new Christians—often the first in their families-- they often don’t know other believers in these massive cities and may not have opportunities for discipleship and support.
Yet this support is crucial to their growth as they grapple with the challenges of being Bell Christians, a minority within a minority. How do these new believers embrace their identity in Christ without abandoning their cultural heritage, which is already under attack? What parts of the Christian faith are the same for all people everywhere, and which parts are expressed differently in different places? If James and his friends love Jesus, are they still Bell people?
The Rev. Loren Fox, rector of Church of Our Saviour, Palm Bay and Julian Linnell, Executive Director of Anglican Frontier Missions, invite your participation in two upcoming opportunities in 2013 amongst the Bell People. Would you consider becoming a prayer partner for the Bell People to know Jesus Christ? Would you consider serving on a team this August to lead a children’s camp amongst Bell families? Would you consider learning more about the Bell People, and another related people group called the Miao People, in late September of this year?
Author: Loren Fox and Julian Linnell