On recent visit to an area where I had never really been before, I was faced with the task of how to enter into a couple of new cities. I saw the importance of the role of a guide because they were from that city and could speak the same language culturally and linguistically.
The first instance was in a small city in the south of Spain. It was about 11:00 am and time for some much needed coffee. We entered into this small city where almost 75 percent of the people that I observed were from North Africa. They work in the migrant agriculture fields there. Because of the economy many do not have jobs now. There was a construction boom going on in Spain and now it has busted. So a lot of construction workers are jobless, and they spend their time hanging out during the normal work hours hoping to find work. We were walking around the street looking for a place to go for coffee. Our leader enters into a Tea house and comes out with the owner who has a big smile on his face. We were welcomed into the tea house. The owner makes us some great tea and some awesome Moroccan pastries. As he sits down and talks with us, the thought struck me that the reason we had that experience was because our guide, our person of influence, introduced us to the gatekeeper if you will of that crowded bar. Because he welcomed us others also welcomed us.
The second instance was in another city. Again, it was time for coffee or tea. I do not mind if it is coffee or tea as long as it is strong and caffeinated. This time our host for the trip enlisted the help of a guide from that country. I made a couple of observations. We entered into a place and he introduces us and lets the owner know we are good people and honest people. We are instantly welcomed into conversations and taken care of. The second observation was that our guide only stayed with us half of the day. As we walked through the city or “medina,” with our guide, people watched us but they did not really approach us asking us to buy things or give them money. As soon as our guide left us, we became the target of many people coming to talk with us and ask us to buy things or give them things. We had lost our guide. We had lost the person who connected us to the culture.
I am learning just how important introductions are. I recall the story of Levi the tax collector found in Luke 5:27 - 29
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
To me this is one example in scripture where we see how people introduce us into their circles of friends or family. It is what is called their “oikos” in the New Testament. Levi invited Jesus into his relationship network. I think it is important as we try to missionally live out our lives that we connect with people who can introduce us into the community. What I loved about this particular story in scripture was not that Levi tried to bring his people to Jesus but that he invited Jesus to his people. As I observe the church today I think we far too often expect people to come to us to meet Jesus instead of meeting them where they are living.