Make-up artists fuss around you, patting powder on your shiny face and touching up your lipstick. Hairdressers curl your split ends and spray them perfectly in place. Guards, metal detectors and even solders are everywhere. Everyday citizens in the studio audience pose for photos with you. Reporters interview you, cameras flash … but stop … it is time...…
Welcome to this televised competition. The aim of the show is to build bridges of communication and friendship between this modern nation and the rest of the world.
Some of the world’s brightest young people are here, competing for scholarships to prestigious universities, wanting to get their name known, to climb the career ladder or just to improve their language skills. Intelligent, confident, talented young people from Egypt, Sudan, Poland, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Norway, Togo, South Africa, Benin, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Laos, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Estonia, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Nepal, North Korea, Chile and more have gathered here.
And there is one middle-aged very ordinary woman from a ‘Bible-belt’ corner of the world.
How did this happen?
She is just a ‘plain Jane’ in her home country, with the same joys and struggles as anyone else. But here she shines. She loves her adopted country, has chosen to live here for as long as a welcome and the accompanying visa are offered, and does her best to learn the language and culture of these people who will soon be watching the TV show. And that is how she comes to feature in this show, being ‘light and salt’ in this part of the world. The bonus is that she also gets to be that amongst the community of foreign students who have gathered together to compete.
Why would a woman who does not even own a bottle of mascara choose to submit to all this filming, cheering, getting made up, and knowing that she is just a pawn, albeit an exotic one, in a multi-million dollar entertainment industry?
I ask myself that question even now. For that woman is me.
First, it is all about relationships. The favour of my university and the international friendship association is important to me, and this competition is important to them. And so I came.
Second, it is part of a bigger ‘call’. I had recently prayed for direction about my role in this part of the world. The word ‘bridge’ kept coming up; this competition was just a part of it. Two hours of prime TV time is going to go a long way in raising the profile of myself and those with whom I work. It seems that I am privileged to have been given a clear ‘call’, not to be a travelling evangelist, a famous singer nor a passionate preacher, but just a plain old bridge … albeit a somewhat unusual bridge.
The third reason was God’s, not mine, and is like the icing on the cake. I know people who live in places such as Yemen, Tajikistan or Laos, but how many people do you know who spend 17 intense days eating, sleeping, working and having fun with people from these and other ‘creative access’ nations, let alone play ‘mother’ to many of them? A Muslim girl suitably covered sidles up to me. “Please, I need a hug.” A Korean student shares excitedly about her morning quiet time and the word given especially to her by our Father. Over a meal, a Hindu young woman talks about her family, exuding both joy and loneliness. Waiting together in the hallway, a Russian girl pulls out her iPhone and produces a picture of her mother, showing me, this middle-aged would-be-contestant, how much I look like her mum. Two Kazakh guys, most definitely a couple, walk either side of me, ‘debriefing’ after a long day.
It was not really my choice to be an oddity here, someone strange and fascinating, worthy of being the subject of a TV show … but I did agree. And I’m so glad I did.
The world needs Christ.
We Christians have the means to go to parts of the world which we think are ‘exotic’ ... only to find out that we are the exotic ones here.
It’s a privilege.
And it is an unparalleled opportunity to be salt and light in a world that so desperately needs a Saviour.
Come, Christians. Leave your ‘comfort zone’ and be exotic for a season.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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