Visiting a country always highlights the contrast between what is “local” and everything else. Often, there are two types of services. The first is export oriented, even as it is sold and delivered locally. The target audience is likely an expatriate. Since price discovery is limited, the price paid is higher than the alternative. The service descriptions are written in a way that is understood and appeals to the taste of the target audience. Even the way it is wrapped changes; as an example, coffee shops are air conditioned, bright, and have clear non-smoking sections.
In contrast, there are the local outlets. Air conditioning is optional. The language is geared for the local consumer. Everything – sugar, textures, and delivery – focused on what the local consumer expects. It is a very different product or service.
When one first arrives, understanding takes more than just the facts. One can read a menu without having a clue on what one should (or should not) order. One can see the product without understanding its use or potential danger. With someone that understands the local customs, culture, and attitude, everything changes.
When I read how a community said “we have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul,” (Acts 15.25) I know they were there to clarify a message that could be misunderstood. The individuals were part of the communication; they were the locals.
Many try to introduce themselves to God and in turn discover what God is about. In the process, they are looking for a “local” that can help guide and provide insights. Rarely are they giving up their freedom of choice. Rather they are looking for an individual to help them understand. The process can be difficult. How does one respect the authenticity of the journey without trying to get a result? Can one clarify without selling? Is guidance without demands possible?
I have had some wonderful local experiences. In each, my local guide was crucial to the process. It can be true with God as well.
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