Saturday, December 16, 2006

Now that's inclusive

Here's a passage that got me very excited a few years ago, from the book of Revelation. It's a vision of heaven:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne
Revelation 7.9 (emphasis mine)
Why did I find this so significant?

Well, it turns out that there are a lot of ethnic and linguistic minorities in the world. Folks from Wycliffe Bible Translators make this point a lot in their literature, so I guess I've known that for a couple of decades anyway. But a few years ago, Carol and I were involved with some folks from one of these ethnic minorities.

Perhaps you've heard of the Hmong? Well, we were involved with a much smaller group, the Mien, a people with their own language, but no literature (no written language until 50 years ago) and no country of their own. About 25,000 of them live in the United States. In the whole world there are probably not more than 1-2 million; they live in China, Viet Nam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia — most of them beyond the reach of the usual mission agencies. Most of them follow an animistic religion and live in fear of evil spirits. I mean they actually sacrifice chickens as part of, say, a wedding ceremony. I mean now, today, in the 21st century.

Will these people be set free from this spiritual captivity? We were at a christian camp for Mien youth, and the passage above really spoke to me, because the Apostle John saw these people from every nation and language. And they didn't all get assimilated -- in John's vision he could tell that people were there from every tribe and tongue and nation. Which means that the Mien people will not be absent from this party, and also that they will not just be assimilated by whatever country they happen to live in; their culture won't disappear.

I got kinda choked up talking about this at that camp, because I could feel the anxiety some of them had about disappearing, being assimilated, fading into the surrounding culture (or fading away). And here's a promise, an assurance that no, that won't happen.

And that applies to every tribe and tongue and nation, by the way. None will be lost forever.

And that’s inclusive!

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