Running Towards Chaos

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As I’ve been sharing over the past few months in various articles, I am slowly working my way through historian Eugene Herbert Bolton’s 1936 book Rim of Christendom about the missionary adventures of 17th century Jesuit missionary Father Kino. On many levels I’m torn as I read it every morning. Let me share …

I’m torn on one hand because Kino’s missionary journey’s went hand-in-hand with colonialist expansion in New Spain. In particular, Kino spent his missionary career in what is today Sonora, Mexico and Arizona. Often times when he’d make contact with new villages there were soldiers with him. Since different tribes were at war with one another (Apaches would raid Pimas, etc) then there were issues of safety. Everything was also done under the umbrella of the crown of Spain.

On the other hand Kino’s journals give us a snapshot of what life was like for all of the tribes and villages he’d come across. Often times he’d pen observations like, “we arrived at the village and the people were on the verge of starvation.” This was a harsh desert climate. Kino then in turn would help by establishing ranches with many head of cattle and sheep as well as introduce new farming techniques. No wonder why 300 years later he is still a beloved and revered figure in these same communities and tribes today.

But what continues to strike me was his propensity to run (or travel on horseback) towards chaos. Well-educated, Kino could’ve lived a cozy life and had a highly respected job in the halls of academia in Italy, Austria, or Germany. Instead, like many of his contemporaries, he jettisoned any sense of self-preservation. He was smitten with a deep love for those who have never heard the good news. Yes, we can certainly poke holes into his contextualization efforts. I know the same will be said of us hundreds of years down the road. So what does this mean for today?

Kino’s only career aspirations were tied to those whom he loved. He chose to run towards the chaos of the unknown. That seems a far cry from our highly professionalized ministry world of today. And YES, Kino was a “professional” missionary and undergirded by the treasury of Spain. But he left it all and slipped off the map of history. But in actuality this is what pioneers and explorers do.

I live in the city. There are needs everywhere. Chaos reigns. And when I say “chaos” I’m NOT referring to people, but the deeper systemic issues that have swept up many people down a tumultuous river … poverty, racism, human trafficking, hunger, limited educational or economic opportunities, exploitation, marginalization, voicelessness. And yet church planting today seems to fashion itself with the glitz and glamor of the today’s world. We’re about our social media footprint … followers, likes, retweets, etc. If Kino was alive today, he’d be “one of those” who ditched his social media and focused on the marginalized. Obviously you don’t need to ditch yours to do so (but maybe you don’t need to tell the whole world when you help people).

What’s the point? What chaos are you running towards? What chaos am I running towards? Where are the needs before us? Those could be found in cities among those cast off or rural areas in places in need of economic development.