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Some people believe you are what you do.  This is common among many cultures that buy in to an ethic of working that equals identity.  Someone else, probably a nutritionist, once said, “You are what you eat!”  I am fairly certain that means you become stronger if you eat foods fortified with vitamins and minerals that help your body and mind become strong and function well.    It doesn’t mean as of breakfast I am scrambled eggs, Raisin Bran, and orange juice.

As a recent immigrant to Hong Kong, I have been thinking a lot about what I eat lately.  I also have been thinking about who, what, and how I have been in the past, and who I am becoming.  I see these issues as only part of a myriad of challenges and changes my family and I have been making recently.  I’ll admit these changes and transitions are perhaps the main reason I recently decided to follow the Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, Esau, and Joseph stories in a sermon series at IBCHK.   In story after story related to these “characters” God did not lead them, nor does he always lead us on the shorter roads.  I’ve been preaching on the “ripple effect” recently and the way our actions, for good or for evil, have consequences beyond our lives into future generations.

For those of you who read and are students of relationships between the differing cultures, especially Eastern and Western cultures, you may wish to read Derek Chang’s book titled, Citizens of a Christian Nation. Chang tracks what was called “the Negro problem” and the “Chinese question” in American society after the “War Between the States.”  (I have a difficult time calling it by the traditional name!  By the way, I know people in the Southern states who still call it, “The War of Northern Aggression!”)  Chang says only a handful of persons in or out of the church in America prophetically and consistently spoke of equality for all people during a heightened time of immigration to the US.

This example, and a myriad of other social issues in our world even now leads me to believe with all my heart we still must hear a word from the Lord about who we are and how we treat each other, because the way we relate has a definite ripple effect.

What does this have to do with the book of Exodus?  Thanks for asking:

  • The way we relate to others, even and especially those with major differences, speaks volumes about who we are, not just how we are or what we do.  This can and does cause major ripple effects in all effected lives, and on out to future generations.
  • After Jacob was born “usurping” or “supplanting” his brother’s heal the competition and conflict did not end, and a violent ripple effect began.
  • When Rebekah helped Jacob in the plot to deceive her husband, Isaac, and steal the blessing from Jacob’s brother, Esau, the ripple effect did not end.
  • When Jacob was deceived by his father-in-law, Laban, and tricked into marrying Leah while loving Rachel, the ripple effect did not end, and it has not ended.

What does this have to do with my family moving to Hong Kong?  Our dear family friend, Sybil Holveck, who once helped call us to San Angelo, Texas and Southland Baptist church, addressed it this way.  As we were leaving Southland Baptist and San Angelo to go to Dallas and work with the Texas Baptist Laity Institute, Sybil made a 90 mile trip to Abilene.  While there she took a picture of the Ponca Motel, complete with the Indian head sign out front on South 1st.  That was the motel my grandmother and grandfather owned and operated for over twenty years.  Underneath the picture of the Ponca Motel Sybil wrote these words: “The places that we’ve been and the people we have known are all a part of who we are…and who we are becoming!”  Rubbing off on, bumping into, and interacting with each other has a profound “ripple effect!”

The U.S.A. would not have become the nation it is without the contributions of persons of color from Africa and other places, or the people from what is often called “the Far East.”  And as in the story of Jacob and Joseph, even the rotten choices and the selfish and shameful deeds of sinful men and women provide opportunities for repentance, restitution and the growing conviction that God uses it all.

So to paraphrase my dear friend Sybil, “The good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the saints and the sinners are all on a road to what and who we are becoming, in the providence of God’s presence.”

Making Waves,
Dan Williams, Sr. Pastor IBCHK
dan@ibc.org.hk