Isn’t Jesus a Western god?
By Alfinda Herman | Wycliffe Today March 2020
Alfinda and her husband Aidan are preparing to head to Eastern Europe with their two young sons to work among the Roma people in North Macedonia. During one of their church visits, Alfinda was chatting with a Chinese student, Dean*. Alfinda explains:
Dean had been attending church for a while but when I asked him if he trusted in Jesus, he answered ‘No, I grew up in China. Jesus doesn’t feel real to me. I think he is a Western god’.
Dean’s reply gives insight into one of the challenges of cross-cultural gospel ministry, whether in Australia or overseas. When a person encounters Christ in a culture different from their own, and through a second (or third) language, the question of identity is a big deal.
New believers may face some sort of identity crisis. They may grapple with questions such as: Does becoming a Christian mean becoming Western (or a culture that is perceived to be ‘Christian’)? Can I be as authentically Christian when I’m in my own culture?
In the Roma (Gypsy) context, the topic of identity is close to their hearts, and is deeply intertwined with language. During the Communist era in Eastern Europe, the Roma were forbidden to speak their own language, Romani. Many Roma carry a great deal of shame about their language and heritage. One Roma even said, ‘God would not want to speak our language’.
RK*, a Roma Christian leader, said for a long time he did not speak Romani because of the shame impressed on him since childhood. But in recent years, partly because of his encounter with the work of Bible translation into Romani, he has been exploring how reading Scriptures in Romani speaks to him more deeply and helps him see more clearly that Jesus is Lord of the Roma too.
The question of identity has roots that run deep, and discipleship across cultures requires taking the time and energy to explore it. Please pray for God’s work among the Roma and the cross-cultural gospel work here in Australia. Pray that Dean will understand that Jesus is also the Lord of the Chinese and will come to trust in him.
To support the Hermans in their work among the Roma people, go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/aidan-alfinda/.
*Name changed for privacy reasons