I was driving down the road in England when I had my first experience of culture shock. It wasn’t driving on the left side of the road. It wasn’t seeing fields of sheep instead of cows. It wasn’t the small cars, narrow roads, and never-ceasing roundabouts. It wasn’t the architecture, accent, or the food. My first experience of culture shock happened in a town outside of Birmingham, named Alum Rock.
A couple of hours previous, we had just met our new friends who are ministering in another suburb of Birmingham. We went for a tour of the city to see the opportunities for ministry and to get an understanding of what life is like in that area. Our friend drove us through Alum Rock to give us a taste of what life is really like. You see, Alum Rock is 90% Muslim. If you were blindfolded, and plopped down in the middle of that village, you would be tempted to say you were in Pakistan. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’d experienced London a few days prior and had been through a number of smaller English towns and quaint villages, so I thought I had a taste of England. This was a flavor, I had never seen or experienced before. No one ever goes to England and visits Alum Rock, I can promise you that.
It was during this drive that I felt completely overwhelmed by the gospel need of this town, but I didn’t know where to even begin. My mind couldn’t process what church and ministry would be like in this neighborhood. In this part of Birmingham, there are a few small churches, and abundant mosques. We drove by 2 of them that can hold thousands.
I’ll never forget Alum Rock or the drive that day, and I hope I never do. As I was processing all that we had experienced earlier in the day, I cried out to God to help me understand what I had seen. God in His perfect timing brought to mind a sermon I had heard earlier that week from Tim Chester about how the church must be a community of light because God is light, and in this world is great darkness.
What a powerful truth! The best place to be sometimes may be the darkest. Not because the dark is good, but because it’s in the darkness that the smallest light has the greatest power.
As a child, I was afraid of the dark. I always had to have a nightlight on when I went to bed. In some ways, the darkness, spiritual darkness, still captivates my heart with fear. I hope that God will continue to give me the grace to push beyond this fear and go to places that need light the most.
You may be in a dark place emotionally, spiritually, or relationally. Our tendency is to run to false lights that promise hope and comfort. My prayer for us as a church today is that we would let the light of the gospel shine forth from us and that we would be willing to shine this light into the dark places around us.
Going to the dark places of this world is difficult, but it may be the best place where God is going to show you how great and powerful His light really is.