Our PrayerReach team got a little break in the Southeast Asian monsoon rains about 9 o’clock this morning so we went for a walk through a few nearby villages. As we approached Yaung Myi village we could see quite a commotion going on at the monastery. Tinny music blared from the monastery loudspeakers as a very long line of crimson-robed, barefoot monks processed clockwise around the temple. Brightly dressed village women ladled heaping spoons of rice into their alms bowls while the young men of the village walked along beside the monks carrying large wicker baskets suspended on bamboo poles — two-to-the-basket — reminiscent of the biblical spies bringing the grape clusters back from the Promised Land. The baskets quickly filled with other foodstuffs – cooking oil, seasoning, bottles of soy sauce, and sundry other foodstuffs. Soe, a local primary school teacher, seeing our inquisitiveness explained, “This is the Festival of Waso Celebration. It happens only once a year on the full moon in July. There are over 300 monks living at this monastery.”
Being here in Yaung Myi this morning among all these monks slowly walking around the temple, among all the villagers who walked to the celebration from their homes, and among the men walking away with the collected goods reminds me of Japanese missionary and theologian Kosuke Koyama’s essay Three Mile an Hour God. In this essay Koyama elucidates how when God came to earth in human form he moved along at three miles per hour, the speed of walking. How at this pace Jesus truly saw and interacted with the people around him. How Jesus was never in a rush to ‘convert’ the people he encountered. Koyama contrasts this with how “we live today an efficient and speedy life.” We want results and we want them now so that we can quickly move on to the next thing. Koyama posits, and I agree, that our western need for efficient and speedy results is the main reason western missionaries have been so ineffective in planting sustainable, Christ-centered churches within relational cultures of Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
But Koyama says, “I find God goes ‘slowly’ in his educational process of man.” And as he is closing his essay he adds, “God walks slowly because he is love. If he is not love he would have gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is ‘slow’ yet it is Lord over all other speeds since it is the speed of love.”
The Holy Spirit led our PrayerReach team to walk to Yaung Myi at just the right time to be with all of these monks and villagers as their hearts and minds were turned toward spiritual matters. Our PrayerReach team’s three mile-per-hour pace allowed us to ‘withness’ at the pace of their lives rather than ours.