I was talking with a Pastor friend at a coffee shop about the importance of a “sense of place” in a globalizing world. This is particularly relevant in Washington, DC, where many of our friends are , globe. We both came (Korea and Ireland) called love city of Washington DCmore questions than answersHow do you create roots constantly on the move? What if you have never had growing up, like many families in missionary, business, diplomatic, and military professions? Through this essay, I invite you to join conversation.
My friend Steve Garber calls me “the most global citizen” that he knows. Twelve years ago, I returned to Brazil to work at a global firm I wrote a short reflection piece on The Master Plan in Globalization, how believers participate in God’s act of scattering people history. personal mission statement: to become an agent of spiritual and social transformation in the lands that God scatters me. I never fully developed a personal philosophy of staying that integrates with the calling of being scattered.
The inspiration sense of this came from Wendell Berry’s books, such as The Humane Vision. His writings are a breath of fresh air to urbanites and globetrotters alike. Wendell deconstructs modern assumptions about the good life and appeals for the love of the familiararticulating an integrated worldview around the themes of land, fidelity, and community fast paced world. But I struggled to connect myself, affirmation global (or urban) vocations. Fortunately, Mark Bttman from The New York Times, a similar question to Berry: what can urban (or global) people to do to change the current course of events, namely the march of industrialism that replaces people with technology and concentrates power and wealth in the hands of plutocracy? Berry’s answer is revealing:
“The main thing is realize that country people can’t invet a better agriculture by ourselves. Industrial agriculture wasn’t invented by us, and we can’t uninvent it. We’ll need some help with that.”
Here, Wendell points to the principle of faithfulness and living a life that is implicated, particularly to lands, one’s personal roots.Something clicked after seeing this response, leading me to a of insights:
1. The importance of fidelity to the land, places, and people . Residence matters. to keep track of all the places and people, there are ways to faithful to . This includes creating space and room for revisiting these caring, and implicating to the roots by serving in causes and maintaining key relationships. It also involve planning vcations, sabbaticals, and assignments that enable greater interaction with these cities. But life is messy, with many curveballs and roads. Many people luxury of returning, and often give up as the opportunities never seem to . Wendell’s writings helped me realize how important it is to not give up on physically and mentallyfor the lands we througheven the resources of each location to support other (e.g. linking Ecuador’s farmers with DC’s ethnic markets). I suspect even small doses of consistency to principle of “returning” enable global calling roots.
Among all places, current residence is of particular prophet Jeremiah in Babylon: “to seek the peace and prosperity (Shalom) of the city to which I carried them into exile” (Jer. 29:7). A global citizen is not excused from being implicated in the affairs of the local city. Washington, DC the the poor and the homelessmargins. I am still out how this new sense of obligation implicate me greater involvement the cityI suspect involves immigrant communities, particularly serving those groups closer to my roots (Korean and Latin), or integrating immigrant communities roots through my work (e.g. linking farmers and food exporters in Ecuador to Korean-Latin food distribution chains in the greater DC area). This is an extension of the Pauline concept of the churcha body with different gifts one another
2. Building affection and memories as a global citizen: community, food, and surroundings. Fidelity and responsibility are not mechanical responses. They often grow out of affection and shared memories to people and places. Reading deliberately , , and areas towards others: community, food, land and surroundings. These are interconnected: few things evoke stronger longing than moments enjoyed as a shared memory with old friends and/or family, often involving a particular type of food. For example, the flavor of grapes are unlike any other. Every time I taste evokes a powerful emotion. The same goes for the bread and dairy products made in Brazi. As a child, I remember walking to the bakery with the sound of church bells echoing re-connec with over a meal, to countryside, and re-hear soundMoreover, new memories and connect in creative waysuch a (e.g. family weddings) that incorporates different traditions (e.g. Korea, Latin, and American), or taking time to a visit by family and old friends to the DC area. Creating and protecting such moments of intimacysome filled with laughter over a dinner table, others with quiet sounds of cracking wood next to a fireplacereinforce the sense the sense of responsibility to people and places as grows.
3. The tension between two kingdoms. Affection for land, places, and a shared sense of identity has been the source of some of humankind’s greatest joys but also the breeding ground . Raci and ethnic trace back to a blind passion towards such . But a rejection of such affections to create the blnd, utopian, and multicultural (unicultural?) world of peace envisioned by John Lennon’s Imagine, or Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, is not a solution either. “rootless cosmopolitan” So how roots on earth with the call towards an inclusive Kingdom of God all tribes and nations?
My friend, animated by this conversation, coffee. He suggests the followingby building a spiritual home. Personal retreats and sabbaths are critical for this purpose. Recently, as a result of such sabbath, I revised my mission statement (the first change in fifteen years) “to be faithful”: to become an agent of spiritual and social transformation in the lands that God scatters me to be faithful. I did not invent faithfupart of my mission statement, but detected it, it was always there. The small edit, however, has profound consequences in how I look at and respond to life.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis points out that affection can become if left unchecked. Building a sense of place on earthwith all its profound longings and instincts towards one’s rootscan become a sacrament,or excrement filled with bigotry. We live between these two extreme possibilities. Building a sense of place for global (and urban) citizens a prudent balance of fidelity, nurturing affection, and building a heavenly home in the inner being. sense of place on earth a powerful shadow, of the real home yet to come. As Lewis put it, even paper crowns have their proper usethe presence of such affections increase our appetite for heaven.