I arrive in the little “old town” tourist area a half hour before class. It is 9:30 in the morning and the sleepy little town is just waking up. Merchants are opening stores, vendors are selling steamed buns and ladies are washing their hair in buckets outside their shops. I like to walk through the area and pray before my class. It’s quiet and peaceful.
I arrive at the unreached people group’s location – a Tibetan restaurant. It’s the home of many different kinds of Yak meat, yak cheese and yak butter. On the outside, it looks a little garish compared to the understated local-style buildings. In the front, there is a sign with pictures of yaks, the Potala Palace in Lhasa and various dishes. This is surrounded by Tibetan prayer flags, stones with good wishes and a Yak’s skull at the top. The building is surrounded by Tibetan prayer flags and prayer wheels. It’s a splash of color in a grayish little town.
Class is scheduled at 10 am, but my student, who I will call Tashi (a common Tibetan name meaning “good luck”) doesn’t usually arrive until a little after that. He is in his mid-20s and handsome. He works at the restaurant as a singer and musician. He is not from this area, but from a province to the north of us where his parents are Yak herders.
I met Tashi six months ago when I brought some guests to his restaurant. As we answered the normal questions about where we were from, what we are doing and our relationship with the Dalai Lama (another story), I told Tashi that I was an English teacher. He expressed interest in learning English and I saw an open door.
Tashi is a good student. He really wants to learn and learns quickly. His English is basic, so a lot of our conversation must be in Chinese. It is stretching my language skills. We have class upstairs in the restaurant and regularly have some of his workmates drop in to see what is going on.
After class, Tashi and his boss usually invite me to stay for lunch. As we eat, they talk a lot. I struggle to understand what is being said. They switch between Mandarin Chinese, Tibetan and local dialect. Sometimes I get the main ideas, sometimes I am clueless. They put food in my bowl and encourage me to eat more. I feel like I have a Tibetan family I am joining into. Recently, the boss and his wife had their first baby, I brought gifts and struggled to know what was culturally appropriate to say or do.
Hiking together, playing basketball, bringing him to our house to eat strange Western food, eating Tibetan food. These are ways we are learning more about each other. The first time Tashi came to our house, was a day of firsts for him. He said he had never been in a foreigner’s house before and had never used a fork.
Perhaps he had never heard a Christian pray, because when I told him we would “daogao” before the meal, he didn’t know what that was. I told him we would talk with God. He seemed unsure about it all.
After the meal, Tashi just hung out at our house. He is a musician, so when I told him the kids would have guitar lessons that afternoon, he wanted to stay and watch. He sat through the classes, which were filled with worship songs to God, eating pieces of my wife’s chocolate cake.
Since that time, my relationship with Tashi and his coworkers has grown. His boss has talked to me about Buddhism and Christianity. He is trying to get my wife to start a business selling cake and bread. Relationships are being built, day by day. I struggle to know how to share the good news and how to be the good news. At the moment, this is what reaching the unreached looks like to me.
For me it’s less about going to some far-off village, but more about seeking the people around me who may never have a chance to hear about the Good News found in Jesus Christ. It’s about being in their lives so I can have the privilege of sharing that Good News with them. It might seem easier, but it some ways it’s more difficult. It requires consistent time with them. It requires time and patience. It requires being present.
At least I am drinking a lot of Yak butter tea!
Please continue to pray for us as we drink Yak butter tea to reach the unreached. Also consider joining the Monthly Prayer and Financial Support Team.