“The legend of your Asian Karaoke precedes you, Ben,” I said as we sat down with iced coffees to shield ourselves from the blazing hot sun. He laughs causally and says, “Well you gotta give it all to the mic and let it be the judge.” Mr. Cool Cat, okay. I asked him more about it and he just looks at me, sparkle in his eye and mischief in his smile:
"Eyewitness is the only witness to have."
This is Ben: he’s the kind of guy who really puts his whole self into something. The guys got all kinds of skills - he’s kind, obviously fun, and will really do anything for anyone without a second thought. He listens with eye contact that says, “You’re important. Thanks for sharing.” Ben’s gone to Asia twice, and would love to live there permanently.
From Ben’s perspective, although there’s an odd sense of normalcy in Asia, there’s really only an illusion of the American first world. Traffic does what it wants, not necessarily following road signs and lights; Pollution hits you in all your senses; If you ask for help, you’re soon surrounded by a crowd of rescuers; If you need to move something large, strangers on the street drop what they’re doing. It’s a collective culture: people watch out for each other and are always aware that they have something to offer to someone else.
I asked Ben, “Were you ever lonely on outreach?” He says, “If I’d let myself, I could have been.” There are so many people, but he explains they don’t tend to have a lot of friends. You have to work on outreach to not fall under the same feelings as the land's people. In Asia, everyone is trying so hard to honor their families and do their best that they keep up a facade, going to school seven days a week or working their brains out.
Deep connection isn’t common, and people crave relationships. Ben says with an eagerness about him, “If you show any interest in someone there, they jump on it, and you can normally hang out with them within a day.”
Now just imagine you’re walking down a busy street, surrounded by Asians, when you hear some guy with an East Coast accent singing in English. You glance through the cafe window and see a white, red-headed man through the smoke with a mic and guitar. Curiosity gets you, you enter: you see a group of Americans and Europeans chatting with some Asians, maybe hear young Asian kids gasping at the redhead’s hair, while another Asian feebly attempts to mix Mr. Cool Cat’s jammin’ tunes. It’s almost comical, and you might actually think you’re in the hip district of San Francisco or NYC for a minute...until you see some randomly placed Asian object on the cafe wall.
About five days a week Ben would play music in coffee shops like these - “It sets up relationships [for the outreach teams], because people are interested in you and really look for any excuse to talk, even if they can only gesture to communicate,” he says. They end up making friends of other musicians, shop owners, and patrons of the businesses.
In Asia, you don’t stand on a street corner and preach the Gospel, but there is a ton of liberty in relationships.
Ben says that a man - we’ll call him Jack - once came up to him and one of our DTS students and said, “I think I need something to believe in, because I don’t have anything.” Ben grins at me now and says, “It’s so easy, we just explain who God is, the Gospel, and how to hear God’s voice. You literally can’t fail.”
So this Jack starts hanging out with the team, and after a few weeks, brings a friend along: “Daniel needs to know who Jesus is. Will you tell him?” Three months later, Daniel was “choosing Jesus,” too.
The team would often have people come and share dreams of Jesus or the cross without having any idea of who God is. I ask Ben what it's like, describing Who the dream is about to someone who has no idea: "It's awesome." Remembering one of those moments in particular he says, “You know when light shines on something, and it bounces onto your eyes? It was like that. God’s love” was revealed to “this guy, and it bounced off him and we felt it.”
Ben says the very potential of the Audacious Gospel gets to him, and as he says this, a sense of awe fills the little tent we're meeting in.
“God is bigger,” he says in a way that lets me know he can’t fully find the words to express what he’s really feeling. “God is faithful beyond our ability...God isn't tied down or held by what we can do." Ben expects that if he simply gives God opportunity, God will show up. He’s seen it with Daniel, with Jack, and others.
The Audacity of the Gospel, 'It’s like the Jack in a Box is about to spring...It could pop up in any given moment, manifest in any way. It’s not tied down to anything, it hovers over the city, people...it’s spontaneous. At any given moment, be ready. Have a plan, but be ready for it to change.” -BEN
This Audacious Gospel it doesn't require our ability. It's requires HIS.
Fun fact from Mr. Cool Cat Karaoke, God clearly loves to our natural gifts and enjoyments.
As you do things you enjoy this week, go to the grocery store, hang out with friends - set your heart in “availability mode." God is able, and he will use the opportunity.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21