Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Lindwall, missionary to Guatemala for 45 years and now founder of The Church on the March-Great Commission Ministries to help support churches all across the country. I met Dr. Lindwall at a local Spanish-speaking congregation that he encourages and supports. I am grateful for the wisdom in his messages, his grandfather-like caring heart and dedication to prayer. Dr. Lindwall exemplifies the multicultural heart of Christ that I aspire to unpack in this blog. He told me about several experiences from his childhood that planted seeds of multiculturalism in his heart. He reminded me that a missionary is also defined as one who transcends culture for the cause of Christ.
Ted was first introduced to multiculturalism in his own family. Born to a Swedish father and Swedish-American mother he reflected that "In some ways, American culture was strange to us." His family attended a Swedish-American church. “As a Christian you also feel different from much of American society.” He remembers that at the age of 5, the director of his Sunday school department said something that left a lasting impression on him: "There are many child
"There are many children in the world who don’t know anything about Jesus. They need to know about Jesus. And the only way they can know about this is for missionaries to teach them. So, I thought, 'well, I’ll be a missionary then.' I was not a Christian yet for another 12 years, but I could never forget my decision at age 5."
As a young boy, Ted also observed his father's warmth and welcome for people of other cultures. For example, Ted remembers going to the border of California and Mexico as a child with his family and standing outside a school there, greeting the children as they entered. He explained,
"Dad was very good at meeting strangers. We just talked to the students as they were leaving or entering. They had a great impact on me. It was my first experience being outside the American culture. It was like a new world to me. The children spoke a different language."
Dr. Lindwall then explained a time when he was thirteen years old. A missionary who had returned from China invited 13 Chinese young men to the church who were studying in the United States to set up a Chinese airline. The missionary, Ivan Larson, was teaching them English. That Sunday, Ted's father invited the 13 visitors to their home for lunch, and over time they formed a friendship with them. They later invited them to a Chinese restaurant, and one of them taught his mother how to cook rice like they do in China. The day his father invited the Chinese men into there home, Ted vividly recalls his father's response to someone who asked him "Why do you take all of those Chinese in?" His father replied, "I know what it's like to be a foreigner."
All of these memories of his father and mother's welcoming spirit toward people of different cultures planted seeds of multiculturalism in Ted that cultivated a heart ready to serve on the mission field one day. At the age of 19, Ted received Christ and affirmed to the Lord “I’ll be a missionary to anywhere you would like me to go.” A few years later, Ted would be called to be a missionary to Guatemala with his wife. He explained, "Our goal was to start as many churches as we could. Helping lay people to get to work in the communities. Raising preachers. Multiplication was the goal. Later we got into pastor training. I was invited to be director of a rural Bible institute. Later I was invited to director of the National Seminary (in Guatemala City)."
Dr. Lindwall then shared a heart-warming memory that I pray will encourage parents to be intentional in praying for your children even before they are born. After Ted and his wife had been missionaries for five years, they returned on furlough and it was at that time Ted learned something his parents had never shared with him before. His dad said, “Ted, before you were even born, we dedicated you to the Lord to be a missionary."
God has a purpose and a plan for each child before they are born. He has a unique design. I encourage you to check out the Scriptures that my friend Nancy uses to speak on God as the Master Potter of our lives. http://www.peacefulpottery.com/Scriptures.html. Pray over this collection of Scriptures for your children and see the amazing ways God works through prayer.
I asked Dr. Lindwall what he missed about Guatemala. He shared, "It’s just a different world. Guatemala is more relaxed and more personable than the United States. Texas is midpoint between New York and Guatemala. It is known for its courtesy, for humility. I think of Oklahoma as being the Guatemala of the United States. The general attitude about Guatemala among Latin American cultures is that it is friendly. They are guarded, but very curious.To be forthright is not the Guatemalan way of doing things."
Dr. Lindwall and his wife also spent 6 months in Asturias, Spain. He explained that Asturias is a city that is hidden behind tall, narrow mountains called Los Picos de Europa, that he said look like a line of Guatemalan volcanoes. He explained that is mostly hills. It is not very prosperous, nor is it very religious. He discovered that the people there are interested in philosophy. Because of these philosophers, Dr. Lindwall compared Asturias to Greece during the time of Paul in the New Testament. He also explained that Asturians proudly say that "Asturias es España"- "Asturias is Spain" because Asturias also was the only city in Spain not conquered by the Moors. In fact, the prince of Spain has the title "Principe de Asturias," which Dr. Lindwall explains is equal to the British title "Prince of Wells."
In conclusion, Dr. Lindwall's encouragement for developing a multicultural heart and perspective is to see that:
“Every culture is a treasure of its own.”