Finding the path

Posted on March 24, 2012 by Global Mission Support

The Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program is reliant on coordinators who facilitate the young adults’ ministry and provide mentoring and spiritual guidance.  The Rev. Peter Harrits is the coordinator for Malaysia. To support a YAGM coordinator,  go to

YAGM participants navigate a labyrinth.

YAGM participants navigate a labyrinth.

“In the beginning was the Tao (道), and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God …”

These words, the opening words to the Gospel of John as translated into Chinese, sound both comfortingly similar and utterly different to my ears. The familiar “Word” has here been rendered into the unfamiliar word ”Tao” — and with it the passage unfolds in a slightly different manner.

Of course when we use “Word” in English translations of the Bible, we don’t actually mean the words we see on a page or speak in everyday speech; rather it is an attempt to reflect the original Greek word “logos” — a term pointing to the reason or logic behind all that is.

Likewise, when the Bible was translated into Chinese the character that was chosen was not the one for the spoken or written word but Tao — a rich word meaning path or way, pointing to regularity, order, and harmony. In all three languages, in this text, the word in question ultimately refers to Christ.

I learned all of this on a retreat I took with the Young Adults in Global Mission (aka YAGMs) I serve to Hong Kong. Staying at Pilgrim’s Hall at Tao Fong Shan Christian Center, we spent our days learning about Chinese spirituality and other religions in the region, trying to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thinking, and contemplating the claim and the call God has already made and extended to each of us.

If I understand it correctly, and believe me when I say I’m a novice, part of the Tao is recognizing that everything has its own way or form of being. Year in and year out flowers and trees will bud and bloom in one way, cancers and diseases progress in another. There is an inherent beauty of regularity and balanced order to it all.

In my role as country coordinator for the ELCA’s YAGM program in Malaysia, I’m learning that there is truth to this concept embodied in each of the eight absolutely unique young adults who have been called to serve here. They each have their own sense of humor and areas of strength, as well as remnants of brokenness and moments of vulnerability.

While the theological language I’m most familiar with speaks in terms of each young adult being lovingly created in the Image of God, equipped with a certain set of gifts, talents, skills, and abilities and called to be bearers of Christ, the Word, in all that they do, the word Tao reminds me that each has a certain mode of being as well.

Through their year of service, of walking as resident aliens in a strange land, it is my hope and prayer that they may begin to discern the path — Christ, the Way — that is both before and within each of them.

For the opportunity to accompany them in that journey, and your prayerful support, I give thanks.

— Peter