One of the most completely foreign aspects of life here in China is the outdoor morning markets. In all different parts of town, from the small hours of morning to an hour or so before lunch, a few blocks of street transform into a food and clothing market. The house our Bible study meets in is located on just such a street. We didn’t even know for a few weeks, because we’re not usually there really early in the morning. But one Friday morning, when I had language school with St., we turned the corner onto the street to find it packed with vendors.  

This is pretty much the cheapest place to buy things. From all I can tell, the complete contents of any one booth can collapse, fold up, and pack up into a bicycle-pulled cart – including tables, curtains, and products. Pretty amazing really. They show up in the morning, set up their whole deal –  be it fish or chickens or socks or spices or dumplings or wires or coats, turn the whole area into a yelling, pushing swarm for a few hours, and by noon, apart from some water puddles splashed from fish aquariums or some vegetable peelings, there’s hardly a trace that any of them were ever there! But when you’re there, it’s hard to believe they could ever be anywhere else. It’s like a marketplace tabernacle, completely portable. 

Reminds me a little of an idea from “The Fuel and the Flame,” where Shadrach talks about  the importance of ultra-portable disciplemakers. Disciples of Christ who make more disciples, regardless of where they are. They don’t need to be constantly plugged into an external energy source to function, because they have an internal energy source. Men like Paul: who no matter what city, what circumstances, or what opposition he faces – he’s going to make disciples. Who counts all things as loss to know Christ himself, even though his life work is consumed with leading others know Christ. Who will endure all things through Christ that he might win some. Who is, as Jim Elliot said, “all there” wherever he is, whether on a sinking prison ship, an Ephesian university, or an Athenian hill, ready to seize every opportunity for Christ. Like the vendors on our street, even when they’re just there for the morning, it’s hard to believe they’re ever going anywhere.  

We all need portability checks. What else is a call to the mission field besides a call to be portable? Can God ask me to unplug and live dependent only on His power? Well, I hate it when an illustration is carried too far, and I’m afraid I’ve done it, but the idea of portability reminds me of so many personal goals that I must have if I’m serious about God using me.

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