Henna Caipang of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches presents Dan a T-shirt that reads "I Love Iloilo"
Dan with T-shirt and workshop participants in the Philippines
As I folded the laundry following one of my mission trips there was that bright purple T-shirt with the words emblazoned on it, "I Love Iloilo." Memories came flooding back of all the wonderful friends in the Philippines, our training together, and the gift they gave me of this shirt. They also gave me another one for my wife, much lovelier! Ever time I wear the T-shirt, I think of these and sometimes pray for them.
The last time I was in the Philippines they gave me a shirt about Davao City that included a picture of a durian. I ate durian on that journey to Davao prompting me to write a journal titled "Smells like hell," the journal that got the most response I've ever had. (Check it out on my IM webpage--you might have to scroll down a bit.) Every time I wear that T-shirt I get a slight shiver of post-traumatic memory!
T-shirts are such a part of U.S. American culture and now part of global culture as well. I was at a World Mission Conference one year when all the missionaries were getting dressed up in their cultural garb. What should I wear? Funky T-shirt and blue jeans--the gift of my culture to global clothing styles!
In 1988 I went to the Soviet Union just as they were going through the tumultuous changes that brought about the fall of Communism. Before we crossed on the ferry from Finland to Estonia, we spent a day in Helsinki. There was a T-shirt stall down at the floating market. They had a T-shirt of the Statue of Liberty with the head of Soviet Premier Gorbachev and the word "Perestroika!" I almost bought it, then thought, "No, I'll get a genuine Russian T-shirt." That was a mistake. At the time there was no such thing as a genuine Russian T-shirt. T-shirts are cotton sign-boards for free speech, a freedom not respected in the Soviet Union. T-shirts were subversive.
In Congo I attended worship services where colored T-shirts became uniforms. Each choir had the same color--red or green. The ushers wore yellow T-shirts. All the T-shirts were cast-off shirts that didn't sell in the US or Europe, came over in huge cargo containers and were sold in shops where the shirts were simply left in piles for customers to pick through. There in church I could often read obscene messages on the T-shirt, but these worshipers didn't know the meaning of the English crudeness. Instead their T-shirt was chosen for its color so they could look like a unit with their brothers and sisters serving God together.
I've got so many T-shirts. Some I wear on the warm days. Some I use for painting and other messy work. Some I wear under my flannel shirts as the weather gets colder. I've got my sports championship T-shirts to remember good days in Detroit (maybe I'll get a Lions T-shirt soon to go with my Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons shirts!). I've also got my International Ministries "Go Global" T-shirts in black and purple, now archival items. I often wear those when I'm traveling as part of showing mission partnership with our sisters and brothers in other countries (where T-shirts might be acceptable attire on occasion).
So stop on by sometime and see my T-shirts from Zimbabwe, Italy, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Nagaland, Myanmar and Nebraska. There's a story for each one, stories to make you laugh, stories to make you cry, stories that tell of what God did in these various places with people I hold dear.