Three Keys to Intercultural Living
Happy New Year, Friends! What a year this last has been!
As we all welcome the new year, I am excited to share three simple lessons the Lord has been teaching me as I live cross-culturally at home and on trips. I hope they give you the sense of freedom they have given me, as you drink deeply from the reservoir of the world!
Each week I spend a lot of time within a beautiful community of international refugee families. Many people I interact with do not speak fluent English. What I speculated on in short term trips I’m now sure of: you have to laugh! Laugh at yourself, at mix ups, at language confusion; it’s okay! Don’t take every situation so seriously that you miss the joy! It’s not all as complicated as we make it. I’ve made SO many cultural blunders, and you know what? It’s okay. Let yourself have a light heart and enjoy the bigger picture.
One of my favorite memories from visiting India is sitting with a group of kids, a plate full of food before me, with no utensils. “How?” I motioned to them, wanting to know the right way to eat with my hands. Oh, the explosion of laughter as these children began to teach me their ways! Perhaps my incompetence could’ve been embarrassing, but we were all having way too good a time for me to feel self-conscious.
Jesus has totally freed me from a once-petrifying fear of unsafe food. I struggled for a season with food allergies and always hesitated to eat anything I thought could by unsafe or unsanitary. The solution wasn't the EpiPen I carried. It was trust. Trust Jesus to take care of you.
I have eaten some unusual, interesting, and sometimes confusing food in the last couple years. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I see international food laid out before me, much of which I don’t actually recognize. Enjoy it. Find out it’s something weird? Roll with it.
Two weeks ago I unknowingly put a fried chicken claw on my plate at a potluck-style ESL Christmas party with a dozen international women. I was a little surprised when I realized what it was, but there’s no harm in trying. Be gracious and go for it. Who knows, maybe fried chicken claw will be your new favorite snack? (It wasn't mine...but that's okay!)
3. Give (AND Receive.)
I’m constantly amazed by the hospitality and generosity of my international friends. They share everything with me unreservedly, giving me their best and inviting me in at any time without a second thought. It's the most community-strengthening thing in the world to live in an atmosphere of generosity. Love isn't self-seeking. It gives!
Once, after bringing an Iraqi woman home from a doctor's appointment, on my way out the door she stuck an orange in my hand, a gift from her to me. So, I found out she loves pomegranates. Next time I visited I brought four pomegranates with me. Once she got over her initial thrill of being given a gift, I was put right to work de-seeding and juicing one. Our communication was always very limited, but in the kitchen none of that mattered. We were sharing more than food, we were sharing life. Gifts don't have to be extravagant. Give from the overflow of your heart.
Happy Year of Newness! All God's best to you!