As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in people, especially from cultures different from my own. Striking up conversations is something I love to attempt. Our kids would tell their friends how my husband and I make friends even at Costco.
My earliest encounters cross-culturally stem from elementary school. A childhood friend went to Africa for a short time. I didn’t know where Africa was in those days, but I found it intriguing that her family would travel so far away. We wrote letters while she was gone. I remember thinking it special to have a pen pal in a foreign country. When she came back we were able to continue our friendship. Around the same time, another classmate and I would often walk home from school together. I knew she was from somewhere else because she had an accent. I loved our friendship…and…I was curious. Upon entering her home, she and her mom would speak rapid fire in a language I knew nothing about. Then, all too soon….she was gone. I learned her family had returned to their home country. This was my first friend to ever move away.
Then there was the weekly Sunday School class that deepened the seed of curiosity for all things foreign. Mr. Hood, our Sunday School teacher, brought the world alive to us young kids in those days. We sat on the edge of our seat while images of jungle pilots, village schools, and fierce animals took form in our imaginations. Through his animated story-telling we could envision it all, as if we were actually “there”. Our impressionable minds were impressed! There was a different world out there to explore. I wanted more.
Often times, my curiosity put off some folks. But, I couldn’t help it. My thirst for understanding culture seemed to run deeper than even I understood. Yet, I didn’t know how to build on it.
It was in our early years of marriage, my husband and I began to look more into a life overseas. Unfortunately, nothing came of it (which is another story for another time) so we decided to do the next-best-thing. If we couldn’t go to the world, we would bring the world to us. Over several years we enjoyed guests from Japan, Korea, Estonia, Ukraine, Singapore. Some stayed with us a few weeks, others several months. Our delight in hospitality included meeting and growing in friendship with Westerners who worked and lived in countries we only saw through their eyes…Swaziland, Singapore, Argentina, Zambia, China, India, and more… Even though we couldn’t be there ourselves, the opportunity to be a part of it – no matter how small – was priceless, producing life-long friends around the globe. Those Sunday School images were coming to life!
So, here we are today…our children are grown and moving on with their lives. Our home has been largely empty for quite some time…Things have shifted somewhat.
I find I’m somewhat weary these days.
Paul encourages us in his letters to the Galatians to not become weary in well-doing, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up. It is our Hope and Joy in the Name that refreshes and gives strength for each day.
Our door remains open.
In just a few weeks my husband and I will have a new house guest – from Taiwan. She will be attending University and has requested to live with an American family for a few months. We are looking forward to her coming.