Imagine we’re sitting down at that great little nook of a coffee shop downtown: matcha latte for me, triple espresso for you (feel free to improvise. You just looked kind of tired). I’m like, Hey. Great news. Finally decided what I want to do with my life.
You: Sweet. What’s the verdict?
Me: Concert pianist, baby. Booked the concert hall for Friday.
You: Um. So. How have the lessons been going?
Me: No need, my friend. This is God’s calling for my life. All I need to do is sell some tickets!
Now, for many, many reasons, this is a fictitious conversation. But maybe you’re getting my idea. If we wouldn’t bound into a concert hall without some training, is there a reason we wouldn’t need to be trained for other work God has for us? (Hint: like global work?)
The good news: Let’s just say there are lots of lessons around town (yep, yours) for nearly all of you. The trick is to both train your eyes to see them–and your heart to choose to engage.
Self-induced Cross-Cultural Immersion
Let me be frank. I was a cross-cultural services minor in college. I have traveled to probably 20+ countries, and have spent about six years of my life overseas, 5.5 of them in Africa. But when someone recently told me they were traveling to Uganda (my host country) on a short-term trip to teach a Bible study, I actually had conflicting feelings. (I know, right? Bad Christian alert.)
Why? Because after my years in Uganda, I was still learning culture and how to effectively communicate. Yes, we can communicate some basic principles, even when we don’t understand each other completely. It’s all on a spectrum. But when we traipse in without much cultural knowledge, it’s harder not just to communicate effectively, but to love well.
So I’m proposing some self-induced cultural lessons right where you’re at. They’ll stretch you. They’ll prime you for the basics of cross-cultural interactions. They’ll help ensure you’re willing to work out your passion and call wherever God plants you, even when the zip code is considerably less sexy.
And for me, they were quite humbling. One of my senior assignments in cross-cultural services was to attend the Hispanic church service in town. You can imagine how quickly your IQ seems to drop when you’re reduced to your second language. But the service also reinforced my love for cross-cultural worship with people who worship my God, who is also their God who speaks Spanish.
So let’s get started, shall we?
The Ideas, #1-10
1. What part of your community is the most marginalized and/or under-resourced?
How would God long to help them? (Think outside the box–and your comfort zone. For example, if you live in a small town, do homosexuals feel ostracized? How do they anticipate Christians receiving them? There are also some cross-cultural and development skills used in helping other economic classes, like the homeless.)When we traipse into cultural situations without much cultural knowledge, it's harder not just to communicate effectively, but to love well. Click To Tweet
2. What pockets of non-Americans or non-Caucasians live in your community? What are their felt needs, and how can you meet them?
3. It’s not all work, here. Start enjoying a circuit of restaurants with foreign foods. Do not order a hamburger.
I was recently in St. Louis and tried Bosnian, Turkish, and Thai, and picked up some great staples at an international-food store. Food is one of a country’s artforms–and an easy way to understand the tastes they love and have been raised on. Find a food you love from every culture available to you! Make some at home, too. Yesterday, my kids and I made some of our favorites: sushi from Japan, arepas from Venezuela, and mango sticky rice from Thailand.
4. There are students from closed countries right in our own cities.
But many of them will never have the opportunity to enter an American Christian’s home. Find more ideas here to reach out to an international student in your area.
5. “Adopt” a refugee family in your area.
Welcome them to your home for holidays, provide medical or immigration appointments, celebrate their birthdays, and help them navigate the other realities they’re facing.
6. Use Operation World to begin praying one by one for the nations.
7. Fast, or eat only beans and rice, for a day or two as you pray for those in poverty.
8. Begin to learn a foreign language.
Tons of apps and computer programs can help get you started.
9. Strike up conversations with immigrants and those of other races you meet around town.
Get to know their names, their stories, and what it’s like to live in the U.S. right now, away from their home culture. As your connections deepen, make efforts to take them out for coffee, have your kids play with their kids, and even have them for dinner.
10. Take opportunities with your local church to host missionaries or foreigners in your home. Ask good questions.
All right: Your turn.
What are ways you love to welcome and engage with other cultures right where you’re at?
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