“It’s a global world!” I’ve heard this statement all of my life.
I heard it in high school, so I took Spanish classes for four years to be “well rounded.”
I heard it in college, so I studied the “10-40 Window” and tried new exotic foods with some of the foreign students on campus every chance I got.
I heard it at church, so I went on summer missions trips to other countries.
And although I thank God for the great people He brought into my life and the broad experiences He has given me so far, somehow in all of that I missed a critical point: this “global” world is made of people, many people…who are different than I am!
A couple of years ago, God brought a Mexican family to our church and although I knew the language (somewhat!), and had eaten Mexican food and traveled to South America, God began to show me how “American” my idea of different cultures is!
God has blessed my family with a deepening relationship with our Mexican friends and the following are a few things that we have learned:
– Spanish is a language, but it’s a language spoken by real people. It isn’t something to master simply to add to my resume. It is the language used by dear people, many of whom are godly people, but many of whom are lost without Him. To learn Spanish for its own sake is a waste of time, but to learn it in order to have deeper fellowship with our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters is a noble goal! To learn it in order to be able to share the truths of God’s Word with the Spanish-speaking lost is a powerful motivator!
– Some of the greatest moments my friend Samuel and I have shared have been around the Spanish language. Samuel showing me a verse in his Spanish Bible, he and I talking (as best I can) in his native language, or me eavesdropping when he’s talking to his family and then interrupting with a “gringo” comment!
– American “time-management” is an excuse to not spend time with people. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to spend about three minutes with George Bush, our President. Often I’ve brought that up in conversation, because in my warped mind, spending even a brief few minutes with a “VIP” makes me feel important.
– Imagine someone setting aside several hours, or even a whole day, just to spend time with you! Not in a meeting, or necessarily “doing” anything, just spending time together; talking, laughing, eating, resting. That’s so often what our time is like with our friends from Mexico. “Come on over for lunch….” turns into an afternoon, an evening, often a late night of fellowship because in their hearts, being together is what matters, not the clock. And what gets me is it is natural for them, like time just stops in their minds! My family and I are pretty social, but God has taught even us to cherish our time with people and not be so concerned about filling our schedule with “stuff,” running from here to there. Slow down, look at people, notice them, talk with them, and make time specifically to do it.
– Mexican food is not always spicy hot! Don’t get me wrong, we pour it on when we’re with Samuel and Araceli and it can take a fire-hose to cool down my mouth sometimes, but the vast majority of their “common food” is grains, cheese, and meat. Often a meal is a few quesadillas – a warm tortilla filled with cheese or a plate of enchiladas – a chicken/pork mixture with rice and corn. People often think “jalapenos” when they think of Mexican food, but there is plenty of Mexican food available that is mild, yet flavorful and delicious!
– God doesn’t speak English…and He doesn’t speak Spanish. Well, maybe He speaks both! The point is, He has allowed the world to be diverse – a world with a broad spectrum of cultures, languages, traditions, and customs. In Heaven, we will all speak the language God does, together, praising Him for eternity. I’m so thankful that He gives us opportunities today to see through the diversity – in our universal need for forgiveness and mercy – and in the supernatural fellowship we can have with members of His family who don’t speak the same language we do!
The next time God gives you an opportunity to get to know someone from another country or culture, would you take it? As Americans, we can be so unfriendly and cold in our interactions with each other, and infinitely more so when we cross paths with someone “foreign.” In addition to God’s obvious commands to love and serve all, I’d like to encourage you with this thought: making friends with someone from another country might just be one of the greatest blessings you will ever experience! Either God will show you a glimpse of your unity in Christ, or He might just use you to share the truth of His Gospel with them!
by David Anthony