Monday, August 31, 2015

Open Wide the Doors

If you had been at our house Saturday evening, you would have heard a lot of laughter and stories and trash talking – in two languages.

Saturday evening we invited friends over for dessert and games. We had the best of times. I made pumpkin pie, because it is a favorite of my friend Beatrice. Okay, I didn’t make pie, I made four pies because we had nineteen people in our home. We were eleven messy children plus eight adults around the table. Afterwards even Molli, our faithful Labrador, couldn’t get the floor clean.

After the adventure with pumpkin pie and a lot of talking and laughter, we moved outdoors for a rousing game of corn toss. Did I mention seven of our guests arrived in the United States three weeks ago? They are newly arrived Congolese refugees. They had never been to our home or tasted pumpkin pie or seen whipped cream shoot out of a can – our daughter Rebecca made sure they were very, very skilled with the can of whipped cream before the evening’s end.

They had never played corn toss or seen a golf course. And did I mention we can’t speak to each other without an interpreter? None of these things seemed to matter as we laughed – sometimes uproariously – and trash talked each other over a spirited game of corn toss, at which they excelled!  And by the way, trash talking requires no interpretation.

When the sun disappeared, we returned to our living room and before they left, our new friends said they wanted to thank us for inviting them into our home by singing a song and praying for us. They then sang two beautiful songs in Kinyaranda, and we knelt together as they prayed.

After nearly three years sharing life with our friends from Africa, I recognize this kind of easy togetherness and laughter and sharing of lives is not normal. I didn’t realize integration between cultures and languages and colors is not the norm. In my naiveté I thought that in twenty-first century America we were all the same. Sadly, I now know my white American home is likely the only white home our friends from Africa are likely ever invited into. This breaks my heart. Why, I wonder do we require such sameness in our friendships? How boring. How small we make our world.

Recently in the children’s bible study, which Kevin and I teach weekly in our home, we studied the fruit of the spirit – or in non-churchy language – the characteristics of God. We learned that when God’s spirit lives in us – as it does for every believer who accepts Jesus as savior – we are filled with love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. 

I love my friends from Africa so much. I just do. And I know this is only a gift from God. It’s not me. It is God’s spirit in me that fills me with love. Left on my own, love for myself overrides any love I might have for another. But God has given me this amazing gift. Love for others. I am so grateful. My life is fuller and bigger and more complicated and joyful and sometimes confusing. And there are lots and lots of birthday parties! I would never go back to my one color, one culture world.

What is holding you back today from casting a bigger net in your relationships? Do you want to open your heart to this bigger world? This rich love? Let's make our worlds more colorful.

“Above all, maintain an intense love for each other.” 1 Peter 4:8

“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Ephesians 4:32

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

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