I remember well the day in November 2003 when the Republic of Georgia’s Rose Revolution took place. It was a personal moment when I stepped into global current events literally unfolding in my kitchen.
Daviti, a Georgian international student, was in our home. We were having a Thanksgiving gathering with a small group of students, many from Daviti’s part of the world.
Daviti was ecstatic as he was learning about the news through emails from family and friends back home. Georgia’s President Eduard Shevardnadze, a holdover from Soviet days, was pushed out of power resulting from faulty parliamentary elections.
A new wind was blowing through Georgia as U.S.-educated Mikhail Saakashvili took the reigns. Daviti was studying in the U.S. on the same scholarship that had brought Saakashvili to the U.S. about 10 years earlier.
History was unfolding right before us!
New connections with global current events
Not long ago one of my Indonesian friends, Amalia, posted on Facebook: “Multiple bombs just exploded across the street of where I used to work. Prayers!!! Be safe friends! We were about to head there but had to go to the hospital first. Nope, we’re totally not going there!”
The Jakarta bombing, claimed by ISIS, was the first terrorist attack in Indonesia since 2009 to make international headlines.
When you open up your heart to friendship across cultures, you also open yourselves to new connections with world current events. Suddenly, what happens abroad – good and bad, and everything in between – takes on a new meaning.
Like with my Ukrainian friend, Alina. She was with us when Russia moved into Crimea and took over. She is from Crimea; her husband from Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. What was happening was, indeed, immediate and very real.
Or with Daisuke, our Japanese friend who hailed from Fukushima, the city north of Tokyo where the nuclear reactors were triggered after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Daisuke had been in the U.S. for a long time, but his parents were among those evacuated from their farm. In time, Daisuke and his family returned to Japan to be with his aging parents who no longer live in the affected area.
Why does it matter?
So, one might wonder, why does what I write here matter? What is the point?
Why should we extend ourselves to others, especially those from parts of the world where danger and disaster, struggle and strife may be more frequent? Why allow ourselves to become personally affected by tragic current events?
First, we never know where trouble will hit. Certainly, no one ever imagined a theater in Colorado, an elementary school in Connecticut, or a Christmas party in southern California would be the scenes of tragedies that defied our imaginations.
Nor would anyone have guessed that thousands would have lost their lives through Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, or any number of other disasters that have shaken the “safety” of home.
Some events in life are 100% out of our control.
Second, the benefits of connecting across cultures – whether at home or abroad – far outweigh the costs.
In 25+ years of regular contact with international friends, I have only encountered a handful of truly challenging people and situations. So few. And even the difficult relationships and circumstances have often, in the end, turned around for good.
One example is with Hiroyuki, a Japanese student who was accused of sexual assault by an ex-girlfriend, also Japanese. She seemed bent on his downfall. The judge sided with the ex-girlfriend, declared Hiroyuki guilty and jailed him. It was a harrowing experience for this young man who still maintains his innocence today.
But Hiroyuki grew through that enormous trial. He was, eventually, sent back to Japan and barred from ever entering the U.S. again. But, through it all, his heart softened. He is now a loving husband and father of two children, and has chosen to follow Christ.
Third, when we make friendships across cultural, ethnic and racial lines, we really do change. Our horizons broaden, and it is good for our soul.
Sometimes we are surprised by the joy and discovery. We are party to the marriages, births and celebrations of life of our international friends.
Sometimes we encounter their pain or struggle, and it becomes, to some extent, our own.
But isn’t this what life is about?
Living in a way that connects us deeply with our world – opening up a path to active participation in current events through personal, meaningful relationship – calls us to something higher at the same time.
No question. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have you become friends with someone across cultures and experienced current events in a similar way? Share in the comments below, please!
Image Credit: Uroburos on Pixabay, Creative Commons