Have you ever found yourself in a cross-cultural situation that pushed you out of your comfort zone? Way out? Perhaps you were simply making God smile. He might have been revealing His creativity through you.
This was the case for me not too long ago.
I was headed to a birthday party for a four-year-old Turkish boy. When I arrived almost on time, only one other family was there. The place was nearly empty.
I wondered to myself whether or not many would come. The mother of this little boy had prepared so much! I became concerned she’d be disappointed.
But then I decided to just relax and enjoy the moment. Doing so is one way to make God smile, I believe.
What was remarkable about this experience is that I would be one of only two Americans at the party. The father is a classmate with the other men at the party. These families represent a unique community – tight-knit due mostly to their common culture, ethnicity, and language – and their moment in time together.
The other American was dating one of the Turkish classmates. This explains why she was included. But me?
Why was I included?
For a few years now, I’ve been leading a group of local Christian women – some American, some international – who reach out in love to the international community of families in our midst. We hold monthly gatherings and activities to help the wives, especially, integrate with one another and with us.
We do this in Christ’s love. Not because we have to. But because God smiles when we do so with genuine interest and heart. And with no other agenda but to love and learn.
Most of the time, these women, often carting along their children, come to our events, our gatherings, our programs. But to be invited into their world – this is a privilege. I realize I have received this honor because I’ve become someone they can trust. I am humbled and exhilarated all at once.
I mingled. The room filled up fast. Lots of new faces. Many I slightly recognized. Some have come and gone from this group. I have known a different set of Turkish women before this. They have all been equally full of grace and beauty.
I am astounded by the warmth, the hospitality. Much I do not understand. But I understand the communication through the eyes. And the numerous English conversations we have revolve around life here, babies, the situation back home.
The mother (and her friends) have gone all out preparing for this day. The cake is a three-day masterpiece featuring Lightning McQueen of the movie Cars as its theme. Really, quite a work of art. And the cupcakes and other sweets – it was clear she didn’t want to be shorthanded!
Don’t Lose the Precious Moment!
When you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s easy to diminish in your own mind the impact of your presence. It’s also easy to let your own shyness or social inhibitions get in the way of genuine connecting.
How can we overcome that?
- Find ways to learn some of their names. Notes with all the names of family members written down help. Ask them what their name means in their own language. And then ask them, “Do you think it’s a good one for you?”
- Smile to all, but concentrate on a few. Try to get to know just a few of the people present at a deeper level. Ask questions. Try to learn what they’re struggling with, how they’re experiencing life. And encourage them. Aim to make a more lasting impression.
- Let them lead and teach you. Inquire about their country, their language, their food. Express genuine interest. Leave with a few new words from their language committed to memory (or at least written as a note).
- Make a plan to meet again with one or two with whom you enjoyed a deeper connection. Share contact information. And make sure you follow up! (When you do, use the new expressions you’ve learned when greeting them!)
- Ask the question, “What is your dream?” This usually proves to be a very thought-provoking question, even if they answer they don’t have one. (Probe some more.)
Being Present makes God Smile
I take a moment to myself and thank God for this opportunity, for this moment. It is not just a children’s birthday party. It is an international affair and, again, I am an ambassador. Not just for my nation, but for the Master Designer himself.
God smiles, whether or not I even mention Him. He is there and is using me as an instrument of His Peace, even at a birthday party for a four-year-old.
Can you share a simple moment when you know you made God smile?
Photo Credit: Burak Kostak on Pexels, Creative Commons