I have been in Torreon, Mexico most of this week lecturing for church leaders at an annual seminar. The schedule is pretty intense with short breaks after each presentation. I shared the time with three capable speakers. I am generally given practical ministry topics to address. This year I focused on family concerns for families serving in ministry. The best part of the seminar for me took place after all of the lectures had already been delivered…
Several of the students who speak reasonably good English initiated a conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their concerns and getting to know to them a little better. Some of the comments in my presentations obviously fired off their personal stories. By the time our interchange was over today, I was on the learning end! I realized some things about myself and about churches that I am associated with.
We have the tendency to focus the differences that exist between us and people of a different culture. There are language barriers and seemingly dramatic lifestyle differences for starters. It hit me hard after my post-seminar discussion that these young leaders share a lot of the same concerns that I have. They are concerned about the world their children will grow up in. They are watching 13 year olds involved in the drug violence in their country. It makes me sad that cultural and racial differences cause people to flee from each other.
I have great respect for churches in my own state that are choosing to remain in neighborhoods that are changing demographically. I have little patience for doing the “white flight” thing. There is something deeply ungodly about that choice in my estimation. If we would stay around, we might actually learn that we have more in common with people that are of a different race or nationality than we might have initially thought.
I am more committed than ever to become proficient in Spanish. I realize being bi-lingual is an important way to build relational bridges. Constructing relational bridges is the only way to discover that we share many of the same concerns. I am very aware that I have been in a different culture this week, but I have grown to appreciate the degree of commonality that exists among people that are very different.
We are living a nation that will continue to become more diverse culturally. I am determined not to flee to the comfort of some white, middle class social island. That just sounds really boring! And I don’t think it is the right thing to do either. We can benefit from cross-cultural relationships that in a sense may not be as cross-cultural as we might think!