On the last day before our flight out of the city toward America, my kids were both sleeping during the ladies Bible Study time, the last event I was hoping to go to to connect and say goodbye to our local community. I decided to let them sleep and internally gave up on that point of connection, adding to a recent sense of discouragement over relationship-building cross-culturally.
And then I got a call from two teachers at Judah's preschool, asking where our house was so they could stop in and say goodbye to my kids. While we were out front waiting for the teachers, THE ENTIRE ladies group showed up and said they were coming to pray for us and say goodbye. So, within moments, we had 15 ladies and a bunch of kids walking in our door (thank goodness the house was actually clean and packing was finished!). After they left we ran out to grab dinner and then had to run home because we got texts from more friends had showed up to say goodbye. People kept coming until nearly 9pm, and then at the crack of dawn as we threw bags in the car and frantically tried to clean up our pre-flight breakfast and close up our house for several months, more people came. All told, we probably had 35 unexpected visitors to our home in the last 24 hours before we left.
Truth. Sometimes the “cultural iceburg” and the effort it takes to really engage, really connect, can be wearying. After two years we communicate pretty well with words and we are involved in local events. Through those times I've been so encouraged by getting to know ladies more and seeing relationships begin to form. However, the truth is that despite understanding everything that people say, because of the enormous iceberg of culture that lies beneath the spoken word, I still miss half of the events that I try to be involved with. It involves understanding the timing of event, when and how people are invited and informed, what kind of events people go to, who goes to them, and on and on. Multiple times in our last two weeks in-country I missed an event because I was either told about the event or location as the event started or 30 minutes after start time. Culturally, it would probably be totally acceptable for me to still go, but as an American it's so hard to have given up on a plan, redirected and begun to cook dinner and get my kids settled into a different activity, and then swing back again and arrive super late (from my perspective). So, in our last days I was missing events and feeling the cultural divide and getting discouraged over it.
It was in light of that discouragement that people arriving at our home unexpectedly to say goodbye was such a blessing. Culturally it was so funny, we had no idea that people would say goodbye that way or would essentially expect to escort us to the airport. I think Americans would see it as inconvenient and inconsiderate. I was so encouraged, though, because it spoke to me that just as much as we are trying to reach out and be a part of this school and church community despite our differences, they are also embracing us and caring for us as a part of their community, despite our differences. I am so thankful, and I was so blessed by their time and effort and prayers. That's the Church, ya'll.