New languages. New places. New foods. New ways of doing things.
During our 30+ years in ministry, we have often encountered just one degree of separation between new friends all over the world. We commonly remark, "Small world, big God!"
I have had the incredible blessing and privilege of traveling to 11 countries (so far!) and living internationally for almost 20 years. It has been an amazing adventure. Honestly, at alternate times I've been thrilled or frightened, frustrated or encouraged, loved or hated, awkward or skilled. Overall, I've grown and matured through the joys and the challenges, and I am very grateful for all the experiences.
A view of myself
Living outside of my comfort zone has opened my eyes to many new perspectives and allowed me to share my heart with many new people. As I've tried delicious new flavors, learned new descriptive words, watched creative systems function, and worked shoulder to shoulder with other cultures, I've realized that my way is not the only way... and it is often not even the best way. I've come to recognize my personal values and understand that other people have other values. I've integrated some of their values into my life and influenced others' lives with mine... and we both come out better because of it.
A view of others
Even though I've experienced cultural differences, I've discovered that people are basically the same all over the world. At times, we all care passionately, cry inconsolably, and anger too easily. We all have strengths and weaknesses, healthy parts of our identity... and dysfunction. In any language we can bless others with our words... or criticize and curse. In every culture we search doggedly for love, faith and peace. Many times in my heart and home there was no "us" or "them" - instead friends of different nationalities, different skin colors, different backgrounds became like family, and our souls bonded with no boundaries in between.
A view of God
Although there is beautiful diversity in each country, I don't believe that God wants us to focus on the differences. I believe He wants us to focus on the unity we can have... with His help. A study of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 taught me that our different language and country barriers are a result of our sin - not an excuse for nationalistic pride. Even as we enjoy our uniquenesses, our ultimate goal is to overcome the communication, culture and citizenship differences in order to work to reach the world together with God's love and hope. I am certain that God is pleased when we see ourselves less as separate people groups and more as one body who will eventually honor and praise Him in eternal unity.
If you ever have a chance to travel or live internationally, take full advantage of the opportunity if you can. Your life will be forever changed!
Terry desires to love, live and lead in HIS strength and grace - with HIS passion and compassion - reflecting HIS wisdom and hope to others… preferably with a strong, black cup of coffee in hand. She writes from her heart journey as a wife, mom, ministry leader, and daughter of the King. Find her on twitter or blogging at MaturitasCafe.com
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