I came home with 20 take-a-ways from my time abroad. Here’s the list:
1. No matter where we find ourselves, our mission is always the same, to love well those in front of us, to encourage people in Jesus, to give selflessly, to be people of peace, to offer hospitality, and to be light. This is one of the take-a-ways from my time abroad. Location never changes our mission.
2. Learning and/or trying to speak someone else’s language is one of the fastest and deepest ways to show a person of another culture you value them.
3. When the desire is to be a blessing. There is never a lack of opportunity. Expecting the miraculous connection daily has become a habit in many ways.
4. There is much to celebrate about what good is being done around world through all kinds of people from all kinds of places. I’ve been thankful to hear stories of this good as I’ve been abroad. Expecting that God is working in every country, through all people groups causes me to want to learn from others… more than teach them. Being a listener and a learner is crucial and opens us up to experiences and stories we’d otherwise miss.
5. History informs the present. It’s important to learn the history of a place as a means to love others of various cultures. Ask questions about a place. Learn about the faith history and the story of the people. This will always help you to better understand the present.
6. The differences between cultures and peoples are beautiful expressions of human life that are to be celebrated. Allow differences to be a guide to understanding rather than division or judgement.
7. Perception and reality are often very different things. Asking questions and believing the best are always the best way to approach situations that seem off. Personality, culture, circumstance and more often affect others perception. As I’ve been abroad I continue to see the value as I assume the best and seek to understand.
8. Asking questions and really caring about the answers communicates that I value another’s story. Questions are a doorway to relationship.
9. Creatives hold a very important place in shaping cultures for good. Victor Hugo played a part in saving Notre Dame, which was to be torn down, by writing about it in a book, artists tell the stories of good, like Leprojet Imagine in Paris. Others, like Jonathan Boulet, use their creative influence to publish the story of Jesus in the New Testament, told with art and creativity. Yesterday I met George, who’s craft is pottery. He taught us of patience as he told the story of each piece’s creation. As I’ve been abroad I’ve seen, again, how creatives are using their gifts to bring about good and to speak of Jesus. The creative leader is needed in every culture.
10. True hospitality is not shown by entertaining a guest, but by offering your whole self and welcoming the whole self of those around you. Tonight I’m reminded that true hospitality is not culturally specific. Offer hospitality (I think Paul may have been on to something)
11. Being rooted and in community is hard and is important.
12. Two full days left. As I continue to reflect on lessons learned, experiences shared, people visited and places seen I am confident that love is the most powerful and life changing and unifying language. The way of Jesus always is a way of love. Love that is patient and kind, love that does not get jealous or boast in ones self, love that is not rude or self seeking, love that truly keeps no record of wrong, love that always assumes the best, always hopes and always perseveres is the kind of love that will never fail, in all cultures.
13. Our work does not define us. In fact while in Spain, I was only asked what I did for work one time in two months. This created space for others to know me and my heart, not just how I make a living. Not all cultures think of success, accomplishment and responsibility in the same terms as those of us in the US. There is much to learn from this way of thinking.
14. Freedom has as much to do with saying no as it does with being able to say yes.
15. Being outside and moving and walking and physically engaging with the world and our neighborhoods opens doors to relationship. For its pretty easy to drive by a person without engaging, much more difficult to walk by. Relationships gathered because of shared space are some of the best friendship surprises!
16. Every moment we have a choice to speak well of others, to treat people with kindness, to assume the best and to walk with humility. Today, as I traveled and had a few bumps along the way I am once again reminded that in all things I am to choose love and grace and kindness. These attitudes and actions are always ours to choose and are not dependent upon circumstance or the actions of others.
17. Never assume that mine is the only part of the world at play. My choices effect the lives of people all over the globe. When I choose to live in the way of Jesus, I choose to speak life and give life not only in my part of the world…. But in all of it. Our actions matter.
18. There are a lot of differences between cultures. But simply because something is different doesn’t mean it is wrong, weird, bad, rude or negative. Seeking first to understand is imperative as we seek to build relationships. (Oh yeah, this same practice works when your friends, spouse, co-workers, roommates and classmates do things differently than you.)
19. Though I’ve been gone for 3 months it feels like my time was just a split second. Thankful for the relationships formed and deepened during this time. Relationships are the most precious memento!
20. Vulnerability is found alongside freedom. For freedom greets us when we are truly honest with self and others.