Who is my neighbor?
We have the awareness, the ability, and the access to reach out to our most desperate neighbors around the world. -The Hole In Our Gospel (pg 89)
Coming from the United States you would think I would completely understand how to communicate with different cultures. But that isn’t true. Even after telling myself over and over again how I love hearing about where people are from, I really am rather horrible at communicating it. I have traveled outside the US in the past, but looking back on those trips did I ever try to have a conversation with the person sitting next to me on the plane? Have I ever asked them about their life and where they are from. NOPE. I rather put my free headphones in my ears and sleep for the flight if possible. The thing is, when I boarded Ethiopian Airlines flight in Washington DC and on the way back to DC, I ended up sitting next to two individuals who were from Ethiopia. I found right then and there I was building a cross culture Relationship on a plane with my neighbors.
The Women Who Kissed A Picture Of Jesus:
On my way to Tanzania I was in the same row with an elderly Ethiopian lady who every once in a while would kiss a picture of Jesus after reading a passage in her small hand Bible. To someone who isn’t Christian or religious this would seem the strangest thing to witness, but to me it piqued my interest. Ah ha! A fellow Christian. So I asked her about her faith and Ethiopian’s religion practices. My pastor for years has tried to get me to talk about my faith with a complete stranger, and this one plane ride I did just that. I learned something from this wonderful women, not matter where Christians are in the world, we all have a common thread connecting us in our walk with Jesus and serving those around us just as Jesus had done. She prayed for me and my fellow classmates as we embarked on our cross cultural trip to Tanzania ( it was all in Ethiopian, but I was sure it was a great prayer for us all!). And then told me, it is winter time in Ethiopia and further asked me what season is it where I come from. Best conversation thus far on a plane.
The Man Who Pointed Out Community:
On my way back home, I was shoved next to an older gentleman who wanted to have a conversation with me. He wanted to know all about where I was from in the US and where I had been in Africa. Upon answering his questions he started to talk about his life in Ethiopia and how he saw building a new life in US was going to be. I learned what the definition of community from this Ethiopian man. Everyone in the village or community has a role in bring up a child, supporting each other when times are rough, and even on this plane with complete strangers, looking after one another. This was demonstrated when a mother with a very young boy needed help in keeping her toddler from having a complete meltdown and keeping him entertained. Everyone in the area of the plane had him interacting with them at some point. Before the plane touched down the man asked me for my phone number to keep in contact with as he was traveling the California to be with his wife.
The Student Who Learned Something About Neighbors:
In the The Hole In Our Gospel, the author asks the question who is my neighbor? I found myself before the trip thinking of Africa as poverty-stricken people who live tens of thousands miles away. But on this flight it changed that perception. Instead of thinking my neighbor as my intermediate neighbor in my hometown, I had to think of my seatmate as my neighbor in another country. One who just like me wakes up everyday with struggles, faith, purpose and wanting to know more about the world around them. The author in Hole In Our Gospel goes further in saying thousands of missionaries travel to other nations to reach out to their neighbors in tackling the issues of poverty, justice, and education that they encounter. On these two flights I had awareness about the needs of someone by allowing them to ask me questions and having me ask them questions or perspectives. I had access to those who live daily in the countries I want to help in, and learning first hand the problems, the need, and what the community wants from those who come to help. I have the ability (may have been a strange thing for a plane encounter) to listen carefully to my neighbor and even pray with them. I learned to provides an effective way in breaking the cultural barriers for everyone in the interaction. By opening up to my neighbor on the flight, I started to build a cross cultural relationship with two people who in turn started the beginning of my cross cultural discussion with the Tanzanian people in Arusha.