Sitting around the campfire, making s'mores with the Rockies in the background, laughing about our similar cultural faux pas. This was the scene for my family and me a week ago, attending a workshop for families who are transitioning from a cross-cultural life.
There were young couples in their twenties, thirty-somethings with rugrats underfoot (like us), families in the throes of sending teenagers off to college, and empty nesters.
We represented recent stints from Africa, southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Some lived in our host country for two years and were moving back; others for thirteen and are still going strong. Most of us were American citizens, but Canadians and an Indonesian were there, too.
We didn't have that terribly much in common, but what we had in common really mattered. We all follow the teachings of Jesus, and we've all recently lived in a country different than our passport's.
Differences aplenty, with more to come in each of our lives. But all of us instantly felt connected because we got each other, when most other people around us don't. When we're slammed with re-entry and culture shock and feel totally alone… Being together reminds us that we're not alone in our strangeness. (We don't mean to be unusual, of course, but because of God's unique call on our lives, we sorta turn out that way. No need to explain yourselves when you're gotten from the get-go.)
Our kids also instantly connected because they were all TCKs and understood the nomadic lifestyle. They each knew what it was like to say goodbye to homes, friends, and belongings… again and again and again. They've all had to deal with unusual food, strange languages, and cultural oddities. They, too, were gotten by each other.
This gottenness made us a tribe, a community, if only for a week. We were unified by this understanding of what it's like to live in a different culture than where you were raised, then to be different in that foreign country, only to come back to your original culture and always be different. Our differences united us.
So we fellowshipped for a week, enjoying s'mores, cool summer breezes, and good conversation, knowing that after just a few days, we'd all pile back in our respective vehicles and move on to the next thing on our agendas. It's all okay when you know you're part of a much bigger Family, and that because of our brother and sisterhood, we're united.
Christ does this, as a Body. He unifies us in sometimes the strangest, most unexpected ways, and with the most unexpected people. He builds up His people as a community for our own sake (fellowship, encouragement, iron sharpening) and for His (glory on Earth and in Heaven).
When has God surprised you with community? Who are some of the unexpected people in your life with whom you've felt united?
By Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom