Making Friends

I’ve tried to write this post several times over the last week, and every time my words dry up and my heart pounds.  I fear that putting our experience in words will take away the sacredness of what has happened, but at the same time I want to remember, I need to remember this next time I question where God is leading us.

It’s funny to think that at one time we weren’t sure if we should do this or not.  It seemed questionable to put our lives on hold for six weeks and take our children away from everything they know.  It seemed like such a great risk, but now I can’t remember what the risk was.  Why are we so easily afraid?

I didn’t think I could love Ethiopia more, but now I do.  I thought maybe six weeks would quench my desire to be here, but it hasn’t. The land is beautiful, the weather is amazing, the simplicity of life here is enticing, but these people, these people . . . my words can’t do them justice.  They are lovely.  Beyond that, my words fail. I don’t think I’ll ever get this place out of my system.  I can’t even imagine going back home, living the way that we used to.

Sometime in the last two weeks something changed.  I don’t know how or when it happened, but somehow we made friends.  The faculty and staff at the Lifesong schools have been so kind to us.  They have been so brave to take the risk of getting to know us.  They have invited us into their homes, they have fed us, they have greeted us with such warmth, and they have gone out of their way to serve us.  And we have fallen in love with them.

Getting to know each other has been interesting.  There are many times when the culture gap between us seems a mile wide, those moments when our differences settle over us in clouds of awkwardness.  They expect something from us that we don’t understand, or they make a friendly gesture that leaves us confused.  But in those situations there is so much grace.  They are learning about us while we are learning about them, and we let grace soak into the gaps.

There is so much that we take for granted about the way that we live that it can sometimes be comical when we realize other people do things differently.  I mentioned to a couple friends yesterday that in the US we don’t have walls around our houses.  “What?” they were incredulous.  “Why not?”  And I just laughed and said, “Why would we?”  This type of conversation replays over and over again, with one of us being completely baffled by the culture of the other.

But then there are some moments when the differences disappear altogether.  We really are the same, after all.  There is something so beautiful about laughing together over the same joke, or enjoying a game together, or just sitting and talking about our lives.

We realize slowly but surely that we are worshiping the same Lord, that we are seeking the same Kingdom, and that we are guided by the same Spirit.  That unity is so much stronger than our differences.  When a brother or sister whose life is so different than mine speaks truth to me, I am humbled by the sacredness of the moment we share.  The boldness and consistency of their faith is inspiring.  Watching them worship is humbling.  But claiming them as brothers and sisters is one of the greatest joys I’ve known.

And yes, we will probably continue to stumble through these relationships and others for the rest of our lives.  But we have so much hope.  As my sweet friend, Kasim, said to me yesterday, a time is coming when we will no longer be separated by our differences.  A time is coming when we will not have to say goodbye, when my heart will not have to be split between two places, and when we will greet each other boldly with complete understanding.  Oh, I am so ready.


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