Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Dance

“Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” I Cor. 9: 22b

Yesterday I visited a new Somali family of eight who live in low income housing. It was grand central station for other Somalis in the community to drop in and make themselves at home. An elderly lady walked in. “Who is that?” I asked. “She is my hooyo(mother),” Fatima said. “Well, not my hooyo but she is like my hooyo.” She made herself comfortable lying down on a large cushion on the floor. A frustrated twenty year old man also walked in. I discovered Mohammed was not really a brother but lives in the same building. The apartment and food were communal and the talking was loud.

Visits like this take place many times a week. I hear interesting stories from my friends who come from Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Kurdistan. My friends are dressed in their cultural attire, lounging in their homes like they do in the East, with satellite programs from their countries often on the TV screen. Often our conversation is interrupted with a call from a family member overseas. Everything stops momentarily for me and I wait. One time I visited a Somali woman in Emergency where she had many phone calls from Nairobi during our wait in the hospital. Those phone calls seemed to be just the "medicine" she needed! When I visit them in their homes Eastern music is played. The smell of curries or doro wat cooking are tantalizing. Sometimes incense is burning. A wonderful spread of their particular cuisine is served. Occasionally I find myself eating with fingers rather than silverware. In certain homes I sit on the floor propped up by cushions. Conversations will revolve around family back home, politics, tragic events like bombings or about relatives living in insecure transit situations.  I can feel like I am living across the ocean but actually I have not left my homeland. I am in the West but ministering among people from the East.

Then comes Sunday and I go to could just as well be any given church. The congregation does not reflect the same people whom I have been hanging out with all week. I dance between the east and the west every week and have been doing so for decades in Canada. It is a difficult dance to learn. When I lived in Pakistan I lived in the east and mixed with eastern people, took on eastern dress, ate their food, and spoke their language. Sunday was the same as the rest of the week. But not here in  my homeland. Every day I live in two worlds - the east and the west. I might even change my clothes a few times in one day. For the conservative Muslim home I might wear a long skirt and top with sleeves. Then I visit my Caucasian friend and will wear my "not so conservative clothes." I also dance between moving from visits in a low income home to a high class home in any given day, or from someone who has never gone to school to one who has a doctorate. Or one might be a liberal Muslim while another a fundamentalist. Over time I have learned how to dance this dance. It has not been easy to learn. I hope my book and blog will help you learn this dance.  It was so much easier in Pakistan. Some of you ministering in the west are learning to dance this dance and are finding it cumbersome and psychologically taxing. Don’t give up. It will get easier. If we read the Gospels carefully we will see Jesus did quite the dance, too, between moving among the religious fundamentalists and the liberals, the poor and the rich, the Gentiles and the Jews. He danced between heaven and earth.  Finding common ground often entails a delicate dance. 

Dear heavenly Father, please help some of Your workers who need encouragement with moving between east and west constantly. Equip them for this unique dance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.