Monday, May 2, 2016

Ruth - From the Eyes of an Expat - 2:12

I haven't always lived an expat life of moving from country to country.  I used to live in a cozy little neighborhood in America.  I went to the local grocery store where everything was familiar.  I took my kids to the park around the corner where we frolicked in the sun.  I hung out at my neighbor's house where we shared cookies and coffee and commiserated over life.  I knew her and she knew me.  We shared a common culture which allowed the relationship to blossom overnight into a lifetime friendship.  We had a foundation of understanding because the world that had shaped us was similar.  The government was the same.  We shared the same language and even accent.  We shared the same religious background.  

Another neighbor moved in on our street.  He was not from America.  We also built a wonderful relationship.  This relationship was built on sharing and learning from one another.  Hearing about the new was a channel that flowed into more conversation.  I was the local and he was the foreigner in my country.  At that point I had a more limited experience of living outside the United States so I didn't have a personal experience of being a foreigner to base my approach on.  Our time together sort of just flowed from my gut desire to help him adjust to and enjoy his new country.
In this time of studying Ruth, I've been focused on how Ruth felt and acted as the foreigner.  I've had a new respect for her and her circumstances.  In my Bible study this week, one woman pointed out the amazing way that Boaz treated Ruth, the foreigner.  Boaz blessed Ruth.  I think this was a bit of a shocking concept of the time.  I think it's a bit of a shocking concept for our time.  The general tone I hear is that we don't want to bless those who come to our country to find a better life.  We fear the foreigner.  We fear those whom we don't understand.  Whether they come as illegal immigrants or refugees, Americans don't want them in our country.  

I remember one day many years ago.  I was having lunch in my very white suburb and two Asian ladies were having lunch at a nearby table.  They were speaking in Chinese.  I remember thinking how different they were from everyone else in the room.  I wonder how hard it was for them to get to know their neighbors?  I wonder if they felt lonely and isolated?  I wonder if they tried going to a church, were they accepted?  

Now that I have lived this lifestyle for awhile, I really believe it is a good thing for all people to take time and live outside of their home country for awhile.  If you can swing it, I suggest a minimum of a year.  It changes how you see other people.  There's a difference between living in a foreign country and visiting a foreign country.  Of course it's good to visit other places around the world.  The experiences will begin to change you, but when you work and live life along side people from another country, you have the time to really learn.  You can ask questions and discuss differences in the ways to do things.  As you begin to open up your mind to simple differences that don't hugely impact life, you begin to be more gracious in the differences.  Because when it comes down to it, God wants us to be able to look at a person's heart and see them, not by the color of their skin or where they are from, but on who they are.

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