Tuesday, February 10, 2009

if i reach out my hand, will you give me yours?

Yesterday afternoon I heard from Tracey--my foster mom, whose family I lived with for a few years in high school--for the first time since May, and I can't tell you how excited I still am about it. I've always been really bad at keeping in touch with people, and I can't say exactly what it is--I moved around a whole ton growing up, so maybe it's just sort one of the side effects of that? The problem is, I wish I was better about it, especially with the people I don't want to lose touch with. I remember being so scared that something like that would happen when I moved out of their house to college, that we'd just drift apart, and that these people who were as much my family as anything else I'd had would become another part of my life that had happened, had meant a lot, but was done. Except I didn't think it would be more my doing.

I talked to her for the last time before I went to Colombia, and all last semester I thought about how it had been months since we'd talked and I kept meaning to call her up and never did. And then when I finally did their phone numbers had changed. So yes, like I said, crazy excited.

Now, I've said this before, but Tracey and her family are black. And I'm white. And although living with them wasn't one of those experiences that I look back on and wonder about how it was the most culturally shocking experience I'd ever had (it wasn't--but more on that later), it is one that I'm so glad I had. I love cultural and racial diversity. Put me in a room where all the people in are so crazy different in that sense, and I get a little giddy and grinny.

So that said, I'm just going to say this. At risk of offending anyone who doesn't agree with me: I wish there were less white people on my campus. Seriously. We have next to no minorities, and I'm pretty tired of it. I miss being around people who remind me of Tracey, that whole culture in general. "Less white people" is probably the wrong way to say it, but that there would be as many of other ethnicities. So I don't really know what to do, apart from participate in minority groups--working as a conversation partner for the internationals is something I love already. And hanging out with my Korean and Viatnamese friends is so awesome, because in some ways it's refreshingly different, and in other ways--like with Tracey and Thomas and Kristopher--it's the reminder that I am in fact hanging out with my brothers and sisters. We have these differences, whether it's in how we look or celebrate or see things, or how we feel things or get together with our families or treat people we don't know--I don't know, a million different things, and I think they're amazing and when people say we should all be colorblind I really hope we won't. And on the other hand, particularly at heart, we are people. We laugh together and we hope together, and if I reach out my hand, will you give me yours?

Another cool thing is that I didn't realize until a few weeks ago that Korea is 40% Christian. And that Seoul has the biggest church in the world (900,000). And a few of my Korean friends are Christian, and to see someone so culturally different loving the same God I love is just amazing. I think that's in part a result of the ethnocentricity of the West, but I think it also goes to show how much bigger God's "worldview" is than any of ours.

It all reminds me of when we went to church in Colombia. I was surprised when we went to a Protestant church, first of all, but I was more surprised by just how huge it was. Evangelical Christianity is exploding all over the world, in places like China, in largely and historically Catholic countries like Colombia. And this particular church is massive. It's called Su Presencia (His Presence), and I remember they had rented out a whole parking deck underneath a mall and had buses that bussed people over to the church. And this was just a Wednesday night service. The inside of the actual building holds about 2,000 people and when we got there it was full so we had to sit crammed on the steps in the lobby and watch the screens to see what was going on. And this building, made of concrete, was shaking underneath the people worshipping in it. I remember the cold of the concrete step and how Alicia looked at me and put her hand to it, and it felt the way the subway going by in New York City does.

I didn't understand the words that first time we went to church, but I remember Samuel had fallen asleep against me and everyone was packed all in together the way Colombians tend to do, and I was looking around at people listening about God, watching the verses in Spanish on the screen, picking out words I knew. I remember the people lifting their hands, and closing my eyes, disappearing into the body of Christ, all of us crying out to him. I think about that song that says "Oh God let us be a generation that seeks your face"--a generation, all of us alive in that room for one single purpose.

What I want to remember is that togetherness, that fellowship, with people of another nation and culture and language, and even though we were only in a room together, all the distance of countries between us, we were fully together in God. And I want to live that way, just like that.


  1. I felt the exact same way at UNCW. The school I was coming out of (Univ. of Central Florida) was much more diverse, and Orlando was also more diverse than Wilmington. It was a little bit of a culture shock to see primarily only two varieties of skin tones (and one much more than the other). I missed the Asian and Indian and Latino cultures from back home. Well, as the area grows and as the school grows, hopefully the population will morph and adapt as well.

  2. erin, thanks for the comment =)! wilmington has been a similar culture shock for me, but to a lesser degree, it sounds like. central north carolina (where i went to high school) does seem to be a bit more diverse than here--but i do think you're right, as far as the population changing as the area grows. i just wish i could hurry it along sometimes.

  3. The next time you go on one of your mission trips, bring back a small town and set them up here. Eventually, as you go the more and more places, we will have a thriving multi-cultural community with diverse backgrounds and cultures! Get on that right away, okay?