I (Bill) grew up in my younger years mainly overseas as a “military brat” as we were called. While in Ankara Turkey the first time, we lived in the city where our downstairs elderly landlord was a photographer and his wife a stay home mom, in her younger years. Our landlord adopted me (or maybe I adopted them) but soon I was fluent in Turkish able to translate for my family and also learned all kinds of things including tasting very good foods. That was my beginning of living in a foreign land and God beginning to sew the value of someone to come alongside and help me “navigate”. In Tehran, Iran I have fond memories of one of my moms house helper, Fatima, she was so honest and such a help to our family. I remember so well seeing people in great poverty overseas. Since that time I have been in several foreign lands, sometimes with help and others times without help. These experiences were deeply seeding inside me the value of helping others “navigate” in a foreign land and seeing people for how God made them not as society dictates.
Today when I hear Iran mentioned I first think of Fatima, not of radicals.
Life took me through a winding path before it brought me back these past 16 years to working multiculturally, where I have found my true home.
When I, Meagan, was in Indonesia for a short trip to teach English there was one muggy morning (when is it not muggy in Indonesia) we all piled into a small car and went to the market with our Ebu (the traditional name of respect for an older woman - kind of like Mrs. to Americans). I stepped out of the car and instantly got hit with 45 different smells and sights I had never seen before.
Rich, earthy spices laid out on beautiful fabrics, ladies sitting on mountains of coffee beans putting one cup measures into cloth bags, and motor bikes zigging in and out of the aisle ways. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't the reason for more than one loud honks from one of these skilled drivers. As Ebu got all the spices and produce she needed we walked through the aisles, in awe of everything that was new. These beautiful people knew how to cook everything that grew on the land.
I squatted down to look closer at some flip flops and learned my first and most detrimental mistake of the market.
Never lose sight of Ebu.
I stood up and looked around. A small shock of fear spread through my body. Where was Ebu? I scanned the sea of hijabs and couldn't find hers. Hundreds of brightly dressed women swam around me and I panicky searched all their faces. Thankfully, and awkwardly, my Dutch genes gave me the advantage of height on the Indonesian people and so I could see the tops of everyones head. But I could not find Ebu.
Oh Meagan, how did you do this?
I knew none of the language, had not clue how to get back to the village, and my American cell phone might as well have been a pound of jackfruit for how useful it was in the rural jungle where we were. My mom always told me the when I get lost to stand right where I am and she would come find me where she last saw me. Please find me Ebu!
Ebu did find me. She had been hailing a motorbike to take the groceries home for her and never lost sight of me. I was found all along.
I think of this story from my own life when I see someone struggling at a grocery store or not sure what to do in a situation that seems so simple to me. Being in a completely different culture is not only overwhelming, its downright scary! Part of welcoming well is understanding the fear surrounding any unknown and meeting that fear with love.
What if the lady confused at the checkout has never used American currency before? She is only used to the barder system.
What if the old man sampling grapes in the produce section is used to testing the produce in marketplaces before he buys it?
What if the woman who has 8 busy kids was so scared to leave her home because last time she left she was screamed at for not "knowing what to do" that that's why she is a little short tempered? She came because they are hungry.
There are so many opportunities around us to recognize people who have "lost their Ebu". People who are weary, taxed, sad, bitter, and just plain scared. Will we react in frustration or we will actively welcome them with open arms because we know what its like to be lost too?
Bill and Meagan
Bill and Meagan work together multiculturally to bring alive the words of Scripture that say, "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (Romans 15:7) Both Bill and Meagan are avid dreamers and wonderers and love a good challenge - especially if it involves delicious food!