In My Living Room? A Cross-Cultural Confession

Thanks to guest author Alice Klement for this post. –KK

“It’s hard for people to believe we want them in Heaven if we don’t want them in our living room.”

–Ralph D. Winter, missionary

Ouch. This quote hit me between the eyes! You see, I have been involved in cross cultural ministry for some time. In fact, I’m working to mobilize my entire congregation to impact our international community for Christ. (See “The Great Commission in Reverse.” LINK) I teach in my congregation’s ESL school, I share Saturday breakfasts with international students, and I’ve led mission teams to Hong Kong, Poland, Macau and Haiti. I thought I was doing a great job crossing cultures.

I have a heart for the people who come to America as refugees, students, or immigrants. I can’t imagine the terror that forced some of them to flee their homeland. Even those who immigrate by choice usually face a new language, a new culture, and a whole bunch of new people.

Because I am a follower of Jesus, I want to share His love with those who are new to America. I want them to know the peace I have in my life because God loves me unconditionally and has prepared a place in Heaven for me.

But invite them to my home? I don’t have the gift of hospitality. And if truth be told, I’m not much of a cook or housekeeper either. I seldom invite anyone to my home. However, I couldn’t shake the truth of the words above. Couple this with the fact that 80% of international students never get invited into Americans’ homes even though they long for American friendships, http://www.isionline.org/Home.aspx, and I had to take a hard look at my reasons for not inviting internationals to my home.

I knew that while Americans are idea-oriented, most of the world is relationship-oriented. Most cultures consider spending time together sharing ideas and food a prerequisite to building strong, lasting relationships. To be invited to someone’s home to share a meal is considered a high honor. I also had learned that to build cross cultural relationships,

  • I need to listen to their story. After hearing their story I can begin to share mine.
  • It takes time to build a strong relationship. I must be patient.
  • After I have learned their story, and they have learned mine, it will be natural for conversations to turn to spiritual matters. I must take care not to compare our two religions but to focus on my relationship with Jesus, His work in my life, and His teachings.
  • This relationship is a commitment, and I will work to build a friendship that will endure, whether my international friends ever come to Christ or not.

So, why wouldn’t I invite internationals to my home? I don’t like to cook or clean. I’m afraid I’ll offend them or their culture/religion. What if I don’t understand them, or they can’t understand me? When we look at the big picture, these are pretty lame excuses!

Alice Klement and friend

Alice Klement and friend

In the big picture, I see inviting internationals to my home as an opportunity for them to meet real Americans, not the TV version. I see internationals who will meet Christ through me and my friends. In the bigger scheme of things, God, who reminds us throughout Scripture to welcome strangers, will be honored.

OK, I give up all my excuses. I’ll invite internationals to my home . . . as soon as I clean it! Want to join us?

Alice Klement loves to travel. She likes to read, especially historical fiction, and she is hopelessly devoted to her big, orange cat named Morris.

Alice’s other contributions to this site: “The Great Commission in Reverse” and several presentations.

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