Posted: May 08, 2015
Pork Belly. Bacon’s thicker, more decadent cousin. Just thinking about it makes me drool a little. A couple of weeks ago, however, I almost missed the opportunity for this meat candy. I was sending out invites for the Cultural Inclusion team meeting. In it, I mentioned we would be having (American) Chinese food for lunch. It only took about 2 minutes for me to realize the irony. On a team of those working to ensure the many cultures of Peoples Church are authentically included in services and activities, we were going the culturally comfortable route with our food. So I looked up traditionally Chinese dishes online and changed the beef and broccoli to Hong Shao Rou. Jackpot! Melty Pork Belly, spicy jalapeños, silky rice noodles, and a rich red sauce made this ever so much better than any Americanized option.
Meeting new people at the church can be similar to this culinary adventure. I have often heard it is difficult for people to introduce themselves to someone of a different ethnic background or language. “What if they don’t understand me?” or “They are in a group speaking in their own language, I don’t want to interrupt,” are reasons I often hear for not reaching out. The problem with this timidity, is that you could be missing out on a pork belly of a person.
It may seem a little harsh to say, but hesitancy in reaching out cross-culturally can be related to something we want nothing to do with as Christ-followers: Pride. Cross Cultural interactions can mean making a fool of yourself- I’ve done it! You may use the female instead of the male form of a greeting. You might go for a hug when a handshake would be more appropriate. You might tell that joke from Thanksgiving… and then realize no one is laughing.
When this happens, we remember to value others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). It’s worth that moment of awkwardness, and it’s worth feeling a little foolish, in order to honor our brothers and sisters in Christ by getting to know them. We also remember that being part of a multi-ethnic church is all about jointly reflecting the wisdom of God. (Ephesians 3:10). This only happens as we are uniting together and learning from each other.
So the next time you find yourself at church, looking for a friend to connect with, take a deep breath and head for that group of ladies with the unfamiliar accents. I am confident you will leave that interaction a little braver, a little more joyful, and a great deal richer.