A Journey Toward Understanding and Love
At our ministry’s U. S. biannual staff conference, a major focus has been diversity. In our most recent Women’s Resource newsletter we also wrote about diversity and its many faces: various races, heritage, nations, cultures and seasons of life.
We all have diverse backgrounds and stories to be shared, for His glory. Our God says He has placed each of us where He wants us—in place and time and family. We can celebrate each other no matter what our ethnicity, culture, national origin, season of life or environmental upbringing.
This is a brief telling of my story, especially relating to expanding my understanding of and appreciation of those of different cultures, ethnicity and backgrounds from mine. Hopefully I am still learning and growing.
I have been blessed to have a world of friends.
This is a gift from God, opened to me gradually over many years.
I grew up in an affluent very white neighborhood in Texas. I was never lacking for things. I received a great education. I had opportunities to discover what I loved, what I could do. I met Jesus in high school, just in time to be rescued from a very wrong crowd of friends.
Yet I was never comfortable with the highly defined social structure—in my community and my school. I surely didn’t understand the depth of poverty and pain for many in the black and Latino communities around me, but I did know I hated seeing discrimination. We drove through “their” neighborhoods on the way to my father’s work at the hospital—and it made me sad. I wondered why I was so privileged.
Later in high school at a Young Life camp I had my first real conversations—and friendships--with both blacks and Hispanics. Eye-opening. I really loved the people I met, but couldn’t comprehend their sensitivity about things I or others said.
Conversations with our family maid, Cora, gave me greater insight. I loved to drive her home to save her riding three different buses, and to listen to her life and her heart.
The year I spent Saturday mornings with Hispanic children at a barrio church opened my heart immensely. I loved those kids. I cried because of the unmet needs I saw.
Probably the most profound impact regarding race and discrimination on my young mind was reading the just-published book Black Like Me. I could hardly contain my emotions as I read that horrific story.
In college most of my friend circle was just like me. But my Jewish roommate introduced me to another culture I knew little about. She asked me not to tell her about Jesus, so I began to discover what it meant to quietly love someone with Christ’s love.
When I joined staff my mind exploded with God’s beautiful diversity as I made friends from cultures in our nation and from around the world. I met and wrote about leaders from many countries—such passion, faith and faithfulness. My eyes were opened, my mind broadened, my understanding increased, my self-confidence humbled, my heart broken and healed and expanded.
In recent years I have connected with our staff in Epic, Impact, Destino and Nations (ethnic ministries in our organization)—what amazing men and women God has called to join with us. I have real friends in these groups--and just came from lunch with ethnic leadership women. As relationships with them have grown my understanding has deepened. I try to listen and really hear what they have to say. They have taught me much—but of course I still have much to learn.
I also travel the world, seeking to love and encourage our staff in their good Kingdom work. Just this year, so far, I have been with staff from Eastern Europe, India and Southeast Asia. I know and even have friends among people from every continent.
As I open my Facebook each morning I encounter some 6-10 languages and dozens of cultures. So beautiful!I hope I encourage them. They certainly challenge and encourage me.
So yes, this world of friends is a beautiful blessing and glorious gift from God. I am so grateful He expanded my world, my vision, my mind—and especially my heart. And I hope He never quits opening windows of understanding and love.
What about you? Where are you in your journey toward understanding and love?
c 2015 Judy Douglass