My small group befriended a refugee family from Nepal about a year ago. We partnered with World Relief to help the family make the transition to American culture and help them with their English. We offered to meet with them twice a week. For several months, we would have a couple different people each Thursday evening and Saturday morning go and work with the family. Last summer, we all got together and took them to the zoo. Another weekend we took them to the mall. Hindsight, I think we overwhelmed them with the mall. But they still talk about going to the zoo.
As we transitioned into the fall, everyone’s schedules picked back up and a few of us kept going. We scaled back to going once a week. The father would ask us about those who had come in the past but weren’t able to come back. I would try and explain that Americans have busy schedules and they had work, school, social engagements, etc. Then around the beginning of this year, we stopped going all together. We all got busy. For my part at least, I rationalized a lot of this. I’d often get home on Thursday evenings mentally drained. Saturdays are my day to do laundry and take care of errands if I don’t have other plans.
Then a few weeks ago, I received a message from the oldest son. He mentioned that we hadn’t visited his family for some time. He asked me if everything was alright. Now, something may have been lost in translation, but I really got the sense that he felt we didn’t like them anymore or something.
The two things that often stand out to me about most Asian cultures is the slower pace of life and the sense of community. It was not uncommon when we visited for them to have people coming in and out of their home. Two or three teenagers would come in and go hang out with the sons. An elderly gentleman would stop by and talk to the father for a few minutes and then leave. Sometimes, it felt like some people were stopping by just so they could see all the Anglos that had shown up.
We usually would try and go for about an hour each time we went. Inevitably, when we would try to leave they would try and coax us into staying longer. Or they would bring out some food and drinks, so we’d have to eat before they’d let us leave. There were a few evenings where they were really persistent and would want us to eat dinner with them. Most evenings, we had already eaten dinner, but no matter how much protesting, they would convince us that we needed to eat something else. We did find out a birthday party one week, that they even insist on their countrymen eating even when they don’t want to. There were also some weekends where a one hour visit would stretch into three or four hours. After lunch, we would need to sit and talk some more before we could leave.
Thinking about all this, our constant busyness must seem foreign to them. That friends could go several months without calling or stopping is probably alien to them. It makes me wonder. Why do we not give it a second thought? Why do we spend all our time running around at the expense our community? We may be doing things with our friends, but are we really building our friendships? Or are we simply just occupying the same space? What if we as the body of Christ were that refuge from the frantic pace of our culture? What if we invited people in to eat, talk a while and find rest in Christ?