A Lesson in Color

When we moved to Kenya we understood that we were moving to a land of people that we didn't understand. We knew we would be the minority of people there and that we would stand out in a crowd. We understood that we would be learning to embrace a new way of living and thinking and understanding. I prayed so hard to win the hearts of the people there. I wanted desperately to bond with them so that I could learn to share my faith more effectively and help them know my God and all that He had done for me.

God blessed my prayers. I learned so much about the culture in Kenya and I fell in love with the people there. I was very interested in learning as much as I could about Kenya. I loved the food. My palette expanded in wonderful ways as I learned to enjoy so many different dishes. I loved the market. I loved how people would stop and greet each other on the street and ask several questions instead of simply raising a hand in greeting and passing on. I knew I didn't understand so much so I was constantly asking questions and trying to understand so that I could really connect.

Then we moved to South Africa and a funny thing happened. I still understood there was a lot of things I would need to learn and understand. But I thought that only applied to the black African population. I thought I understood the white population because I was white. How foolish and arrogant I was! South Africa is rich in cultures I still don't fully understand! We lived there 11 years and since there are so many different tribes and languages, honestly I don't think I fully understand everything to this day. I made so many mistakes in building friendships those first few years of living in Jo'burg because I wasn't living in a learners mode but from one of thinking I already had it under control. How many feelings I hurt. How many miscommunications I had. How much conflict I lived with!

The biggest lesson I learned is that it doesn't matter the color of someone's skin. I need to be a good friend and I need to be interested in learning how they grew up, how they think about life and how they think about making decisions. I need to be interested in learning what is important to them and why. I need to really listen to understand and not just to answer. I also learned that just because someone had white skin didn't mean they were like me.
Looking back, I am very grateful to my friends who were so patient with me as I learned these lessons and who were so quick to forgive the arrogance in my heart. I left South Africa with great friends from many different backgrounds and I love and miss them all very much!