The Best Advice

Who knew crossing the street could be such a valuable experience! One day shortly after we arrived in Nairobi, I was handed one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. Kenya was settled by the British and has maintained many practices established during that time.  One of those things is driving on the left side of the road.  Being accustomed to looking left, then right, I had to get dragged back quickly so I didn't walk into the path of car.

The first thing out of my mouth was something like, "they drive on the wrong side of the road over here!"   Tom and I were walking around with Alcides and Leslie DeMorais.  God was kind to me when He made sure Alcides and Leslie were on the mission team to Nairobi.  They helped us out in so many ways.  On this particular day, Leslie, who had also been on a mission church planting to Brazil, quietly commented that one thing she had learned over time was to remember that things in a new culture were different, not really right or wrong.

Wow!  What a lesson for my ego!  I don't think I had really considered how Kenyan culture would be different from what I was used to.  I remember thinking about how things my life would be different, but didn't understand what it meant to adapt to and embrace another "people." That concept was tested over and over in those first weeks and months. Many of the stories I'll be sharing came about from my learning something new about Kenyan culture, often on a daily basis.  So very much was different.  I had alot to learn.  I am grateful that Leslie helped me that day.  I hate to think how I would have alienated so many wonderful people holding on to my arrogant thinking.

Accepting that things were just different allowed me to grow, appreciate and even enjoy the process of settling into my new home rather than constantly comparing and playing judge. I've also learned over time that the lesson needs to be applied to every new situation I find myself in.  When we moved back to the United States in 2003 I didn't adjust very well.  I wasn't happy that we had had to leave Africa and when we moved to Northern Virginia I found myself judging everything against the new lifestyle and culture I had adapted to in Kenya and later in South Africa.  It was difficult to build friendships here.  I felt out of place much of the time.  But I realize that I was being judgemental, which didn't endear me to the brothers and sisters here.  I couldn't expect them to understand me if I wasn't willing to accept and understand them!

My hope and prayer now is that I will be accepting of differences in cultures, personalities, and leadership styles so that wherever God directs my steps I will be able to build healthy, loving friendships along the way! What a blessing that Leslie was there to help me cross the street all those years ago!

Lori Ziegler1 Comment