Most of you who read this blog know that Liesl does most of the posting. However, I offered to take over the blog for a little while as Liesl gets her new blog, Fitness in the Kitchen, up and running.
I won’t lie – I’m kind of excited about taking over our blog for a little while. It feels a little like the first time my parents gave me the keys to the minivan.
However, just like with my parents’ minivan, I knew if I didn’t take good care of it, I would never get to drive it again. So I’ll do my best to take good care of this blog, too, so Liesl lets me keep writing on it.
A couple weeks ago, we asked many of you what questions you had about our lives here. I’ll spend this week answering some of them. First up, a question from Suzy in Cleveland (I actually have no idea who submitted this question):
What is the biggest challenge, besides learning the language, in really building relationships with the people?
Well fake Suzy, that’s a great question. Most of us like to think we’re likable people – that we could develop a deep relationship with pretty much anyone. But generally we gravitate towards the people that are most like us. For example, I enjoy watching and playing sports, especially basketball, listening to good music, and discussing books and theology. And I enjoy people I can discuss those things with. Most of my friends back home in Wisconsin (or wherever they have since dispersed to) have at least one of those things in common with me – my best friends have most of those in common with me.
However, here in Las Moras, there aren’t any people with those same interests. Nobody plays basketball, nobody thinks my music is “good,” and no one has read the books I’ve read. I am an outsider here, and most people view me as such. Last spring, I was even shown a document where I was referred to as “Pedro Gabacho” – “Peter the Foreigner.”
I would say that is one of the greatest challenges in developing relationships here: the simple fact that we’re different, culturally, from the people here. Yet we believe God called us to Las Moras – we believe He’s the one that led us there – so we also believe that He didn’t call us there just to sit in our house and feel bad for ourselves (even if, in the midst of culture shock, that can sound like an appealing option).
So what do you do then, when you know you’re different from those around you?
First, you find some similarities. Sometimes this feels like small talk, but at the end of the day, when you live in a house with little to no insulation, talking about how cold it was last night is actually a worthwhile topic of discussion. Talking about family is something we all have in common. We have family, they have family, and we miss our families, just like they do when they don’t see them for a while. Last summer, I even planted a large garden – partly because Liesl and I both like fresh veggies from the garden, but also because I wanted to have something in common with our subsistence farmer neighbors. Losing half my sweet corn to worms and cows wasn’t fun, but it gave me something in common with my neighbors.
After a while, you begin to find that your desire to build relationships with people different than you actually changes you. Over time you become interested in the things that interest them, and your former interests, which you thought defined you, become less important. You in a very real sense adapt and become more comfortable in your new culture, and that allows you – us – to feel more at home in a place like Las Moras.
In some ways, that’s like what Jesus did by coming to earth. In Philippians 2:7-8 it talks about how Christ humbled Himself and became like us. In his 30-ish years on earth, He taught us what it meant to know God by becoming like us and showing us God incarnate, right before our eyes.
It’s our hope that as we build relationships with the Nahuatl, and in many ways become more like them, that we can point them to the living God as well, following the example Christ gave us.
Thanks again for your questions! I’ll keep posting, answering questions (feel free to add more to the comments section) throughout the week – or at least until Liesl takes back the proverbial keys to the proverbial minivan.