Today, we forgot to purchase bread. There is no possibility of storing extra loaves in our small freezer, so we have to learn to anticipate our needs and meet them in the European manner, on a day to day basis. This will happen, but has not, yet!
About two miles from our home is a store calling itself a Super Market, so we stopped for bread. Small, crowded, not as clean as many markets, it was a disconcerting experience, from the goat meat in the cooler to the signs entirely in Spanish. The clerk spoke a rudimentary English, while all the shoppers chattered rapidly in what we assumed to be Spanish. (School-studied Spanish and locally-spoken Spanish are NOT the same!)
All the customers seemed to be staring at us, and some of the men appeared to leer. As the only ethnic minority in the store, with no prices marked, the clerk charged us double the usual market price for our one loaf of bread. We paid, and left with the hope that we never have to go there again.
And it made me wonder.
God’s people have always and everywhere, to some extent, lived as strangers in the land. Having a citizenship that is not of this world marks them as different, even as they are the same as their surrounding culture. The challenge is to live faithfully and helpfully where we are, while never forgetting where we belong.
Yet, are we so busy protecting our own space and our out-of-this-world culture that we have for centuries ignored, overlooked, sneered at, or set the price too high for those who do not yet know that they are children of the King? Do they enter our space and find themselves hurrying to leave, feeling like intruders, hoping never to return?
What is the responsibility – the privilege – of the safari saint toward those who are different, whose language we do not understand? How can we help the stranger find a home?
God, who understands all languages and loves all cultures and all peoples everywhere, help us to be so at home in your love that we share it everywhere we go. Then the stranger becomes a sibling, and the barriers dissolve.