No matter how long we live here, I'm not sure that I (Gavin) will ever get used to how much we get stared at. Whether I am walking through a neighborhood, driving through town, or just shopping, I (we) will usually command a lot of attention. There is almost a pause, like a hush falling over an unruly crowd, as people stop what they're doing and focus their attention upon us. Besides the many pairs of eyes that are usually fixed upon me, I normally hear a variety of interesting things. On any given day, I will hear most of the following:
- "Mazungu!" meaning "white person"
- "Petit" meaning "little one"
- "Chinois, hee-haw" meaning "Chinese," and I think they think hee-haw is "hello" in some language
- "Père blanc" meaning "white father"
- "Way" or "Way-way" meaning "YOU"
- Kissing sounds….oh, the constant kissing sounds…from men
It's not all bad to receive constant attention, just as it is not all good to constantly go unnoticed. However, we are learning how to get used to life in a fishbowl. For the most part, these things remind us that we are different, and that we need to look at the world with fresh perspective. For instance, one of the most amazing parts about being a missionary is getting to share life with people who are so vasty different from you. There is something special about learning to live and interact with those around you in new and exciting ways. As a family, we often talk about how the Lord is using these experiences to deepen our faith and stretch the ways in which we see others and the world. In John chapter 13:33-36, Jesus gives his disciples "a new command." He says:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Jesus tells his followers the true mark of their new identity. It seems a bit significant that our Lord basically gives them this command three times in a row, almost to be sure that it sinks in. If we are to follow this command, then it applies even to those who are so different and strange to us that its hard to love them. I hope that we are being faithful to Jesus' "new command" even when it is all weird or totally backwards to us. I know that our brothers and sisters in Christ are trying their hardest to love us even though we are weird and backwards in their eyes. We are reminded of our "differentness" every time we visit a church or walk through a neighborhood, but we can't forget our call to love in the midst of our disorientation.
After all, no matter how different we look, sound, or act from those around us, we know that all these things are mute in reference to what we have in common. Namely, new life in Christ such as what the apostle Paul speaks about in the 3rd chapter of Colossians, culminating in his statement "There is no Jew or Greek..." For the Christian Church during this time, these were radical words. There could be no greater difference between these people, and yet Christ has made them one, just as we are one Christian Body today.