For the past few days, we’ve hosted a young German man who is interested in serving as an apprentice with us next year through Serge. He is a friend of a friend so as I waited for him at St. Pancras, I wondered what kind of 22 year old would we be hosting. Would he really be able to serve here in London?
What I learned about our visitor over the past few days leads me to conclude that yes – I’d like to see him here in London.
Why? For two reasons.
After high school, he spent his gap year working in rural Kenya with the German mission, Diguna. But what does working with orphan children in northern Kenya away from any large city have to do with working with youth and adults in London, a city of 10 million people?
There are skills working cross-culturally that he has learned which are transferable from one culture to another. Humility, a willingness to learn and an awareness of your own culture will help anyone connect with both Kenyans and Londoners. As a person learns to build friendships in one setting, they pick up skills which allows them to build friendships in another, even if those cultural settings are vastly different.
In my own life, there is no doubt that living in and working in an African-American community for many years prepared me for life in London. Those years of cultural missteps and learning from friends who were different from me, helped make the transition to multicultural London a little bit easier over the past six years. I’ve still made plenty of cultural mistakes over the years, but hopefully fewer than it could have been.
Are there people culturally different from you in your community? Make friends. Ask questions. Learn with humility. Think about your own culture as you learn from the new one. You may even pick up skills that could serve you in places beyond your imagination.
There was a second, more important reason that I think our German visitor would be effective in London. That post is here.