“As I’ve interacted with internationals and with Americans throughout the years and heard their fears and frustrations about relating to one another, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of people on both “sides” of the cultural divide have goodwill towards one another.
Why is it, then, that true friendships across the cultural divide are so rare?
Most internationals come to the United States excited about the possibility of friendship with Americans, but most end up disillusioned after a few short months because they perceive that their Americans acquaintances do not respond well to their desire for friendship. This saddens me.
Over the past few years, I have found myself asking the question, “How can we bridge the divide between cultures? How can we get these dear international people connected to the American community?”
They needed a bridge of some sort. I began to realize it had to be a human bridge.
The concept of “bridge people” is not a new one, but my attempts to help immigrants began to take on new clarity and focus as I applied the concept to recruiting and equipping Americans to be involved in ministry to internationals.
People who prove themselves to be “safe” by being sincerely interested in a person from another culture and who are ready to help them in any way they can (whether with language, local knowledge, or simple friendship) become a bridge for that international to connect confidently with the wider society.
It is through relationships with safe individuals like this that immigrants become able to thrive in a new culture.
Bridge people don’t offer anything special. Just accepting hearts, listening ears, and a willingness to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and ask questions in order to understand. We need more American Christians to be bridge people.
Unfortunately, internationals are not the only ones held back by nervousness and confusion. Americans experience the same feelings. It’s really hard to approach someone new who is different from us. But there are ways to make it easier.”
~Excerpt from Ch. 4 of Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus
That’s what I hope Loving the Stranger Blog will be–a discussion of ways to make approaching someone different easier and less intimidating! If you’d like a handy quickstart guide with ideas for meeting and getting to know new cross-cultural friends, check out my new “Practical Tips for Crosscultural Friendships” pdf!