As the early morning sunlight filters in through the open window, my team and I gather in the front room of our host family’s home. Croatian, English, German, and Lithuanian prayers mingle together as we set our day of service before the Lord. Later in the day, together we will serve and love a diverse group of kids at our camp. This is a picture of what it means to be a member of a multicultural team.
I had the gift of serving on a variety of multicultural teams this summer while working as a Ministry Mentor through Leadership Lab International. For two weeks, I was part of the Camp on Wheels team that led day camps in churches in Rijeka and Zadar, Croatia. Later in the summer, I also served at the DPB Training Center as the lead English teacher for both the International and English Camps. Throughout these experiences, the Lord revealed many truths to me about what it means to serve with others from different cultural backgrounds.
Love is a universal language. On my first day of Camp on Wheels in Rijeka, I found myself surrounded by a sea of children who only spoke Croatian. Knowing only a small number of words in Croatian myself, I felt helpless -- how would I ever connect with these kids? But the minute we began to play games and sing and dance to songs, all those differences disappeared. We all smile, laugh, and high five in the same language. Loving people like Jesus did doesn’t require being fluent in another language -- it requires that we step out of our comfort zone and interact with people who don’t look and sound like us.
We are not that different from one another. As I learned the stories of students, staff, and children throughout the summer, I found that despite cultural differences we all have similar dreams and wishes, pains and longings. It is when we reach out to one another and share our authentic selves that we find we are not that different. Being vulnerable with one another is a beautiful way to build community, and the Croatians taught me that one of the best ways to do this is over a delicious meal!
Jesus is the bridge. One of my favorite parts of serving in Croatia this summer was getting to meet people from all over the world. I couldn’t believe how quickly I was able to build relationships with the Leadership Lab students, DPB staff, and local church volunteers. But then I realized why we were able to bond so fast -- Jesus! When we have Jesus in common with one another, there is a depth to that connection that cannot be shaken even in the midst of cultural differences.