Stories From the Heart of International House

A Safe Place

Have you ever felt slapped in the face by an expectation you didn't even know you had? If you haven't, it's a humbling experience. And if you have, allow me to commiserate with you . . .

My first day on staff at International House began on a Women's Club day. For anyone not familiar with what Women’s Club is, it's a day where thirty to forty women from just about as many countries come to IHouse for English classes, or sewing and knitting instruction, as well as to enjoy fellowship with other refugees and internationals and numerous volunteers. Many of them also have their children with them which makes a very cozy house indeed.  In this one house multiple languages and dialects are being spoken, sometimes simultaneously.

To say I was slightly overwhelmed that first day is an understatement.

While I had no idea what to expect as far as programming, I was surprised to find that I had preconceived expectations of how my interactions with the international women would unfold.

And I was wrong.

Totally, completely, and unquestionably wrong.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I had imagined that the women would be standoffish, that they would see me as an outsider, and some women might see only our differences. I am a Christian; the majority of them are Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist. I'm not fluent in any language other than English, so I knew I couldn't connect strongly with them in conversation. I dress conservatively, but obviously not in a hijab or in the native dress we see many women come to us wearing, so we wouldn't connect on fashion.

But Jesus showed me that the open door was love.

I smiled.

I greeted them.

I tried my best to understand them.

I loved them with my eyes.

Because of the solid reputation and credibility of IHouse, many of the women trusted me immediately and accepted my smiles and greetings, and in turn, gave me their customary hugs, and some even shared kisses on the cheek.

They were welcoming me into their safe place!

God humbled me that day. He reminded me that all of those preconceived expectations and notions were not from Him, showing love and kindness was all that was needed to overcome the barriers of language and culture.

That was the first and only day that I held back and was hesitant. 

Now one of the highlights of my Tuesdays is when the women begin to arrive, and I am the recipient of those warm hugs and kisses.

And when someone new enters, shy and hesitantly as I once did, I'm quick to greet them in love, and it's a joy to watch their preconceptions melt away as mine once did!

Heather

Posted on Sep 07, 2017