Forgotten Voices' Mission:

"Demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of children orphaned by AIDS in their communities."

Monday, September 17, 2007

life with strangers...conversations with new friends

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. ~Romans 12:13~

I read this verse with my wife tonight after writing the entry below. Earlier, when i first wrote this, I was thinking about lessons I've learned from strangers recently. I love talking to people I don't know. One memorable conversation came to mind. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from it and thought you all may appreciate it too.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I were in Denver, walking down the the 16th Street Mall, which is a big shopping scene in Denver. About 15 minutes into our walk, we were approached by 2 women. One was about 60 and the other her mother. They asked us how to get to a street, as they were visiting from California and were lost. While we wanted to help, we had just arrived and weren't in a position to help.

Thanking us for at least acknowledging them and not ignoring them, they proceeded to tell us their life story over the next 10 minutes. We heard about diseases they have had, struggles in life, childhood memories, surgeries, stories of lost loved ones, and tales of favorite foods. We heard about fabulous vacations and interesting people they've met on cruises. A life of affluence and pain. Katie and I just listened in amazement at these two women, who were pouring out their hearts to us in record fashion.

After thanking us for our time and patient ears, I really did want to reach out and give them both a hug. Instead, we smiled, shook hands and said our goodbyes. They then went on their way, arm in arm, searching for that unknown street.

In 10 minutes, I thought I knew these two ladies better than I knew some of my friends. They clearly needed to talk or perhaps they needed to be heard.

Since then, I've thought about this conversation a couple times and particularly have thought about it tonight. Sometimes, I think the people around us just want to be heard. Just want to know that they matter.

Sure. These were just two older American women who obviously had experienced a life of affluence, but a lot of pain. They seemed happy but lonely, even though they had each other. They were looking for a street, but also some new friends.

So... since that strange conversation with strangers, I've had a lot of meetings and conversations with people working among the oppressed: slave trading, the plight of the Dalits in India, and abject poverty in Haiti to name a few. Over and over, the leaders of ministries working with the oppressed talked to me about the importance of listening and loving and how invaluable this simple act is in bringing hope and dignity back to people's lives.

Tomorrow, I may not meet those same ladies, who should be back in California if I remember their detailed itinerary right. But, I'll definitely cross paths with people looking for love and a listening ear. I'm increasingly learning that we don't need to go to Africa to love people richly.

Sometimes I find my heart wandering around looking for my friends in Zimbabwe and miss the people right around me. I hunger to be with people that I so willingly pour my heart out to in Africa, but I want to be more open with people all around me. I'm going to work on that. Perhaps you all do too. People rock and our God loves them all.

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