A Gentle Invitation {Book Club}

A Gentle Invitation {Book Club}

I didn’t really think much about what it means to be an American until I moved overseas.

It’s different when you are on the outside of your passport country looking in, isn’t it? Perhaps you learn how other countries perceive your home culture (things that are real and some that are quite off but humorous). News hits you differently when you are not right in the midst of the events happening. Conversations change as you get to know people from many different places.

For a time, all I saw were the flaws in my passport country. Maybe I’m not alone in that?

This week as we read the second chapter of Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin, I was struck by the beauty in the way she described and appreciated different cultural representations.

She said, “Beauty is how we reflect the image of God. It is possible to say that black is beautiful and simultaneously affirm the beauty in our white or Native or Asian or Latino brothers and sisters. There is no one ideal standard of beauty in ethnicity in God’s eyes”.

One example she gave was the beauty that is evident in the independent nature found in many western cultures. Usually I’m frustrated by the individualization that seems to push us apart in the US more than bringing us together to value community. But I hadn’t considered how this shows how the Father cares for each and every one us personally. He will pursue one of us, the one lost sheep.

When I made my home among the Cambodian people, I was struck by the lengths they would go to help their neighbors. When my teammate and I traveled to the southern part of the country to attend a friend’s wedding, we were surprised that the whole village area turned up to help prepare. Grandmothers sat on mats to tie up rice balls in banana leaves, uncles stood over large vats cooking duck and chicken, and children helped peel vegetables or wash dishes. It was beautiful.

I see God’s heart reflected in His desire for a personal, intimate relationship with each person and the longing for connection and community He has put in our hearts. His heart is reflected in the diversity of our perspectives and backgrounds, the straight-forward way that some of us communicate or the gentle, non-direct way that others do. It’s amazing, really, to think about the gifts that each of our different ethnicities bring to the table.

You can hear more stories and experiences talking about the beauty of our ethnicities in a short video from InterVarsity Press related to this chapter. Check that out HERE.

I’d love to hear what you thought about this chapter talking about how we can show hospitality and kindness by creating space for the beauty of each of our different ethnicities! What’s something that you appreciate from your passport culture or ethnic background? What’s one of your favorite things about the local culture where you are serving?

Is there anything in this book so far that is challenging or encouraging you?

Here’s our schedule for the rest of the book!

October- Part 1

October 20th: Chapter 3

October 27th: Chapters 4 and 5

November- Part 2

November 3: Chapter 6

November 10: Chapters 7 & 8

November 17: Chapter 9

November 24: Chapter 10


  1. Rachel Kahindi October 13, 2020

    I was both surprised and thankful when she talked about the goodness in individualism. So often it has been equated with selfishness, even though people from all cultures are selfish – it just manifests differently in cultures with a group identity. I appreciated the way she pulled out beautiful things from every culture or ethnicity.

    One of the lovely things about this culture is that they value being there for those who are suffering. Even though you can’t do anything or say anything to make it better, just to be there. To me, “being there” always meant helping in some practical way, but here it is also simply physical presence with the sick, dying, or bereaved.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 14, 2020

      Thanks for sharing this, Rachel! I keep thinking about her comments about the individualism in the US and what it can remind us of in our relationship with God.

      I know I’m quick to feel like I need to do something to fix things! That’s such a great example for us- the gift of presence.

  2. Phyllis October 21, 2020

    I am seriously baffled by a lot of what I’m reading in this book. It’s good, but it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it. I’m glad the scheduled pace is slow; I’m going even more slowly.

    So much of what the author is describing here seems like sterotypes to me, and in my mind stereotyping is not usually good. The author really aprreciated when someone pointed out in a group that she was a gift to them because of she’s Korean-American. Personally I really don’t like when something like that happens to me! When someone says, “You’re the American here, so you’ll lead” (or whatever), I cringe. I much prefer that they see me, not what they think an American should be like. (And again, that’s nationality and culture I’m talking about, not ethnicity. I have never had anyone refer to anything about my whiteness, so my experiences are very difference from the author’s.)

    Yes, what she’s ascribing to ethnicities is still so often what I would call culture. She learned about the good sides of individualism in “white churches.” That’s fine. But I am in a completely white church outside of America, and individualism is not one of our characteristics, for sure. What she described about how Asians decide where to go out to eat is exactly what I have heard used to describe Russians and Ukrainians.

    Those aren’t complaints, though. I am just pointing out what is so different here for me. The rest of what I’m reading is easy to love. The ideas about the beauties and strengths of each community are so true and good.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 22, 2020

      Phyllis, I love your honest thoughts!

      I wonder if the author’s choice to describe issues based on stereotypes is because that’s something that makes sense to us. I remember talking about this in my social psychology class (many years ago in college 😉 ), about how our brains need a way to label and categorize things and experiences, which can then lead to stereotypes. Cross-cultural workers (hopefully) have to push beyond those because of the diversity we so often experience, whether that’s with other expats, in a church setting, with different cultures within the country we serve in. So I wonder if that helps give us a different lens with which to view others? Not to put us on a pedestal at all- I just wonder if that gives us a different perspective.

  3. Spring October 28, 2020

    I am really enjoying the idea of embracing my ethnicity and others. I always kind of assumed that mine was “bad” or wrong. I also love the space of learning and allowing others to grow in theirs. I think one thing I really have enjoyed and embraced about my cultural ethnicity is the denomination that I grew up in’s ability’s to love and reach out to others. This was something I was taught from a young age: to value others. I feel like I am still learning this.

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