I remember the time I finally plucked up the courage to walk into a room full of strangers. Would I be welcome? Would I fit in? Sure, I’d kind of been invited but I also knew I’d be different, would not share the same passport culture as most everyone else. Would that matter? Truth be told, the introvert in me wanted to chicken out, to find an excuse not to go in. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to that!
Because you know what? I was made so welcome! There was a place for me! Were there cultural references I missed? Absolutely! Did I think of a completely different sport when football was mentioned? Yes! Did I say autumn instead of fall? You bet! All of that was insignificant, though, compared to what united us.
I’m sure you guessed – the room I was talking about was my very first Velvet Ashes Connection Group. What a gift it was to be welcomed by this group of women! Should I have been concerned about being a “stranger” engaging with a group of women mainly from the US? Probably not. But let’s be real. While we’re all pros at learning and adapting and working hard at fitting in, we’re also all sometimes tired of that and long for a space to feel normal (whatever that might mean). So entering yet another cross-cultural space can be hard. And allowing someone of a different background into your “safe” space can also feel like a challenge. Yet this community does that day in, day out.
THANK YOU so much, Velvet Ashes community, for living out so beautifully what you’re, what we’re about! THANK YOU for welcoming me in, for making space at the table (remember Sarah’s beautiful piece from a few weeks ago?)!
Have you ever looked at the “About” page on the website? Here is some of what it says:
We are a unique tribe, bonded by the shared journey of uprooting our lives and re-rooting in foreign soil.
And in all of this, we know the deep longing of our souls to be known and to know we are not alone.
We are made for community, deep and rich.
We are wired for relationship with women, women we can laugh and cry with, women who can whisper into our dark places and say, “I know.”
And who can do this but those who have lived it, those who are journeying through the same kind of story?
Velvet Ashes is here to connect the hearts of women who are separated by geography but bound together by the life of serving overseas.
I am thankful I saw these things lived out in this community long before ever reading the “About” page (which may or may not have been as I was writing this, ha)!
Fast forward a few years to this past June. Men and women from Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, New Zealand, the US, Ireland, Panama, Mexico, Argentina, Hungary, Australia, Belarus, and Moldova have gathered in Budapest. All are preparing to serve cross-culturally and are taking time to be trained and coached. Most of them had never met before, yet after just a little while, community develops and bonds grow strong. Year in, year out (and as a coach, I get to see this happen again and again) I stand in awe. In awe of the way there is unity that does not deny our differences. Sometimes those differences add so much fun and joy (and amazing food!). Other times, they’re challenging and we struggle to understand each other.
Yet in it all, our common foundation of following the Lord on this crazy cross-cultural journey is stronger. My life is oh so much richer for walking this road with people who don’t share my background. Richer because their cultural backgrounds display aspects of who God is I’d not seen before in the same way. Each time, I come away with a richer view of who the Lord is.
Fast forward again. Our course has long since ended and our community is now a virtual one. My friends are spread across many different countries. As are those from previous cohorts, representing many more passport cultures. I think of them (and so many others like them) often, hoping they will find their tribe, their community, which may or may not include others from their passport culture. Longing for them to know and trust that they are so very welcome in this community! Longing for them to come in to be blessed and encouraged, and to be a blessing to all of us!
If you are not from the US and are wondering whether there is space for you here, whether you’d be welcome or whether people would rather stay among themselves – take it from me as a fellow non-American that we would love for you to be part of this tribe! So come in, pull up a chair and share the laughter and tears around the table!
Whatever your background, what are ways you have experienced richness in diversity?
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