During our church service a couple of weeks ago, I looked around the small room, which tends to hold about 40 people on any given Sunday, and I began to count the nationalities represented: 1. Spain, 2. Brazil, 3. Paraguay, 4. Ecuador, 5. Peru, 6. Romania, 7. Argentina, 8. Columbia, 9. Cuba, 10. Cameroon, 11. England, 12. USA. I may have missed one, but you get the picture. Learning one culture can be challenging enough, but interacting with individuals from eleven other cultures is…well, it is often…interesting.
Last week we had dinner with a man from Equatorial Guinea. I had coffee with a woman from Paraguay. I had another coffee date with women from our church, where I mainly talked to women from Romania and England.
At times, this is exhausting as there are so many cultural factors in play that we often don’t understand different interactions or awkward moments. However, we just keep trying. Sometimes we act more Spanish because we are in Spain, and other times we just do more what feels comfortable for our American selves. Either way, we seek to extend genuine kindness and interest in other people and their situations. Many of these individuals are here in Spain because even though they are living quite simply in Spain, the economic situation for them here is better than it is in their country. (At times, this is mind-blowing to try to understand when you see how they are barely making it here.)
Blending the different cultures does make for challenges in the church. At times, it is difficult for immigrants to connect in our Spanish church, and there are obvious distinct cultural games being played. But, it is also a beautiful thing. I love singing different songs in church about God’s heart for the entire world and for our compulsion to share what Christ has done in our lives with the world. Truly, the world is here. And, we are getting a taste of what heaven will be like when people from every tongue, tribe and nation gather together to worship. What an amazing day that will be!