the coworkers and i were talking today about how we spent our respective Easter holidays. one of them put in his time watching children try to launch hard-boiled eggs from a special egg shooter spring machine-thing one of his friends picked up at a garage sale. i’m not sure how the other one put in his Easter, but he ate neither asparagus nor strawberries in celebration. and apparently what i did was a little odd, in “normal” terms.
i participated in an Easter egg hunt for international students (and no, i’m neither international in the sense of not being from the U.S. nor am i a college student any longer). it was so much fun! everyone got into the spirit of the egg hunt, and, since we were all older than ten (i think the actual age range was more like 16-58), there was no whining or crying or stuff like that that can happen when the hunters are all kids. we had students from korea, china, iran and india all searching enthusiastically for little plastic eggs before we settled down to watch a clip from ben hur and discuss the real and glorious reason for Easter.
this, to my mind, is what normal should be — sharing our lives with people who are different from us but very dear to us all the same, learning about their cultures and traditions and sharing our own. i don’t know any of these students on a “deep” level yet, and i might never, but they are fun and sweet and intelligent and i love them. some of them we might not see again after this semester, and that makes me feel more of an urgency to get involved in their lives.
after the normal events of the evening were over (we call our international student night “friday night live”) we had an american slumber party with a few of the girls. i wasn’t quite sure what we were going to do or if it would be fun, and i was tired from a semi-stressful week at work, so i’d thought about not going, but i remembered that sometimes i need to do things even if i don’t want to, and that i’m not the only one i can think about. so i went — and it was the most fun i’ve had at a slumber party in a long time. we laughed and we talked and we learned about each other’s cultures. language wasn’t really a barrier, but laughter is understood in any language. my friend kimchi painted our toenails and then told the story of how she and her fiance fell in love and got engaged. we ate popcorn and drank floats made from raspberry sherbet and sierra mist. they ate brownies, too. we learned how to count to three in farsi and korean, and i learned that telling an english pun on the german language to two koreans and an iranian doesn’t exactly work, but turns out funny anyway. this is my kind of normal, and i love it.
i do remember when international student ministry wasn’t normal to me, though. my first trip to germany gave me a little taste of a global view of the gospel (plus major culture shock, at first — but i was only 12), but it was a couple more years before our church again started to actively minister to the international students in our own backyard. umkc and johnson county community college have so many students from other countries. when i was 14 or so my mom and i were conversation partners with first a girl from turkey and a woman from azerbaijan, and then with girls from boliva and venezuela, as well. through sharing more and more of our lives with people from other countries, and going overseas more, as well, i began to think outside of my little american box i’d grown up in. when i was a full-time student myself it was a lot harder to be involved with international student ministry, but even the little i’ve been able to do this year has been great. after all, God sent His Son, Jesus, because He loved the world, not just the Americans or the Westerners or the “pinkish men,” as g.k. chesterton put it. and because God loves the whole world, we should love the people He’s put in it, whether they were born 5 minutes or 5,000 miles from our homes.