Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 14, 2016

Our Cultural Excursion

One of the best ways to learn a new language is by immersion. Honestly, there are just some things that you simply can’t learn from reading a book or listening to a lecture. The advantages of being in a setting where you are exposed to the subtle nuances of a language are huge.

Wadi Rum Camel Man
The same holds true for expanding our cultural vocabulary. Cultural vocabulary is that practical wisdom concerning why a particular people do things the way they do and what we should know in order to more effectively communicate with them. After all, effective communication involves more than words.

Taking the time to learn about the things that have shaped the way other people see the world is important. When we spend time in their context, observing how they do things and why, we can begin to make progress toward the kind of understanding that can help us to build bridges of love.

Iraqi Refugees at Home
Over the past couple of weeks our students have been immersed in a culture that is far different from what they are accustomed to. They have removed their shoes when entering homes, they have sat on the floor in a way that does not expose the soles of their feet, they have sipped gallons of tea one tiny cup at a time, and much more.

One cultural distinctive that has impressed our students is Middle Eastern hospitality. Offering hospitality to strangers was a moral imperative and sacred duty in ancient times. That’s because people believed guests were sent to them from God. Abraham, for example, showed this attitude when he entertained three strangers who proved to be angels (Gen. 18).

Wadi Rum Teapot
Hospitality in the Middle East continues to this day. It is ingrained into the cultural DNA of the people here. Every Syrian and Iraqi refugee family we visited extended selfless hospitality to us. They offered us tea and whatever cookies or sweets they had in the home. They invited us to stay for a meal, even though they barely had enough to feed their own families. These are practices that date back to ancient times.

Petra Treasury KSM Students
We ended our time in Jordan by visiting Petra, the magnificent World Heritage Site. Our guide explained the roots of so many of the cultural practices that continue to this day, including extending hospitality to others. From Petra we drove to Wadi Rum to take a desert excursion and watch the sun set over distant hills. Along the way we stopped to enjoy tea with Bedouins who welcomed us with open arms.

Wadi Rum Students

In a few hours we will head for the airport to begin our journey back to the States. We do so knowing that our students have made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of refugees they have met and cared for. And, our students will return home having experienced the kindness of those who are often depicted in less than a positive light in the media.

Wadi Rum Tea

Hopefully, the cultural lessons our students have learned during their time in Jordan will inform their own interaction with the diaspora of nations in our own backyard. Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness — all foes to real understanding. Likewise, tolerance, or broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in our little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Traveling and interacting with people in other places not only helps those who travel, it can also help those they meet to abandon their own prejudices or misinformation about others. I am grateful to have spent the past couple of weeks leading our students to love and serve others in the name of Jesus. There is no question in my mind that every one of us are returning home from our cultural excursion with a better perspective on what it takes to build cultural bridges of love.


Responses

  1. Omar, thank you for your thoughtful, heartfelt blogs, They teach all of us.
    In Him, Linda Briggs

    • You’re welcome, Linda. Thanks for following our adventure.

  2. Omar,

    Have been reading every post during your journey. Thank you for showing the world to these students. They, like others you have taken to Jordan, will not forget it and the lessons they have learned. This is the best course they have taken so far.

    Daniel Massey

    • Thanks, Daniel. I appreciate you following our journey. Have had a great time with this team.


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