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Reaching Out & Gathering In

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Ways to reach out intentionally at karenehman.com

“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” Revelation 5:9 (NIV)

For all but one year of my life I have lived in small towns within 20 miles of where I was born. These towns, though quaint and friendly, are not what you would call racially or ethnically diverse. Being raised in such an area presents challenges when it comes to getting to know people different from me.

Thankfully, my experience with a friend of my father led me and my whole family to intentionally make efforts to know others who look, live and worship differently than we do. This friend’s name is Ray.

Ray was a co-worker of my dad’s who became very close to our family. He and I have completely different backgrounds and don’t share the same race. However, we do share similar hearts. Hearts that love God, family and ministry. Today, Ray and I are like siblings, and he is even a part of my father’s will.

Currently, Brother Ray is the pastor of a church in the big city a few miles south of us. Years ago, when his congregation purchased a larger church building and held their first service there, Ray invited my husband to be one of the guest speakers.

After the service, the church celebrated with a huge home-cooked dinner lovingly made by many of the women of that parish. My family and I were treated like royalty. We were seated at the head table and served the most delicious food, including many dishes I had never tasted before. My children played in the nursery with the other children from the church. We exchanged hugs, well wishes and recipes with many from the congregation.

It was an incredible experience, and what made it even more memorable was that we were the only family of our race in attendance that day. And it was good for our children to be in the minority that Sunday.

My first experience of being in the minority was when I went on a college mission trip to a foreign land. The experience was so powerful it changed my perspective on diversity forever. I knew I wanted to encourage my children to intentionally get to know people from all walks of life and various ethnic groups.

As we raised our kids, we have made sure they not only rub shoulders with those who are different from us, but lovingly serve them as well, just as we were served that day. We have helped put on holiday dinners at a community center that ministers to displaced refugees. When younger, my children saved up some of their allowance money to give to a missionary. And we have sponsored Compassion International children from another continent over the years, helping provide them with food and an education. Getting to know others, and serving them in the process, has made our family’s life richer.

Today’s key verse makes it clear that not everyone in heaven will look just like us. There will be people from every tribe and nation and tongue. If heaven will be diverse, we need to make sure we are seeking out diversity while here on earth.

We must seek out new relationships, resist using stereotypes when we speak and encourage our children (and other young souls in our sphere of influence) to pursue diversity in their friendships. How it warms my heart to see my youngest son, the only one left in high school, snacking with his friends around my kitchen island — friends who, although share a love of sports, funny videos and laughter, do not share the same ethnic or racial make-up.

Will you make it a point to purposely reach out to those who look and live differently than you? When you do, you reflect God’s heart toward mankind while you also get a little glimpse of heaven. Why, you might just gain some new recipes in the process.

Most of all, the recipe for love.

Father, I want to be intentional to get to know and serve others who are different from me. Help me to reflect Your love to them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do you rub shoulders with those who are different from you? In life, culture, race or worship? Ideas for reaching out and gathering in from karenehman.com

 

If heaven will be diverse, why shouldn’t we strive to make our friendships here on earth diverse as well?

Here are some ways to reach out to others and invite them into your life.

*Hang out.

My friend Arlene and me at our Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference.

Don’t restrict your friendships to only those with similar lifestyles and looks. Make it a point to reach out and get to know others. Is there a new family in the neighborhood who is of a different nationality? Did your place of employment just hire a new coworker who is from a foreign country? Is there a new family at church who schools their children differently than you? Make it a point to reach out to these new people. Greet them. Ask them if you can be of help. let them know you are happy to meet them and look forward to getting to know them.

*Inquire.

Be a little nosey! Ask questions to your new found friend. Get to know what their story is. Where were they born? Where did they grow up? How did they come to live near you? What are their interests? Their favorite place to eat? Do they attend a church? If so, which one? Be genuinely interested in them and what is going on in their life.

*Engage.

Ask their opinion or solicit their help in a project. Talk over current events with them to get their perspective. Make understanding them your aim and learning about their beliefs and culture. Resist the urge to make conversations one sided. Let them talk while you listen!

7 Ways to Reach Out to Others and Embrace Diversity from karenehman.com

*Invite.

Open up your home and open up your life. Invite a new friend out for coffee. Ask a new family over for Sunday supper. Hold a potluck at your place where everyone brings an ethnic dish from their heritage. Hold a Bible study at your home for women from various walks of life. Have a couples get together where everyone brings their wedding photo album and tells the story of how they met. For food, serve wedding cake.

Hanging out on Christmas Eve with some of my son’s friends. I call them my “sorta sons”.

*Remember.

As you get to know your new friends, take notice. Discover when their birthday or anniversary is and send them a card. Find out when their child’s choir or band recital is or perhaps a program at their church. Show up to watch. What an encouragement that will be!!! Listen for what their favorite snack or coffee house drink is. Then, show up on a random day with a treat in hand.

*Serve.

Our family has had many opportunity to serve people different from us. We have helped prepare meals at a homeless shelter, babysat for women in a battered women’s shelter while they attended a bible study and served Thanksgiving dinner at a hispanic center in the big inner city. We live in the country in a small town. Exposing our kids to people different from us has enriched their lives and helped to develop empathy.

*Pray and invest.

Commit to praying for those who are different from you, especially as a family. When our kids were very young, we heard a man speak who was part of a ministry to Native Americans. We were all fascinated with his ministries work. We got his newsletter, kept up on his prayer requests, and followed his speaking schedule online. They often took part of the money they earned doing chores for their grandpa and sent it to him, telling him they were praying for him. This experience helped to shape our kids’ view of ministry. Our adult daughter is very involved with a local charity that rescues women from sex trafficking. She not only prays for them and volunteers to provide cosmetology services to the women, she also gives a portion of all of the money she earns in her salon to the organization.

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If you want more ideas for loving others, my newest book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-centered World is now available in stores and online. There is also a DVD Bible study series with workbook that accompanies the book!

The book and Bible study offer biblical teaching and suggests doable actions that are simple, heart-tugging, sentimental, even sneaky and hilarious. This message:

• Presents scriptural examples of those who lived alert, including Jesus, who noticed those who least expected to be seen.

• Gives creative ideas for showing love to friends and family, and suggests practical ways to reach out to the lonely, the marginalized, the outcast, and the odd duck. Additionally, it helps you comfort the grieving, showing what you can do when you don’t know what to say.

• Provides inspiration for blessing the “necessary people” in your life, those often-overlooked souls who help you get life done every day, and teaches you how to hug a porcupine by genuinely loving the hard-to-love.

Find out more, and grab some lovely images with quotes from the book to share on social media, by visiting listenloverepeatbook.com

 

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27 Comments

  1. Honestly, this article was very convicting. I realized that I seek out others like myself out of fear. The media frenzy about racism and political correctness has actually made me afraid to engage someone of another race because “what if I offend them? I don’t want them to think I’m racist, so I just won’t even bother. ” I’m realizing more and more how insane this line of thinking is. God did not give us a spirit of fear. He tells us to be strong and of good courage. Thank you for this wake up call.

    I plan on praying about this matter. I will pray for boldness. And I will take some fresh baked bread to my neighbors. :)

  2. Karen, God has been speaking to me about having a morning coffee at my home. I really want to do a Bible study thru P31, but I think to start that would intimidate some of my neighbors. So, God is speaking to me about a coffee/tea. I am trying to find the time to do it and keep it up between my own Bible studies, substitute teaching and keeping grandchildren. I can’t wait to meet some of my neighbors down the road – not just the ones across the road and next to us.

  3. My husband works at a non profit that has a new crew of Interns that come every 6 months, for 6 months. I try to talk with them, on Thanksgiving I make the traditional dinner for them because they are far from home and working. They are a amazing diverse group and I love hearing about where they are from. In fact, tomorrow we ar having a young woman from Scotland. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

  4. This year our family delivered meals on thanksgiving day. It was a real eye-opener for our 5 year old and we answered several questions about other people’s homes, why people may not have been able to cook, etc. I have also found that participating in activities at our local library gives us an opportunity to make friends that might otherwise be outside of our normal “circle.”

  5. We are on our 40’s with a first grader. We tend to encounter people in a different stage of life frequently.

    I am a sign language interpreter. My son has been around Deaf people since he was born.

    We will be helping serve meals to the homeless when my son is old enough to do so. We packaged meals for Kids Against Hunger twice. My son has told me he wants to feed hungry people.

    I want to find more ways to reach more people. I have always had a variety of friends from diverse backgrounds. I think it is so important.

    Carissa in eastern Iowa

  6. We live in a small town that is not diverse. We do have interactions with other ethnic groups at church, out to eat, etc. At our girls’ daycare that is in a bigger town close by, they are interacting with different racial groups all day. Not once has either one of our kids asked why their skin is a different color, or why they even know a different language. Racial differences are in the eye of the beholder! I would like to find a museum or university that does culture/ethnic days, I think that would be educational and fun!

  7. We have some new neighbors down the street with a different lifestyle than ours, and I have been thinking about how to interact with them. It is complex when I am teaching my children about values, and I want to teach them to show Christ’s love to all and to value relationships over principles. Thank you for the great ideas and food for thought!

  8. My kids are just 2 and 4. But my husband and I have always worked and taught in the inner city and we enjoy serving in diverse communities. We obviously try to expose our children to different cultures and people. We are close friends with a family from Nigeria and our church is quite diverse. As they get older, I hope to be more intentional and I’m thankful for the ideas I’ve been reading in the comments.

  9. I realized today that I have let some freindships fall away since I have retired. While I am friends and love the different people in outr church of all ages, I need to focus on people outside my church and get out and find a way to help others.

  10. I reach out by being open through out the day to people I see in grocery stores, shopping, church that I feel the Holy Spirit asking me to talk with them, smile or just let them know that I noticed them..

  11. Over the years we have volunteered at different places with different groups of people, but as my kids have gone off to college, it’s been harder for me to step out on my own. I’ve wanted for a long time to invite folks from my church who live close by over as a group to get to know each other better but haven’t had the courage to open up my house. Maybe this will be the year it happens!

  12. Thank you for getting me to think about how I’m really feeling inside. In my 63 years I have sensed a larger racial divide in our country more than ever in recent years. There are feelings of fear and helplessness. I live in Baltimore just outside the city limits and have been concerned because of what happened here locally recently and also what has been happening nationally in the news.
    I appreciate your helpful suggestion of not making ‘generalizations’ about a certain race. After I was robbed awhile back by someone of a different race, it caused me to ‘generalize’ and also to be fearful and suspicious of this particular race. But I thank God that I have met some friendly people of that race while talking with them waiting in line at a store.
    I would appreciate your prayers for me in this area, and for our nation too. Thank you.

      1. Thank you so much for the encouragement. This is the first time anyone has ever left a comment for me–thank you for your thoughtfulness and kindness and for just taking the time–it means a lot.

  13. Thank you for encouraging us all to be open to everyone as our Lord and Savior is. I do try love unconditionally with Jesus’s help and can only do it through Him. In 1969 in Texas I volunteered to teach in an all African American elementary school. It was and eye and heart opener. Their cultures in most areas were different from mine. I taught the second grade. I do remember that they wrote me letters and in one of them they asked me to paint myself black which I feel was because the wanted to totally identify themselves with me. The Lord loves us all as the children’s song says ” red, yellow, black, and white are all precious in His sight.”

  14. To be honest I have not really thought about this. I grew up and was raised in a homogenous society but I didn’t really think anything about it until I moved to one of the biggest and most diverse cities in the U.S. I think I just make a point to be friendly and welcoming and open to everyone. I also try not to judge anyone’s background as I hope they try not to judge mine! I would love to win a copy of this book. It seems perfect for me! I just got married and find I have started “hosting” more people and I don’t know what I am doing!

  15. I have done several things over the years. I am from Illinois, which is pretty diverse. I moved to Wisconsin at 14 years old and the area in which we lived was a little less diverse. I left for college and went to school in Iowa and boy was this a culture shock. While it was a culture shock , it is where I learned to be intentional in my relationships and friendships. Where I learned to break down barriers by teaching and learning. I considered myself pretty diverse and then… I lived in Spain for 4 months and Morrocco for 5 days. It was here that I truly learned, and pushed myself, to reach out to those who did not look like me, believe like me, or speak the same language as me. I found that many people will not be upset with you if you show genuine interest in getting to know them; ethnically, culturally, racially, etc. Reaching out through educating and being educated is a great way to build friendships. Understanding that we are all more alike than different has been another way that I have reached out and built relationships with those around me; some seasonal and other lifelong. Another idea that I used was taking part in different traditions as well as sharing my own. Trading history stories as has been extremely beneficial for me in building these relationships. Minimizing judgements, and being honest about the fact that there ever were any, has also been a huge part of assisting me in buildings these type of diverse friendships. Not being afraid to ask questions. Best thought I couldn’t have realized. Even so, I’m always open to learn more knowing that no one could know every thing there is to know about those who are different than them. Besides, many of us are still learning just how diverse we are. ?

  16. Growing up in the south there seems to still be a separation of races. I had lived in larger cities over the past years where this wasn’t as noticeable. I have always felt people are who they are by what is in their heart and not by the color of their skin. Thank you for your words today on opening your heart and home.

  17. To be honest with you, I haven’t really thought about this much. Reading your devotion made me realize that I could have new, wonderful friendships & learn so much about another’s way of life. It also brought to mind stories that my daughter has shared with me from her first four years of college. She made many diverse friends & I enjoyed hearing her stories. This is a great challenge for me! Thanks & God bless!

  18. The two ways we connect are through Operation Christmas Child every year and the sponsorship of a child through Compassion International. However, your posts today are encouraging me to do something a little more personal – visual – interactive. Thanks for the encouragement. I plan to look for some local, hand-on opportunities for me and my children.

  19. We’ve loved “hosting” college students. Research shows that most foreign college students spend four years in the US and never see the inside of an American home. They leave thinking Americans are just what TV and dorm life represent them to be – ugh. Horizons International is a great organization that pairs families with students who would love some home cooked meals and outings with a family. We’ve had students from multiple countries and many have brought their friends for holiday dinners, too. One student was back in Korea when we adopted one of our sons, and loved reciprocating as tour guide. our kids will always remember these special relationships and it’s extra special for our international family to continue to seek out diversity.

  20. I also grew up in a not so diverse part of a small town, and I struggle with feeling awkward around different races and different social statuses. We now live in an extremely diverse city, and I’m so relieved my children are exposed to diversity from preschool age.
    I’m still in the toddler phase mostly, so birthday parties and playdates are my only ideas for seeking out diverse friendships. My daughter is trying to form a Brownie troop with some girls in her school, none of which are of our same race. Getting involved with leading her future troop will be a big step for me in the diversity direction.

  21. Our family began in a college mission church that focused on international students. Though we live 40 miles away, we make it a focus to interact with many from this church on a regular basis.

  22. One way in which we reach out to other groups is through Operation Christmas Child with our granddaughters. They help us fill the shoeboxes for the children and learn about them, and also what its like not to have just the basic necessities in life. They also offer to use some of their allowance money to help buy presents to fill the shoeboxes. I believe that it’s a wonderful experience for them to learn about the other children from these countries that aren’t as fortunate as they are.

  23. One way I like to make sure our family interacts with a wide variety of people is to make sure that we spend time with people who are different life stages than we are. We are a young family (20s/30s couple with a toddler), but we make sure all our friends aren’t also young families. We have friends who are high school and college students, friends who are middle aged, and friends who are elderly. The perspectives of individuals in life stages different from ours is such a lovely enhancement to our lives.

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