A little girl, five-years-old, plunked herself down in a chair next to my husband and just stared at him with her big brown eyes. She started rubbing her hand back and forth over the top of his head and said, "Oh, that's soft." Then she stared at the white hair sprouting off his arms and age spots on his arm and had some questions for him about that. She asked him to take off his glasses and was absolutely fascinated by his blue eyes. She obviously had not seen a lot of blond and blue-eyed people.
She finally stared right into his face and pronounced loudly to the room, "You're old!" We roared with laughter!
Last night we had the fun experience of attending a graduation party of the daughter of an Ethiopian pastor. Their church recently joined our denomination and Dan has gotten to know him and we were invited. I did read up a bit on Ethiopian culture so we wouldn't blatantly do something to offend.
The invitation said it started at 5 and we arrived a few minutes past that. First cultural difference. Later on, our friend, Teclu, told us that they put 5 on the invitation because their culture is notoriously late to parties. He said if he put 7 on it that people wouldn't arrive until 8:30 or 9!
It wasn't just a party the way we think of parties. It was a celebration and ceremony. There was about 30 minutes of singing and dancing. We couldn't understand a word of the songs (and as far as I could tell it was just 3 songs over that 30 minutes), but one of the guests told us it was a song of thanking God for His blessings. As the women danced they let out a high pitched, "La, la, la, la" and we were told that is a sound they make of joy. It was loud!
Then someone got up and preached for 30 minutes. Again, I couldn't understand anything except the words, Jesus Christ and amen. We were told that he was thanking God for His guidance.
Since I couldn't understand anything, my mind wandered a bit as I looked around the room. There was a family in front of me that had 3 small children. As I watched the little boy give his mother a very hard time and at how laid back the parents were it reminded me of the time that I was a nanny while attending seminary. The family I worked for was from Lebanon and their children were the center of their universe, and to be honest, quite unruly at times. In their culture, children and especially, boys could do no wrong.
My experience last night reminded me of that. The children were loud, joyful and interrupted things constantly and no one seemed to mind. How very different from our culture where we expect children to be quiet and listen!
After about an hour and a half of the songs, preaching, prayers, and other things, we ate. And again, it was culturally very different. I've had Ethiopian food before and this was a spread over 20 feet long. It started with sour injera bread and pan after pan of different types of meat, lentils, goat cheese, sauces and vegetables. I had no idea what much of it was but it was very tasty. You eat with your fingers in Ethiopian culture and use pieces of the bread to pick up the food. Our friend told us that all of the women in the church prepared the food.
Since we had an hour and a half ride before us we left before the cake and many speeches to the graduate. It is such a hospitable culture and they were honored that we had come. I'm glad we were able to go and are definitely looking forward to visiting again.
I love that our denomination has a heart for missions and the world. Dan and I will probably never get to go overseas as missionaries at this point in our lives, but I am thankful that God is bringing the nations to us. We both have the desire to reach this world for Christ. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!