We have a remarkable young man at our church who is currently studying abroad this year in Ecuador as a junior at St. Louis University. Sito is immersed in the Spanish language, South American culture, and a unique religious context. As a young man considering pastoral ministry, his worldview has been stretched.
Sito and I Skype from time to time and last night we chatted for over an hour. (Are you reading this, Sito?) One thing he has observed this far is the fact that he is a complete outsider. He is American. His Spanish comes with an accent. And being Lutheran, he is a religious anomaly. Much of South America is obviously rooted in Catholicism. But there is also a powerful charismatic insurgence throughout the region. Lutheran Christians enjoy cult status.
In the U.S., Sito is a natural leader. Personable, smart, and gifted. In Ecuador, he is "at the bottom" - a learner of the culture, language, and customs. He has occasionally wondered, "Does anyone here really know me as a person?" Not just as the novel exchange student, or the foreigner.
Cross cultural experiences always make me take note of the outsider. In all my life's vocations, I am a leader, one who influences, the consummate insider. But what does it look like from the other side? The visitor who timidly enters the back door of my church and quietly leaves through the same door. The neighbor whose life experience is vastly different than mine. The foreigner in my community who has limited access to all the things that are open to me.
Sito mentioned an appreciation for Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Take on the cause of the other. Enter into the life of your neighbor. Really know them "as a person." Join them in their status as "outsider."
Check out Sito's blog.