One of the things that we have been surprised - and at times amazed about - is the patience that people have shown to us as we have tried to formulate sentences and express ourselves in Spanish and Spanglish. People have shown us much kindness as we have tried to adapt to a new culture and made various mistakes, a few of which we are aware of and others not. One particularly memorable incident involved Neil getting changed after swimming, and discovering that it was just designed for male children. The mum who discovered Neil, may have been shocked but made no fuss!
However, at other times, people have perhaps understandably not been as patient or considerate. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a meeting at Daniel's school. My Spanish is currently at a level where i can understand some of what is going on, but not everything, and a bilingual teacher was translating for me. Then, it was announced that we were splitting into groups to discuss, develop and act out role plays, taking me a way out of my comfort zone, but I was prepared to give it a go.
It was ok, but a joke was made at my expense, and people were quick to point out my lack of understanding. It wasn't a terrible experience by any stretch, but I felt like an outsider. This was partly borne out of my own frustration - I was used to leading these kind of activities, not struggling to make simple contributions, but also partly caused by the responses of others. I felt that people instantly dismissed me because of assumptions they had made. It wasn't a nice feeling.
However, this brief and untypical experience gave me an insight into the lives that some people have to lead every day - misjudged and misunderstood, with people not taking the time to see things a different way. And as I reflected later, I know that all too often in similar situations in the past, I have not sought to empathise with people on the outside, I haven't shown understanding or patience. I don't think - I certainly hope - that this was beccause of unkindness, but normally a result of ignorance and thoughtlessness.
The following Sunday, Scott talked about the well known passage from 1 Corinthians 12, discussing the body of Christ. It is a passage that I have read, heard and even taught many times before, but the words took on a new significance:
'On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. 1 Corinthians 12:22-24
Have I really accepted the full meaning of these words? Have I really believed that those appearing weaker or different should be treated with special modesty? Have I lived in a way that demonstrates that I have equal concern for everyone (v25)?
The honest answer is no and I know that I need to change, with God's help. So many experiences in Peru seem to have a deeper resonance and a greater impact than they would have done back in the UK. I am grateful to God for these opportunities and I pray that they will help me to see the world and people through His eyes.