It’s good to take stock now and then of your friendships. Who comes to mind when you think of “friends?” How many people come to mind?
Some people prefer to have lots of friends, others are content with just a few. It can be dangerous to have just one. If you have been an IR for a year or more, you have probably already experienced the loss of a friend. Global workers come and go.
For the sake of your ministry in the community and for your own sake, you probably want to establish some friendships with non-expatriates. This may seem obvious. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of socializing with fellow global workers. After all, you have lots in common. And, sometimes nationals don’t seem as available.
Bob and I found that it took us about two terms in Nairobi to really feel connected to a group of local people. They had seen so many global workers come and go that they seemed wary of establishing deep friendships with us. After returning from our second furlough we felt a different kind of inclusion.
How do you go about offering friendship? Do you know about the Big Trap? As full-time Christian workers, we may think we need to be on our best behavior all the time. We may think we have to protect God’s image by appearing to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit even if it means pretending! I call this the Big Trap because it keeps us emotionally isolated from the very people to whom we come to minister.
Think about this: do you want friends who appear to be perfect? Or do you want to have friends who both need you and are available to give to you; friends who are “real” people? Relationships are about give and take. If you only want to give or only want to take, you don’t have much to offer potential friend. The Gospel is more attractive when it comes packaged in real skin. Think of it as “give and take” skin.
Jesus ate fish with the disciples. He allowed people to minister to Him based on real needs. He associated with tax collectors. Jesus was willing to have needs met even by sinners. Jesus did not indulge in protecting His image in a dishonest fashion. Friendship is a system established by God as a provision for His children. If we can be real, open and honest, our friendships are likely to be more real, too. Another bonus is that spiritual accountability will be a natural outflow of deep and honest Christian friendship.