Within a one month period I have met two strangers with whom a hither-to unknown connection with a far away small town in a far away country became the icebreaker into a wonderful conversation and future connection. The small town is Arusha in Tanzania. I have mentioned how, in the course of eye examination, the ophthalmologist and I, two complete strangers, discovered that indeed we have some connection through the small town of Arusha.
Less than a month later, it happened again. This time I accepted to attend a venue – dinner actually – where all the guests, though they knew one another from church, to me they were complete strangers, except the two hosts. By chance (here we go again) I was paired with Sandy (not her real name). The idea behind the pairing is to find out in conversation relevant information to introduce your partner to the whole group.
“So you are from Tanzania”, Sandy asked. I answered yes.
“From Arusha?” The same question I was asked a month ago.
“No, actually from Moshi, fifty miles east of Arusha, on the foot of Kilimanjaro” Again, almost word for word, my response to the ophthalmologist.
That set us on to the most uplifting conversation I could ever have imagined. Not only was she in Arusha with World Vision (and my daughter works with World Vision in Arusha) the two of us also have an Israel connection. We shared memories of Mount Scopus, the Lutheran church’s Augusta Victoria hospital and World Vision in the same area, Church of the Redeemer in the Old City, the Anglican St. George’s College and Christ Church.
But what is most fascinating is that this discovery between Sandy and me was a shared experience with all the other pairs. They all have extensive international experience and mindset and they have passion for the church and its mission. Furthermore, even though they know one another from church, the time we spent eating and talking revealed much that turned out to be fresh insight about each one.
The larger picture for me is that we are never strangers from one another. There are no aliens among us. We belong together. It is fear only that separates us to believe that those we don’t know are different from us.