Building Trust

An English teacher in a refugee resettlement agency in a South-Western city, Peter learned to play soccer when he first started getting to know refugee families. He also learned how to say hello and goodbye in Burmese, Farsi, Arabic, Bantu, French, Congolese, Thai, Korean and Chinese. Though he sometimes mispronounced the words and made his friends laugh, his efforts to acquire a few words began to build trust. From his short-term mission experience Peter knew that observation was critical when entering new cultures. After a month in his job at the agency he noticed that the Americans employed there went to restaurants or went home for lunch, but the resettlement workers who were refugees themselves would bring their lunches and eat together in the agency break room. So he decided to pack a lunch and join them each day.

Within two weeks Peter had heard peoples’ immigration stories, seen pictures of their children and enjoyed a few jokes. After three weeks he no longer had to bring lunch because his friends wanted to share their food with him; their tasty lunches were a lot better than peanut butter and jelly! He became an informant for his coworkers, explaining aspects of American culture they found strange. Shamin, one of his lunch friends, asked him to pray for physical healing for her husband. When her husband improved she continued to ask for prayer; a door was opened to share about Jesus with this couple. Peter’s friends from the break room eventually asked him to advocate for the needs of the refugee community with the local municipality, a sign of how much they trusted him. Peter’s choice to spend time eating with his refugee colleagues five days a week – hearing their stories and entering their worlds – developed trust with an entire community.

(Source: Katie J. Rawson, Crossing Cultures with Jesus [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2015] 73-74)