Making Friends in the Neighborhood

I’m scared! I want to host a block party but don’t know what to serve.

Most of my neighbors are second-generation Iraqis. Their culture, customs and foods are foreign to me. The mix includes many African Americans and Asians. We’re all different, which is good!

However, my wife and I hope to know them better, and the block party seems like a natural opportunity, but it’s also a great way to offend other people’s sensibilities. Do we serve alcohol? Do sushi and fattoush belong on the same plate? One person might turn up their nose at another’s cooking.

We’re struck by Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 6, where he commends people for serving the Lord then admonishes them to keep it up till the end. And, we realize that we’re not so hot in the evangelism department, especially with people culturally removed from us.

To add to my feelings of not-quite-measuring up, I’ve been reading a commentary on the Aramaic New Testament (the language spoken by most people during the time of the gospels). The author pointed up the tensions between Galileans, Samaritans and Jewish people in Judea. It turns out the Galileans were genetically similar to Samaritans but doctrinally stuck with Judeans. Consequently, the Samaritans hated them doctrinally while Judeans disdained them racially. The kicker is that Jesus moved to Capernaum in “Galilee of the gentiles” immediately after the temptation episode in Matthew 4.

He, being a Jew, sought people racially removed but culturally similar. This reminds me of Barnabas and Saul making way to Cyprus, where Barnabas was racially different but shared cultural similarities with the general population. It seems that God had the Great Commission in mind before any event in the gospels took place. It also seems like I need to get out of my cultural cocoon if I want to face the challenge.

The upshot is that my wife and I decided to eat Friday lunches in a local café where the menu is in Arabic with English subtitles. We’re hoping to make friends with the regulars and maybe bump into the people we greet on walks in the neighborhood.

Not sure if this will produce any long-term results. But it is worth a try. My gregarious wife made a new friend the first day we did this. The lady lives eight miles away, but they shared a 20-minute conversation. It’s a start, anyway.

What about you? Any tips on reaching into communities outside your comfort zone? We’d love to learn about your experiences.

Catch this on YouTube.