I would like to share a short series of articles highlighting our GNPI staff members who have learned the importance of cultural relevance by living in a different culture themselves. They have gained new perspectives which they apply to the ministry in practical and valuable ways.
Greg Fish is a great asset to GNPI. He is a versatile team player who fills in where he is needed. While we were looking for a new NOMaD coordinator, our NOMaD team in Chile asked for some training. Greg, who actually was born and raised on the mission field in Chile, created a training manual for the team, and took along some church partners from Plainfield Christian Church in Indiana to meet the team. We appreciate this patient, pleasant, and productive coworker. Here are some reflections he put down on paper while on the trip amidst a flurry of familiar surroundings. (Click here to see the first article in this series by Angie Anderson, Accepting Gifts.)
The Crying Guy in Seat 7 by Greg Fish, creative media designer
It was the strangest time. It was nothing special or out of the ordinary. And that’s just it. That’s when a wave of emotion hit me, that took my breath away. It caused tears to well up in my eyes and break free (even now as I write). The cliched lump in the throat was all too real for me.
It was only a lady on her cell phone. I didn’t even see her. Don’t know what she looks like. I just overheard a plain conversation on a bus ride through the Chilean countryside. What she said didn’t matter. In fact, it was simply a short and boring exchange with a family member, I suppose. It was the way she talked. It was how she sounded.
It wasn’t like the Spanish I’ve heard the last decade and a half. It was Chilean Spanish, complete with all of its nuances. It was Chilean personality coming out on full display. It wasn’t the actual trigger which caused this temporary loss of composure in me. The trigger was the last four days leading up to this moment of eavesdropping. It was all of the familiar old sights and sounds and smells and places and silly things like name brands and more important parts of culture like food and drink. It was old friends and new friends alike.
It was realizing that my childhood friend’s teenage kid is the same age I was when I left this place, and that it’s been just as many years since I last visited. It was hearing this type of Spanish now for the better part of a week.
So it was on a fairly quiet bus ride back from the picturesque coastal city of Pichilemu back to Santiago where my previously delinquent emotions started to come out. I’m glad I asked for napkins at the sandwich shop before getting on the bus so I could wipe the tears that ran down my cheeks and blow my nose and try to breathe regularly again. I only hope that I still blend in enough not to look like a complete fool. But being surrounded by such beauty, taking in the gorgeous landscapes of the country I grew up in, which I used to call home, I don’t really mind if I appear somewhat foolish given the circumstances.
“What’s wrong with the crying guy in seat 7?” Absolutely nothing.
This article first appeared on Greg’s personal blog.