Monday, April 18, 2011

A Cross-Cultural Blessing

Some years back, I was sitting in a department leadership team meeting. Our boss told us that we needed to find a place for a person from Latin America for about two years, while his wife was brought in on foreign assignment in another department. He was supposed to be fluent in English.

Eyes rolled, and the dance of avoidance got underway. While everyone else started a chorus of “why it wouldn’t be good for my team,” I read his resume. As they sidestepped and do-si-doed, I saw what kind of experience he had.

“I’ll take him,” I said.

A surprised silence. “You will?” my boss asked.

I nodded. “He’s got terrific experience in everything we need on one of my teams. On paper he’s a perfect fit.”

My peers all smiled. Crisis averted. Problem solved. And they didn’t have to deal with it. My boss was relieved as well.

The team in question was concerned when I told them. “Will he understand our stuff?” they asked. “How good is his English?”

“I suspect his English is a whole lot better than our Spanish,” I said.

All I had seen was his resume. When he finally arrived, we discovered his English was excellent. He was fully functional by his second day. The team was thrilled with the additional resource. And he turned out to be an outstanding member of the team. He looked at things with a different perspective. He found things we wouldn’t have even looked for. He came up with ideas we wouldn’t have thought of. And he was an absolutely nice guy.

After the second week, as my peer team leads got to know him, I started hearing the questions like, how did I manage to get all the good people?

It’s a good story if it ended there. But there was another side.

He was a Christian, and over the course of the next two years, as the department went through convulsions, political assaults, downsizing and budget cuts, he came to be my closest confidant. It was something that just started happening.

He walked in my office during a particular bad time, closed the door, and started talking. He grasped what was happening far better than a lot of us did, because he didn’t wear our cultural sunglasses. He saw things simply and plainly, and he called it right every single time. He gave me good advice, even when I didn’t want to hear it. And I could help him with understanding why certain things were the way they were.

But more than that, he became my friend.

I quietly mourned when he and his wife returned home. But I was able to be a reference for him when he was job-hunting, and he found a great job. He later sent me a note, telling me how much what I had told the hiring manager had made the difference.

When I said “I’ll take him,” all I saw was what appeared to be a person with great experience – on paper. The reality matched and exceeded what was on his resume.

But that I would have a fellow believer to stand by me and with me during a very difficult time was something I simply could not have foreseen or expected.

But Someone did.


The High Calling's Community Writing Project on Crossing Cultures.

Dena Dyer at Mother Inferior is hosting a blog canrnival on Crossing Cultures.

Photograph: North and South America by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Sheila Siler said...

You must have been led by the Holy Spirit that day - He truly was providing for you. I love how God does that.

Laura said...

What a wonderful story, Glynn. I agree with Sheila about the Holy Spirit nudging, but bless you for listening.

Dena Dyer said...

What an amazing testimony of God's provision and of the benefits of taking a risk.

Thanks for sharing! :)

S. Etole said...

This is such a great account of provision and obedience and listening.

Duane Scott said...

Your spirit encourages me today, Glynn.

Amy Sullivan said...

Glen, thank you for sharing your story.

Ann Kroeker said...

The response of your colleagues twists my heart in pain. A dear friend of ours lives here in the States but is originally from Mexico, and though he never complains about how he is treated, I suspect he deals with prejudice often. He is brilliant. What a loss for anyone who would write him off, because he is one of the most refreshing, intellectually and spiritually stimulating people to spend time with.

My brother-in-law is from Ecuador, and when he lived in the States, he, too, felt judged based on his nationality, accent, and appearance. He's moved to Europe, and I do hope that he's finding cultural acceptance in that diverse country...and wish he'd found it here.

monicasharman said...

Hand over some of that humility of yours, wouldja?

Sam Van Eman said...

Aren't these surprises great? It helps that you're a good judge of character (or characters, in this case, arranged just so on paper), but God provides in uncanny ways.