“Would this bright, beautiful Turkish girl even be interested in spending time with a middle aged American housewife like me?” That was my question when I met Bahar about 8 years ago. She was a social butterfly with a million friends, a Chrstn graduate student from a Mslm background. I was a stay at home mother, unsure about what kind of ministry I could possibly have outside my home since caring for my husband and two kids was overwhelming enough.
I sensed the Lord leading me to encourage younger women in our church, but I didn’t know what to do. With Bahar, I began by simply praying for her and calling occasionally to ask how she was. Even phoning her intimidated me; I would force myself to dial the numbers. What if I was bothering her? What if she really didn’t want to talk to me? But over time I realized that she genuinely appreciated having someone she could talk to, someone who listened.
Mentor and Disciple
As Bahar and I spent time together, I discovered we had several interests in common and shared a passion for God’s word. We read scripture and prayed together, but I realized that Bahar did not need to be someone’s discipleship project; she needed an older sister to take an interest in her life and enjoy her.
I shared with her what God was doing in my own life, trying to be transparent about my struggles in an appropriate way. “You face these issues too?” she would ask. “It’s good to know that I’m not the only one.”
Over several years I watched Bahar grow in love and commitment to Christ. Together, we led a small group and two different short-term women’s discipleship groups. Her gifts of leadership and service bloomed as she became a co-worker and a vibrant leader in her own right.
Today Bahar and I are engaged in different ministries, but our relationship continues because she has become the sister I never had. We have talked and laughed over many dinners and late night phone calls. We’ve played games and thrown parties together. We’ve been through hard times. I helped edit her minor doctoral dissertation. She was there when my husband had a mini-stroke. We’ve had cross-cultural conflicts and worked them out. My family loves her.
Our friendship is a special gift. I've learned and received from my faithful Turkish sister much more than I've given, and along the way I’ve discovered some relationship principles that I wish I were better at:
- Mentoring is about relationship, not making people our projects.
- Listening to understand is more life-giving than trying to fix people.
- Being transparent and sharing my weaknesses builds bridges.
- Accepting others instead of judging them is vital.
- Being willing to give and receive brings health to cross-cultural friendships.
Sometimes I laugh to think that it all started with a phone call I was almost too scared to make! What about you? Is there someone you can reach out to with a phone call today?
Any comments about friendship across cultures?
I’ve been on vacation with my brother and his family, so this was a re-edit of one of my favorite posts.