I was annoyed. I had been invited to visit a small village in the mountains for two days with a dozen Asian college students, but now I couldn’t understand any of them. They continually chatted and joked among themselves in their language, and only what the tour guide said was interpreted for me.

At first I tried to smile and pretend to be involved in conversations I couldn’t understand, but after a while it got old. I stopped trying to be friendly and just stood with a blank stare on my face, hoping they would notice how detached I felt. For the first time, I felt the frustration of the language barrier. It wasn’t as if these students didn’t know English. They had learned it in school, and I’m sure they understood everything I said. But they made no effort to talk to me.

I caught myself looking down on their way of doing things: the breakfast food they ate, the primitive restroom facilities (a hole in the ground in an outhouse), the lack of warm running water or heat. “How in the world can they eat that bland soupy rice porridge, or go without bathing, or let their hands get so dirty, or sleep in such frigid temperatures?” I asked myself.
Then it hit me, “Why in the world would I come to a foreign country and expect everyone to cater to me? What makes me think that my way is the best way, or that I am somehow superior to these people? And why would I come to a country without learning their language and expect everyone to speak only English around me?”

When I think about it, I’ve been really spoiled. Almost everywhere I go, heads turn, people rush to meet me, to practice speaking English, and to make this foreigner feel welcome. I’ve gotten by with only learning a few phrases: “Hello.” “How much does it cost?” “That’s too expensive!” “Thank you.” I’ve been with groups of students who will only speak in English around me and do all they can to make me feel at home.

I felt really convicted on the bus ride home this weekend when Samantha, the girl sitting next to me turned and confessed that I was the first foreigner she had ever communicated closely with. She was so happy to be with me, and I realized that she and everyone in the group were probably more aware of me than I realized. It was so humbling to realize that in those two days, I was drastically influencing her view of not only Americans, but Christians!

I had not been a good representation at all with my negative attitude. In fact, the only “Christian” thing I’d done was pray for the meals. We ended up talking during the 5-hour ride home, and it was great! Her English improved drastically as she became comfortable with me. Samantha surprised me by saying how much she had been affected by our prayers for the meals. She told me that as we prayed for each meal, her “heart begin to shake” and she felt something she couldn’t even describe! She said she was now interested to learn more about God and she wants to go to church!

I was blown away by how amazing God is! Despite my complaining attitude, my tiredness, and my selfishness, He still had a plan to draw Samantha’s heart toward Himself. He loves these people way more than I ever could on my best day. So, even in spite of me, He still was able to touch her heart!