by Jill Lienemann, Kesher International Missions | ©2013
I came across a letter that I had written when I was eight years old to my paternal grandmother. The correspondence had found its way back to me after my father’s passing a few years ago. More than 40 years later, one sentence within the short paragraph still tugs at my heart…
“I love you very much but I’m shy, I’m sorry.”
I don’t have any memory of writing this but do remember being timid in giving my grandparents a goodbye hug upon their departure from a visit. Conversely, the current challenge is stopping myself from hugging everyone I meet. What was the catalyst for this change? Mission trips. Through the course of several journeys to various Latin American countries a strange thing happened. While I was carrying out cultural sensitivity by greeting our hosts and the people with the customary hug and kiss, God was using the opportunity to minister to me.
“And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16 NKJV)
Some researchers believe that our personal space areas are formed and monitored by the region of the brain that processes memory and emotional reactions such as fear. Mistrust of physical contact becomes a conditioned behavior. Rigid personal boundaries established for protection may later prevent our earnest desire to connect with others.
As I consciously and continually forced myself out of the comfort zone of preserving a four-foot distance from other people, the Lord began to reverse the embedded patterns stored deep in my mind. The vision of open arms no longer meant harm but trust and loving respect. An embrace was not a signal for flight but a gesture of peace and unity.
“Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!”” (Acts 20:10 NIV)
In my desire to share Christ with those around the world who didn’t know Him, Jesus healed my spirit by giving me the freedom to reach out with an expression of love beyond what I thought I was ever capable. What will God do in you on your mission trip?!
KESHER TIP (connection): Handshake From The Heart
In the New Testament, the word “greet” is mentioned more than 70 times. Surely God thought it was an important subject. Find out the culturally appropriate way (hug, kiss, verbal words, etc.) to greet others in your country destination. In doing so, it shows honor and respect that you cared enough to want to connect with them. Begin practicing the greetings in your team preparation meetings. Repetition now will make your salutations less awkward and more natural in the mission field.