The Lipscomb women’s tennis team is serving during spring break at World Relief Nashville. World Relief works with refugees who have been forced to flee their homes due to ethnic, religious or political persecution and have resettled in Nashville. In this installment the players talk about the experiences of day two.
How many times in Jesus’ life was he interrupted from his schedule? Throughout the Bible it talks about God’s plan and how it seemingly changes so regularly but if we put our trust and faith in Him we will see things falling into place.
So far we have seen this type of idea play out regularly in the first two days of our mission work. Our initial schedule has had daily changes due to timing and different circumstances; however in every situation we have adapted and learned from the good that was in God’s plan.
One group had the opportunity to travel on the bus with our friends from the Middle East to the downtown metro station to learn how the public transport system operates in Nashville. We were so impressed with their ability to quickly pick up on the protocol despite having only been in the country for a short period of time and having limited use of the English language.
The day before we witnessed a completely different atmosphere between the couples we visited as it was mostly male dominated and clear that the family responded predominantly to the men’s wishes.
Tuesday we saw a shift in leader roles as the wife spoke better English and was therefore relied upon to take charge. She interpreted for the both of them and was very willing to listen and adapt to the American culture.
It was interesting to observe how they both depended upon each other’s skills and knowledge to understand a situation. We as a group perceived this to be an incredible attribute and one that we are certain will allow them to continue to adjust to this new culture and experience.
As with everything about this mission trip and our life experiences we looked to the Bible to seek guidance and an understanding of what our purpose is. Following today’s experience we drew inspiration and knowledge from a Bible verse: Mark 10:13-16.
In those verses people were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
Chris Klotz, the director of spiritual formation at Lipscomb University, made us aware of this verse and we all saw the connection that could be drawn between our experiences at the park today and how we were able to express Jesus’ love through our relationship and interaction with the children.
Spending time with eight Middle East refugees, who had fled to Lebanon and then were chosen out of 50 other families to come to the United States, was an enlightening experience. The joy and high spirits that the children showed despite the circumstances was inspirational and proved that a little love can go a long way.
“We asked the family if they have a traditional dance from their country, and they said that they are not allowed to dance because of the lack of freedom where they had lived,” Dani Kinnen said. “I couldn’t imagine how sad that is not being free in a way just to dance.”
We played soccer and Frisbee with the family and the time at the park also allowed us to meet a range of other families who each shared their stories and experiences. One connection between all of the families was their desire to gain an education and they were each excited and eager to pursue the opportunities that are available in the United States.
“They were willing to adapt to such a different culture and were responsive to what we were saying and teaching them,” Laura Kent said.
We each realized today the power of sport and how it can overcome differences in culture and language. As a tennis team we were able to discuss and see how the universality of sport could bring people together and find a common thread that would serve to extend to a deeper interaction and friendship.
“If we are not sharing what Jesus gave us then we are just leaving them the same,” Klotz said. “When you are able to be interrupted from your busy schedules … you want to be known and you want to be loved. Vice versa you want to know people and you want to love people and that’s what He saw in us Tuesday.
“Things did not go according to plan but we used the time to get to know the most wonderful children and experience their love.”