I was an Awana kid. I loved it, and still love what I learned because of it, and if you asked me the question "what is love," I would probably answer, "God." Because of the verse in 1 John 4:8. A much more difficult question is "What is being loving?" Or in other words, "What action best demonstrates love to the other person?" While I was in the States I pondered over this question in relation to many circumstances, but I have found that living in a different culture only magnifies the difficulty of answering that question tenfold.
Case in point: the piki men. or just men in general here. Because of my brightly colored skin and the imagined bulge in my pocket, hardly a single man in Uganda wouldn't want to be my boyfriend or husband. Add to that the fact that I naturally tend to smile, laugh, and in general be overly friendly, and I haven't been able to convince them to look elsewhere. While their frequent marriage proposals can cause much amusement (like the time a guy tried to use baby formula in a pick up line?!?!?!), it has also left me with a question to ask myself. What does truly being loving to them look like? While my first instinct is to smile at them, ask them questions about their family, and be 'kind' to them, I'm left wondering, is that really loving? In a culture where answers to strangers are typically short (and to my mind curt), my friendliness can be interpreted wrongly as interest. I have been told that it would be kinder to not lead them to believe they can win me by smiling and laughing with them, and instead I should adapt the cultural norm of short, to the point answers to questions. Talk about tough. This goes against everything that I have been my whole life. If people are friendly, I will be friendly as well. If people smile, I smile back. (that is unless I beat them to the smiling first!) If people ask a question, I answer and ask another one back. It's who I have always been. But now I have a choice: to stay the same, or to adapt to this new culture. Do I choose to hold on to what I value about my past culture, or choose to value something in this new culture more? Tonight I'm praying for wisdom, and conviction, and true compassion and love for people that is expressed in a way that they will easily understand. What are you praying for?