Did you notice I did not use the words “foreign culture?” That is because where I live, I am the foreign culture and I do not enjoy being thought of as The Foreigner. Sometimes the word “foreigner” separates where there should be connection. It can also be used as an excuse when you simply don’t have the energy to try to understand someone else’s words or the meaning behind their words.You can either shrug your shoulders in defeat and say, “Well, I can not understand because it’s a foreign culture thing,” or you can try your best to look beyond the difficulty and find a point of connection.
For 18 years relating to women from a culture different from mine is my life. These relationships are some of the dearest of my life, and bring me so much joy. There aren’t many things I love more than sitting at my kitchen table with my Polish sisters, hearing their hearts, and sharing mine. I often think about what an amazing gift and privilege it is to enjoy that heart connection with ladies whose language, culture, and background are so different from mine. The bond we share because of our mutual Father is a miracle that reaches above and beyond any differences. They open my mind and heart and help me understand that God is working all around the world in ways that are outside of my comfort zone and familiar boxes. Some days I cry joy-tears from the beauty of the special connection I share with my “other culture” sisters. When we pray together in two languages, it makes me so happy knowing that our amazing God is a Master Linguist and understands every language perfectly.
And then…..there are the days when I collapse in tears of exhaustion after three hours of straining every fiber of my being to understand this impossibly complicated language. Polish is rated #4 in the list of most difficult languages to learn. On top of that, trying to decipher the different nuances of words they use, understanding that they may mean something different than I would if I used the same words can drain every bit of energy away. There are many days I cry with loneliness and longing to talk for hours with someone who understands exactly where I’m coming from, and whose native language is the same as mine. I lean hard into Jesus in those times, and He reminds me that He knows exactly how it is to live in a country that feels utterly foreign at times. And often in those times He especially blesses me with affirmation from my sweet Polish friends.
Close relationships with “other culture” ladies mean that sometimes I need to let go of my own hang ups and look at things from a completely different perspective. Suggesting by words or subtle actions that the American or Mennonite way of doing things is superior is very damaging. We tend to think of our way as the best way without considering that we can learn so much from people who have grown up in a completely different setting from our own. Humility and willingness to change our cherished ideas opens doors and builds bridges between our cultures. I have often experienced that same openness from my friends here as I share with them about my understanding of things from a Biblical perspective, and see their willingness to change as well.
Living in Poland is a good gift from Father-God, and I thank Him for enlarging my borders and blessing me with the friendship of my Polish sisters. In spite of the loneliness and difficulties, I feel so privileged to be here. Please come and visit and experience this rich “other culture.”
Bio: Dzien dobry from Poland. My name is Lolita Hershberger. My titles are: Daughter of a good Father, Wife to a sensitive, adventurous man, Mother to five sweet, beautiful, funny children, Pastor’s wife, and Friend to ladies from several different cultures and languages. I grew up in GA and Belgium, got married in 1998, moved to Poland with Anabaptist International Ministries (AIM) in 2001, and have been living here ever since. I love Europe’s history, music, and culture. Poland has become home for our family and we are here until God clearly calls us somewhere else.