Sacred Spaces: How dislocation and discomfort forge boundless, beautiful belonging
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
I’ll never forget my kitchen in Uganda.
It hosted armies of ants and many gecko friends.
It had traces of orange dirt on its floors daily.
There were always dirty pots piled in the sink and hand washed dishes stacked on the counter to dry.
The refrigerator was frequently off limits due to power outages and the water from the sink was too risky to drink.
Certain foods like tea leaves and sugar seemed always in need of replenishing but no one in our family really even drank chai.
But man, I loved that kitchen.
With its wooden shelf of fresh fruits and vegetables piled high and the way it often smelled of onions frying in oil.
How its back door led to an avocado tree.
How the meals cooked within seemed to nourish my soul just as much as my body.
But, what I loved the very most was how the African hands who shared this space with me also held my children.
And how somehow, this kitchen blended both our worlds with its jif peanut butter smeared on the counters, and pots of beans and matooke bubbling on the stove.
This shared space welcomed cultural differences while multilingual songs and unison laughter echoed off its cement walls.
We shared recipes and dreams while peeling mangos and rolling out tortillas.
And in those shared daily tasks, the Lord graciously peeled back layers of untruths in the way I viewed his Kingdom.
My understanding of community was redefined in those kitchen experiences, as I welcomed new tastes and smells of another culture and embraced a new people to be my very own.
Throughout the biblical narrative we witness the movement and placement of people of all kinds, divine activity experienced by individuals and communities as dislocation – uprooting and replanting in new places for the purpose of participating in God’s redemptive activity in and through His people.
Abraham travelled to a land he had never been, and the Israelites were born of one family who fled to Egypt to escape a famine in their native country.
A Jewish orphan named Esther was plucked from her home and planted in the palace of a Persian king.
Peter, a Jewish apostle, was sent to the home of a Gentile name Cornelius.
God’s story is full of people being called, sent and scattered. These cross-cultural encounters in scripture reveal an active God allowing his people to be dislodged from the comfort and security of their identity, assumptions, and families to bring them to new places relationally and spiritually. Their sacrifice was used by God to bring about works of salvation in themselves, in their communities of faith and in the broader world.
Dislocation has always been central in God’s mission to redeem creation, but it wasn’t until our family uprooted from everything familiar and allowed God to plant us in the orange soil of Uganda, that I understood why.
When we step out of our places of comfort and into the lives of those different than us, our dislocation initiates vulnerability and growth through the unlearning of what we’ve always thought to be true and the embrace of new possibilities. Socially, economically, politically, theologically.
Let’s be honest, the transformation isn’t easy and the surrender is painful. But that’s for another post!
Right now, I want to remind us that cross-cultural exchanges will never be perfect or easy. Just like our modern-day encounters, the accounts we find in scripture are full of good intentions mingled with human error and sin. They are grossly tainted by the oppressive misuse of power and redeemed through acts of humility and reconciliation.
Because when broken people come together with other broken people to address broken realities, it’s gonna get messy.
But we can’t stop trying. It’s important we do the hard work to improve our efforts because cross-cultural exchanges are essential in the working out of salvation in each of us.
That’s why I’ll always be an advocate for brushing up against those different than you, for stepping outside of your own world and into the world of others, for crossing boundaries and welcoming strangers.
I know the risks well. I’ve seen the hard consequences when these efforts aren’t drenched in love, grace, humility and wisdom. But I’ve also witnessed God right in the middle of these human messes humbling people, shaping communities and building relationships of trust.
When any two people or groups, cultures or communities of any color, any nation, any financial status come together and form a relationship built on equality and love, big beautiful things can happen. Things like reconciliation, mutual shaping, sustainable development, shifts in perspective, shared values and transformed hearts.
I’m confident God intends his diverse people to sharpen one another, mutually bless and encourage one another, pray for one another, hope for one another.
And I have no doubt that linking arms and hearts across His world is one way we see a fuller picture of who God is and His heart for all people.
This blending of our stories is the kingdom of heaven, and its possibilities on earth are boundless and beautiful, but completely dependent on our willingness to step out of ourselves and into the lives of others.
Meet Lori Manry!
After four years of living and serving among the Busoga people in Jinja, Uganda, Lori and her husband and their five children moved back to Michigan and currently dwell on a 10 acre farm -- an environment where they are learning in ways of hospitality and genuine love to God's creation and those around them. The season of full-time ministry in Africa was extended through the opportunity to host two Ugandan students for five years while they completed a college degree in Michigan. Lori and her family continue to invest in the relationships developed during their years in Jinja, and have formed partnerships with Ugandans for the purpose of responding to the physical and spiritual needs within various communities. In particular, Lori is currently working alongside Ugandans to help improve the living conditions of homes in the Jinja area that allow for safer, cleaner and more secure environments for families to dwell. Lori enjoys sharing her stories of motherhood and marriage on Instagram, along with how her journeys in adoption, community and cross-cultural experiences have shaped her as a Christian woman. You can find Lori on Instagram @environmentsofgrace!