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In 1 Peter 2:11, the Apostle Peter uses the fascinating phrase, “since you are resident aliens and foreigners in this world” to describe his readers. Although the passage itself has much to learn from, I currently have experienced some incredible insight as a foreigner living in Kraków. As an American, there are things that I innately fail to understand that a Polish person would not even think twice about. It is not my fault that I do not know. It’s not their fault I don’t know either. I’m not right nor am I wrong. I am, in short, often times confused at what is happening because I am still learning this world I’m living in. Let me give an example. As a Texan, I feel an obligation to have a grill. As a person that is not great at waiting, it needs to be a propane grill. Having purchased my grill from Allegro (the Polish Amazon) for a great price, and assembling it over a matter of days (so many pictures to follow), I was ready to grill something. So I went to a gas station that sold propane. They told me in not so many words, no gas. Second one… no gas. Now let me point out that I can see the propane containers, have parked next to them, and have been told by others that you can buy propane at the gas station. I go to Tesco (like Walmart) because you can buy just about everything there. I have a friendly conversation with the gas attendant by the propane containers in which neither one of us know what the other is saying. The result is I drive away with no gas. I’ll try one last time. Luckily, the next gas station attendant spoke just a little bit of English, to which I learned that I can only exchange an empty container for a full propane bottle. After she sends me to the wrong store for the bottle, that store sends me to the right place, Castorama (think Lowe’s or Home Depot). I buy a brand new pretty propane bottle and immediately exchange it with them for a very used bottle that has… propane. The actual purchase of propane took about 5 minutes. Finding the information that I needed to get to those 5 minutes… about 3 hours after you include driving, standing in line, looking confused, etc. Although just a funny story of cultural differences, in light of 1 Peter 2’s pronouncement that as a follower of Jesus we are foreigners in this world, there are some Kingdom parallels to think about.

Language Matters

This was weeks ago, and honestly, if I would have had the very limited grasp of language I have now, I probably could have figured out at gas station #1 that I needed to buy a bottle first to exchange. But since my language and their language was not the same, it lead to a complete breakdown and I could not become a part of their system. Is our language different? When people engage with us, do people look at us with a little bit of bewilderment at how we speak?. When we speak, is there a bit of Jesus coming out of us?
“He has so much hope, so much joy”. “He dreams impossible, ridiculous dreams. But seems to have the faith that they will happen.” “He has such confidence, such peace. It doesn’t make sense.”**
**I’d like to give a full disclaimer that I am not talking about the Christianese we can easily slip into which no one has a clue what you are talking about. When we speak and think with a Kingdom mindset, people are attracted to it. When we speak Christianese, people are just confused. In Kraków, I hope and am working at grasping the Polish language one day. In reality, I know that I probably will always be understood as a foreigner because my accent will give me away. As followers of Jesus, we better always have a Kingdom accent.

The System is Different

Most of the time in the U.S., at least in my experience, anywhere there were propane bottles, I could exchange them or flat out buy them. This system did not make sense (and doesn’t make sense to Polish people either). It honestly still does not make sense because in my head, three companies lost my business that fateful drive home that afternoon. But the system is different and something I was not able to understand. Do we find the world’s system odd? Shouldn’t we be saying, “It would make more sense if…” Do we allow ourselves to let the systems of the world become normal for us?

It Takes Energy to Live as a Foreigner

There have been days that Brandi and I have felt like our brains are scrambled eggs (this usually occurred after 3.5 hours of Polish lessons Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in September). Getting into the propane game was… tiring. As we make this place our home, we understand that some days, it’s just going to be exhausting doing basic, normal tasks because as a foreigner, we just don’t know. Brandi does a great job exploring this more. Jesus was always with people during His ministry. It was an onslaught of Kingdom culture and a model of a new way of living on the old system. But you can see in Scripture, Jesus gets tired. You can see this in two ways. First, He is asleep in the boat in the middle of the storms. Why? Yes, He walked in peace and was confident in the Father, but also, He was tired. Secondly, you often see Jesus withdrawing to be alone with the Father. And we have no record of Jesus from age twelve to thirty. What was He doing? I think He was discovering the Kingdom He was about to explode on the earth. And He withdrew to pray… I believe Jesus was often times perplexed at why people didn’t get it yet. It was draining. “How long am I to be with you…”, “He looked out at the crowds with compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd”, “O you of little faith…”, etc., etc., etc. We have the privilege of thinking differently, of being from a different system, and intentionally living as foreigners in this world. The joys we have when we encounter people that speak our language, the challenges we have in understanding the system people live in, and the opportunity to pour our lives out to energetically change people. For we are foreigners in this world… Let us act as so!


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