A Stroll Through Flushing
A post by Natalie Jaranowski. Natalie serves as the Executive Director of the One Life Network.
I recently returned from New York City where our team attended Movement Day. The hotel we stayed at in New York is in a neighborhood called Flushing. Flushing is in Queens, and is extremely ethnically diverse. In fact, it’s considered the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the world.
We needed a laser pointer for our presentation, so I took off through Flushing in search of it. All the signs above the stores were predominately in Chinese and my face was the only white one in a sea of Asian faces. There were many people out and about, with the typically sights, sounds and smells of a large city, but amid the din of voices, none of them were speaking English. I really wasn’t even sure where to look, because none of the storefronts resemble anything we have in our area of the country.
If you dropped me in the middle of this neighborhood, I wouldn’t even know I was in the United States. It closely resembles the cities I have been to in Asia, and certainly was like my experience there. Retail floor space is presumably hard to come by, and stores that I entered were stuffed from floor to ceiling with items. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. After a few stores and a few questions we did manage to secure a laser pointer, but I walked away with so much more.
In Evansville we live in an area of wide-open spaces, with cornfields around the corner and large expanses of parks and green space. Our shopping experience consists of pulling our gas-guzzling SUVs into huge parking lots and strolling through the wide aisles of stores with our shopping carts. Not so in Flushing.
I was so fascinated by the radically different culture that I had to read up on the area and found some interesting statistics:
Evansville: 2,902 people per square mile
Flushing: 28,093 people per square mile
So what do I take away from all of this? If we want to reach our cities, knowing them is critical. What works in one area can’t possibly work in another. If we want to impact our cities and bring them into a relationship with Jesus, we have to get into their culture, speak in their language, build bridges of understanding first.
This is the importance of cultural communication: because Jesus told His story in human terms. How we communicate can create barriers or build bridges. Paul figured this out a long time ago:
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 20-22