Well, it’s finally happened. You know what I’m talking about.
Yes, that’s right:
Zombieland came out. I’m sure you’ve all seen it a few times since its release last weekend. I, however, have not. That’s one of the frustrating things I’ve found in Central Asia. All of the movies are dubbed into Russian, instead of subtitled. And on this rainy Friday, all I really want to do is go to the movies with some friends and have a nice relaxing board game night. (Yeah, I’m not sure when I turned 97, either.) But I can’t. Even if I wanted to watch one of the DVDs I brought with me, most of my friends would be unable to understand 75% of the dialogue. “Hurm… Well, I can tell from the way Bruce Willis is shooting those German guys that they’re the bad guys, but I just have no idea what yippie-kay-yay means…”
I think I’ve discovered the biggest obstacle for anyone who’s travelling internationally for any length of time. Language differences make it incredibly difficult to talk about the latest novel we’ve read, to explain how to play Settlers of Catan, or even to simply watch a film together. But I’ve discovered that language barriers don’t have to be barriers to love. I’ve made a lot of acquaintances here and some of them are becoming good friends. And most of them have terrible-to-moderately-less-than-okay English skills (and my Russian skills, while progressing, are still pretty horrendous). If we don’t connect over me helping them with their English homework (last night, I helped my friend Furazon write a small novel on a photograph of Jessica Alba) or over them teaching me slang (я типа «ништяк»), we can find other ways to connect. For example, my roommate Jon taught me a game called “Light Sabers,” which might best be explained as full-body arm wrestling. Last night, I taught it to my Tajik friends. I can speak 12 words to most of those guys, but man, did we have a great time. I’ve discovered that the only true boundaries to love are the ones that we create ourselves. As one of my favorite musicians says, “You can’t choose your friends, but you can choose your enemies.” By this he means that we can’t make people love us, but we can certainly choose to love everyone. And that’s what I’ve chosen to do here in Central Asia.
This past Tuesday, we had our third Gathering, and Scott Martin spoke on this sort of love—God’s love for us. And wow, was the house packed. We were unexpectedly moved into a smaller room instead of our auditorium, but that didn’t prevent God’s Spirit from moving. All of the chairs were filled, along with people sitting on the floor and standing in the back—between 60 and 70 people, mostly ones who had never been to a gathering like that in their entire lives. Scott spoke of God’s all-inclusive love, and I think it really touched the hearts of some of the students in the crowd. He related a story of an all-star football player from his Chi Alpha at the University of Arizona who befriended a “nerdly” underclassman, even at the expense of his social status. This is God’s love for us, and this is the love that we show to every student in our city. Then he said something that he hadn’t planned on saying, but that he felt the Spirit wanted him to say: “I don’t care if you’re Buddhist; I don’t care if you’re Muslim; I don’t care if you don’t even believe in God. We will love you no matter what.” I think that was a very unexpected thing for most of the crowd to hear. God, in us and through us, will not allow anything—language, social status, or even religion—to prevent us from loving all of the people of Central Asia. And I think that is changing hearts and changing lives.