How to engage your world by saying ‘hello’

by Ebbie Davis, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Friday, June 17, 2016 | 4 yrs old

It's as simple as a hello.

Last summer, I was walking with some friends engaging the community around us. What does that even mean? We were saying hello.

I saw a woman in a hijab, and she caught my attention. As an intercultural studies student, I was intrigued. My roommates and I walked up to her and said, “Hello.” It was that easy. Hello begins a conversation.

Her name was Sarah. I asked her a few simple questions such as, "How long have you been living in the area? Where did you live before here? How do people celebrate birthdays in your culture?" The last question opened a door into her world.

Sarah explained that birthdays aren't as big of a deal in Saudi Arabia as they are in the United States. She told us that she was Muslim, and her religion has two major holidays which is their main focus. Ramadan had just begun, so I asked her if she and her family were participating.

Sarah loved that I wanted to know things about her culture, and she asked about our culture, as well. At the time, I was living in San Diego for the summer doing ministry work, so we were able to explain that we were followers of Jesus Christ. Sarah respected our faith, and asked about what that looked like for us. We shared with her about Christianity and church as a community.

As we continued to talk about funny cultural things, she opened up more and more. She invited us to her home to talk more and to break the daily fast for Ramadan with her family.

At her house, we felt like honored guests. As the night progressed, we tried new things like delightful dates that Sarah’s father sent from Saudi Arabia and pastries that seemed to go on for days. The small gathering grew to about 20 people engaging in conversation, sharing about our different cultures, ideas and interests. Barriers came down, jokes were shared and friendships were made.

I felt like Sarah kept expecting us to judge her culture or criticize her nation’s food or drinks. But when she realized we were more than talk she let us into her family. It was an encouraging time to show her the love of Christ.   

Beginning a conversation with Sarah wasn't a project, and it wasn't a task. It was the beginning of a friendship.

So this summer, don't be afraid to say “hello” to a complete stranger — even if that pushes you outside of your comfort zone. The Holy Spirit uses that. Sarah didn't change what she believed, but she did see a hope that she was unfamiliar with.

Let the Spirit lead you to pursue friendships with people that don't look like you, who don't worship like you, and who are from different cultures than yours. Sarah taught me so much in a short season, and I pray that we did the same for her.

Editor’s note: Ebbie Davis is pursuing a Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She works in the Center for Great Commission Studies as the media communication specialist and in the Women’s Life Office as an administrative assistant. She loves people, coffee and photography. She adores her Oaks Church Raleigh family and the lifelong friends she’s made since coming to Raleigh three years ago.