19 May, 2013

"Having eaten rice from the same pot"

It is something of a mysterious thing, the friendship shared by missionaries. For the most part they can be deep, despite having so many differences: of nationality, culture, background, gifting, age, etc.
This lady I've travelled with to missionary women events,
and I got us lost on one of them. There are many differences
between us, yet we share a friendship that's probably
gone deeper faster than it would have in different

I can feel a deep attachment to missionaries who I've only know for a short while, and know little "facts" about their life. How can this be?

This Japanese idiom holds part of the answer:

"Onaji kama no meshi o kutta"  
This literally means "having eaten rice from the same pot", the Japanese equivalent to "breaking bread together". Most often this is used in reaffirming a special relationship developed through shared experiences. (Michael L. Maynard and Senko K. Maynard, 101 Japanese idioms, p200-201)

Two of the ladies in this photo drove more than 10
hours in the car with me to and from the Writer's
Workshop, we had lots of time to talk!
I think this Japanese idiom captures the essence: we've shared a common experience, the experience of leaving behind everything and everyone familiar and coming to a foreign land because we feel God is calling us here.

There is more, of course, to this mystery:

  • Because change is frequent in this missionary life, we tend to dive deep in relationships faster. We don't have the luxury of seeing people week after week, month after month, before deciding to form a deep friendship.
  • Additionally, for most of us, loneliness is common, so, for the most part, we're all seeking friendship.
  • We're fairly "free agents" in terms of relationships. Because we've left family and long-term acquaintances behind, we have room, and indeed need for new friendships.
  • We don't have a lot of choice of friends, and because of the above mentioned factors, that makes one less choosy.
  • Missionary friends: sweet times!
  • In a foreign country we are needier than back home. And in the absence of family to lean on, we ask more of our friends on the field than we would back home, this breaks down walls that otherwise would be there in our "self sufficiency"
Can you suggest more reasons why missionaries (and to some extent expats in general) form deep relationships quickly?

1 comment:

KarenKTeachCamb said...

Maybe there is also the underlying fact, especially among missionaries, that we are not in this situation because we chose to be, but rather because God chose us to be, and so we have a common call. Even among expats who are not "missionaries" in terms of organisational association, many of us are there because we have a heart that longs to see the people of our host country know the Lord, and also a heart that wants good things for our host country and her people. Those commonalities bind us when there are so many differences.