It has been three weeks since I arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, in Malaysia with the Young Adults in Global Mission of the ELCA, and I have loved every moment of it. So far away from home, yet it feels like I am home.
Everywhere we go we are received with so much love. People who do not know us have opened up their homes and have invited us to celebrate with them the celebrations that are common to their culture.
We have had the opportunity to experience the end-of-Ramadan celebration, Hari Raya Adilfitri, which is a Muslim tradition, and the Mooncake celebration, which is a Chinese celebration. On Sept. 16, we celebrated Malaysia Day and, of course, keeping in mind my own country’s independence day — Viva Mexico!
I think it is really neat how diverse this country is. Everywhere you look there are people from different backgrounds: Malaysians, Chinese, Indonesians, Philipinos, Indians, Koreans and many Orang Asli.
In my workspace/home alone there are about six different ethnicities and many languages being spoken, such as Bahasa Malaysia, Korean, Chinese, English, some French and now, with me, Spanish.
A pretty cool thing, though, is that we all teach each other the language we know. I’m being taught Bahasa Malaysia, the official language of Malaysia, and, who knows, maybe later I’ll try to learn some Korean or Chinese. It has been fun trying to teach Spanish to my housemates. Indeed, there is a lot of diversity.
The thing that I especially love about being part of this mixture of cultures is that we are able to set aside all our differences and treat each other like the brothers and sisters that we are in Christ.
It’s been amazing living with a group of God-loving people from different backgrounds who are on fire with God’s love. We often find ourselves caught up singing worship songs after dinner, at the office, and even in the car on our way to the market — love it!!
God knew the plans for me. At times I was nervous and felt anxious just at the thought of leaving everything I always knew to be part of my life to come here, practically to the other side of the world.
It’s a scary thing, but somehow I knew that God was holding my hand all this time, and still is. Here starts a new beginning.
Originally posted September 16, 2011, at Everything I am for your Kingdom’s Cause. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Jisella Ibarra’s blog Everything I am for your Kingdom’s Cause at Lutheran Blogs.