Most of us have a pretty limited travel budget and not a ton of time off. Visiting the world’s 196 countries — representing about 7,000 language groups — to engage with the global community might be a bit far-fetched for you. But you can meet the world right at home.
Try these seven fun and easy local activities to experience the world in your own neighborhood. Given our diverse communities, you probably won’t have to go too far.
Chances are, if you live in a city or suburban area, you’ve got neighbors who have immigrated from another country or are descendants from another culture. Stop on by and introduce yourself. Invite them over for dinner and include their kids in neighborhood fun. It’s amazing how much fun you can have, and you might realize you actually have a lot of common.
Break away from the pizza and burgers and go on a culinary adventure. Pick a new country once a month and find a corresponding restaurant. Ask the server about the dishes, and if the owner is on-site, introduce yourself and let them know it’s your first time trying their country’s dishes. Your genuine interest will spark some great food suggestions and possibly a great conversation. After all, who doesn’t love to talk about home and our favorite dishes?
Once you’ve tried a few new dishes at a restaurant, you might want to try your hand at making your own. It’s a great family activity and can be more cost-effective than going out frequently. While today’s grocery stores have a growing number of ethnic foods available, you’ll get a much better multicultural experience shopping at an international market. With your recipe in hand, head out and explore the amazing foods and other goods these stores offer.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help (not all packages are in English); be conscious of the folks working or shopping in the stores and don’t be afraid to ask a question or two. They can be very helpful and steer you toward better products. Take your kids down the candy aisle as a reward. There are all kinds of cool confections and fun treats available.
International arts and crafts can add creative spark to your home. When you have the opportunity to meet the artisan or local shop owner, you can learn about where that piece comes from or the unique materials used to create it. You may find that a piece has an interesting cultural meaning or tells a story. Artisans are passionate about their work, and engaging in a conversation is pretty easy.
We know that God speaks all the languages of the world, so step into the work he is doing with the local church that represents another country or people group. It might seem strange at first, with a different order of worship or songs you don’t know. But God can use it to open your heart to his love for these people and get excited about the fact that someone shared the Good News with them here or in their country of origin.
Whether it’s Chinese dragon boat racing or a Polynesian cultural festival, most metropolitan areas have local events for the public to attend. You’ll have the opportunity to hear ethnic music, play a sport, make crafts, try foods and more. These outings are usually family friendly and a wonderful way to dive into a cultural experience.
Your local arts center probably has a cross-cultural event with a visiting act. It could be a Russian ballet company, an Irish dance troupe or an African drum line. These talented dancers and musicians offer impressive skills and beautiful artistry that will certainly entertain, and hopefully inspire. You might not get to meet the artists, but you can take a few minutes to pray for them — for their home country, their families and their opportunity to meet with God where they live.
As you step out to explore the world in your own neighborhood, ask the Lord to open your heart and eyes to see the people and cultures he loves. Pray for boldness to start conversations and possibly invite someone to your home or to church. Seek ways you can continue engaging your community and possibly impact God’s global family through prayer, giving or service.
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