by Ela Alvarado

I never knew how to describe my experience as an international student until a student at a Mosaic Night described himself as an “in-between.” He was in between cultures, skin tones, and, most importantly, identity.

As I transitioned to Taylor, I could not bridge the gaps within my new community. While some international students were born in a foreign country yet raised in the U.S, I was born and raised entirely outside of the United States. Though others shared my upbringing experience, they didn’t embrace the American culture the way I did. The few students who shared my background didn’t always have the same grasp of the English language that I did. While there were American students with a developed background in English whom I wanted to be friends with, my accent and insecurities got in the way of developing those relationships.

I was an “in-between.”

However, God had better plans than to let my differences create a divide among my brothers and sisters; he used them to unify his body! He used those differences to create conversations around diverse cultural dishes, explain my fascination for the English language to others, understand others’ love for Spanish, and build relationships over the most unlikely circumstances. 

With every person we meet, God wants to expand our definition of the Imago Dei by uncovering new layers of its beauty. He wants to point us to the reality that, as believers, we have the best things in common: the ability to love him and our brothers and sisters of many nations (Acts 2:44, NKJV). Although uncomfortable at first, when we acknowledge this truth, differences can bring us to a deeper relationship with our Creator —  the artist of all nations, tribes, and tongues — and his diverse creation. This truth empowers us to see our differences not as dividing points but as open doors to share Christ with all:

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11, ESV)

Here, in the body of Christ, there are no differences to pull as apart. Only Christ to behold and Christ to become. 

There was one question I got more than others: “What is the biggest difference between Honduras and the United States?”

I never knew how to answer that question. After having a bilingual education and being highly immersed in American culture through travel and pop culture, there was simply no significant difference between my home and the place I now call my second home. And I’m thankful for that immersion. It became clear how grateful I was for that experience when I met a girl from South Korea who had a similar background to mine. I finally had someone who delighted in American culture as much as I did yet understood the struggle of people underestimating our English-speaking abilities.

I’m thankful to be an in-between and the person whose differences bridge the gaps in relationships. I’m grateful to be an international student at Taylor University and, more importantly, a unique member of Christ’s multi-faceted, wholesome body.

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