Sometimes race does matter

What one Chinese-American learned during a summer of service in Chile.

by Nikole Lim –

Team members play games with the kids in Belloto Sur, Chile.

I have always been taught not to judge others according to their skin color-—not to look at their outward appearance—-and that essentially race should not make a difference. This summer, however, God used my cultural background as a factor in my Service Corps experience.

I spent my first Service Corps summer in Hong Kong last year. Being a Chinese-American, I was excited to return to my culture for the food, friends and customs. My four teammates were Caucasian. Though being the minority of the group was difficult at times, it was a blessing to be a part of that team and help bridge the gap between Chinese and American culture. Our different personalities worked well together, which helped us minister at 15 corps and various locations throughout Hong Kong. This had such a positive impact on me that I decided to reapply in 2008.

This year, I was sent to Chile and was once again the minority of my team. Being the only non-Mexican American of the group, of a cultural background completely different than Latin American cultures and having no knowledge of the Spanish language, I felt that I was the least prepared of my team. However, God knew my inadequacies and gave me the strength to acclimate to the culture, step out of my (Asian) comfort zone and to show his love through my actions.

My supportive team members helped bridge the language and cultural gaps between my Chinese American and our host’s Chilean culture by correcting my Spanish, translating conversations and even teaching me how to dance to norteño music in the middle of the street.

Just as God used my team members’ cultural similarities to connect to those in Chile, God also used me and my differences to reach out to the Chileans. At the corps in Belloto Sur—a small neighborhood of Quilpué—we met the assisting officer, Captain Noemi. She recently received a calling from God to minister in China and seeing me in Chile confirmed it. It’s amazing how God, through Service Corps, composed our team and put me in the mix to encourage this young, soon-to-be-wed officer.

The children of the corps also blessed me. They grasped onto us, hung out with us and played with us-—always seeking the love and attention they probably do not receive at home. Their smiling faces, persistent spirits and warm affection clearly reflected God’s creation. A 4-year-old boy, Daniel, wouldn’t stop crying my name when it was time for us to leave.

Because of our personal relationships with the children, God’s work in us proved effective. The Chilean people taught me a lot during my service with them. Their giving hearts, generous affection, devotion to God and excitement for God’s work showed me how much God is at work in The Salvation Army in Chile. God also showed me that with our many differences, he unites us through the Holy Spirit to serve him using our spiritual gifts, acts of service and cultural backgrounds to connect with, relate to, and share his love with others.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

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