Communicating Across Barriers: “A Christian Perspective” -- By: George W. Braswell, Jr.

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 02:2 (Spring 1985)
Article: Communicating Across Barriers: “A Christian Perspective”
Author: George W. Braswell, Jr.


Communicating Across Barriers:
“A Christian Perspective”

George W. Braswell, Jr.

Professor of Missions and World Religions,
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

A Real Situation

One summer recently students from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary were in Chicago for ten weeks. Their assignment was to start new churches. They located the home of a Baptist family who had migrated to Chicago two years before. The family offered their backyard for a backyard Bible club. I was with them the first morning when fifty youngsters gathered with the seminarians strumming guitars and telling Bible stories.

I noticed across the open yards a mother with two children. She appeared to be from the Middle East. I asked the Baptist woman if she had met her neighbor. I learned that she had not and that the neighbor had lived next door for a year. The Baptist woman said, “I have often seen her in the yard with her children but never her husband.” I crossed the yard, met the woman and her two children, and learned that she was from Egypt. We talked. Since I had lived in the Middle East, we talked about its peoples, ways of life, and family. She indicated that she had few friends and that her children needed companions. I invited the children to come into the adjacent yard for recreation and stories. She was a Muslim, and I told her they would be studying stories about Jesus. They came.

Soon, the Baptist woman had been introduced to the Egyptian woman, and we all were drinking and eating refreshments together. Later, I learned from the Baptist woman of her fears of meeting the woman across the yard. She said, “I could never understand the language she was using with her children, and I just never took the time.”

Those Real Barriers

A Christian family lived next to a Middle Eastern family for one year without verbal communication. No physical walls or fences or hedges separated the two yards. Each family could see the other daffy across the spaces. There were no threatening dogs in either yard. But there were real barriers erected between the yards, barriers of indifference, fear, unfamiliarity, and the lack of will. The Baptist woman just refused to initiate contact by moving toward the Middle Eastern woman. There was another assumed barrier. The Baptist woman thought the other woman could not speak English, but she found out differently when we all talked around refreshments.

There was, in fact, real communication, albeit non-verbal. Not a word had been exchanged between the two families, but much had been communicated. An attitude of unconcern, a refusal to greet, and a refraining

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