Years ago, when my parents were in seminary in Kansas City, our family had the opportunity to meet other families living at the seminary. They were from all over the United States and even foreign countries.
We lived on the seminary grounds in apartments three stories high. So we had seminary families all around us, below us and above us.
All the parents who attended seminary had the same purpose for being there. That made for a special bond. Added to that, the close living quarters resulted in relationships that were transcendent of culture, language or backgrounds.
All the families pooled suppers and Friday night dinners. Most of the children went to the seminary day care on campus together. In the middle of the eight apartment buildings, there was a playground for all the children. So we spent many afternoons and Saturdays on the playground.
On Sundays, each family would go to their own respective churches where the fathers were employed as pastors or educational directors. On Monday nights they would all report back as to how their services had gone the day before.
It was a wonderful time and there was a tremendous amount of togetherness.
Two of the families that stand out in my mind even after all these years were from Africa. The men’s names were Joseph Deaye and Daniel Nwadei. Their parents had been Christians and had given them biblical names. Both seminary students and their families lived in the same apartment building with us. Susie and I were friends of their children and we played together almost every afternoon.
Sometimes the children would all wear their clothing from Africa for special occasions. Susie and I were just amazed.
I remember their mannerisms. They were so polite. When a conversation ended, they would not just walk off; they would bow and say “Excuse me.”
I remember the deep tribal markings on the fathers’ faces. These started at their cheekbones and went nearly to their chins. Each had two on both sides of their faces. When they were little children, they were given these marks to distinguish which tribe and family they were from. The marks were so deep that they had deep indentions in their checks.
One night they cooked a Nigerian meal for our family. That was a wonderful experience. I can still remember eating with our fingers and sitting cross-legged on mats on the floor.
Everything they did was so much different, from their accents to their dress to the way they ate and what they ate. We thought America must have been a great change for them.
Thinking about all the changes in their lives since they had moved to America, my father asked them to reveal the greatest changes in their lifetimes. There they sat in America, far away from their villages, their families and their tribal way of life.
The two men thought a minute and then Daniel answered: “The biggest change that I have experienced in my lifetime is the change that took place when Jesus came into my heart!”
That has been long ago but that was true and true for all of us — even those of us who had been born and raised in America. The greatest change is when Christ changes a person’s heart and life.
Paul wrote that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”(2 Cor. 5:17)
We can change our address by moving and even move to the other side of the world.
But the greatest change is supernatural and results in changed minds and attitudes and purposes and goals. And it is a change sealed for eternity.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Pe.1:23)
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College.