Part I - Father
One of the interesting things about living in Paraguay is the lack of racial diversity, most notably the scarcity of people with dark skin. Needless to say, Donald sticks out wherever we go. In fact, just spotting another black face at the other side of the mall's food court is enough to spark an immediate friendship.
Another observation through living in Paraguay is that many Paraguayans do not seem to have the same cultural inhibitions that we have about staring at people in public who are different or blatantly pointing out said differences. When this is done out of simple curiosity it is tolerable. When it is done with disgust or hostility it can be disheartening.
Ignorance is not colorblind, nor is it bound by race, culture or even social class.
Donald's obvious difference in skin color has been an unexpected asset to ministry in that EVERYONE notices him. That, combined with his friendly, outgoing personality has opened many doors for sharing the Gospel. Practically everyone in our town knows who he is and that he follows Jesus.
It is those things that have to outweigh the negative everyday experiences that his difference seems to provoke. Finger pointing, name calling, racial profiling by the police. He has even had people working on the street tell him that he and his black skin are ugly.
Even when he is angry or disheartened by the treatment of others, however, Donald does not let that change who he is. He is still secure in his identity...his identity as a black man, but most importantly his identity in Jesus Christ. That identity is what truly draws people to him.
Now, comes the hard part.
Imparting that sense of identity to our children...
Part II - Daughter
Cora was born in the United States, but moved to Costa Rica when she was 18 months old. She has lived in Paraguay since the age of 3. In her 8 years she has visited 7 different countries and 15 different states. She is fluent in both English and Spanish. She has a mother who is as white as her father is black. Her beautiful brown skin, dark eyes and curly black hair fall somewhere between.
Her smile can light up a room.
Racially, Cora is neither black nor white. Culturally, she is neither Paraguayan nor Northamerican. Somehow we had managed to shield her from all labels.
Or so we thought.
Awhile ago Cora shared with us that one of the things that the bully in her class was doing was making fun of her for being black. We thought that had been resolved.
Then, the other day as I was tucking her into bed, she said to me, "Mommy, I don't want to be black, I want to be white."
Yet another little girl in her class had been making fun of her and told her that nobody would ever want to marry her because she was black.
What a blow! Not even the struggles that Donald and I have had as an interracial couple and now living in an undiverse country compare to hearing those words from my own child...seeing the hurt in beautiful brown eyes brimming with tears.
I knew at that moment that the words I needed to share with Cora were of infinite importance.
I want her tender heart to know that God made her just the way He wanted and that she is beautiful. She possesses not only a worldly beauty, but a beauty that shines from within. She is who God says she is; not her classmates, not the world.
What defines our identity? Who tells us who we are?
Is it our skin color, gender or social class? Is it our career, educational level or political affiliation? Is it the denomination of the church we choose to attend?
As long as we let the World define who we are, we will be lost and unfulfilled. Even as Christians. The world will never change. There will always be those who hate us for our differences.
Cora, like all of us, needs to be taught to feel safe and secure in her identity in Christ...who He says she is. Then, no matter what the world throws at her, she will not be moved or shaken.
And, just perhaps the tables will be turned. The world will indeed change, one bit at a time. Changed through her quite, unwavering testimony. Not to be mistaken for weak, but more like that still, small voice that Isaiah heard.
A voice of someone with the regal bearing of royalty. A princess who knows who she is and WHOSE she is.