How are we being the salt of the Earth if we remain satisfied with the status quo and stop reaching outside of our holy huddles? You may not believe it but God has placed you where you live and work for a reason.
Last week a new kid stepped into Olivia’s third grade classroom, a boy from Somalia.
“He doesn’t speak any English,” Olivia said.
“How do you think his first week went?” her mother Elizabeth prompted.
“I think it was a little scary,” she said.
“How could you tell?”
Olivia thought for a moment. “He smiled some of the time, but not a lot. Like the first part he didn’t smile, but later on he did.”
Steve and Elizabeth Koproski felt God had a special purpose for them when they moved into downtown Dayton. They wanted to surround themselves and their children with a community rich in diversity. They wanted to be salt for their neighbors who very likely settled here from a different country. To some that might pose any number of unforeseeable problems, but for Steve and Elizabeth, they see it as a world of opportunity.
“Our school experience has been what I love most about raising my children here,” Elizabeth shared. “Dayton is a unique place in its movement toward being an immigrant friendly city. Our kids are in a public school that is the primary English language learning, or ELL school that feeds into Dayton Public. It’s an incredibly diverse environment for my children to learn to do life next to people that are economically, culturally, and educationally different than we are.”
At the age of eight, Olivia and her two younger brothers Turner and Quinn are learning how to be friends with people from vastly different backgrounds. The boys are six years old and attend first grade at River’s Edge Montessori with children from countries most people would find difficult to point out on a map. They listed the few they could remember like Nepal, Turkey, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, and the one boy they were pretty certain didn’t have a home at all.
Olivia, who started at River’s Edge at age three, spoke of a blind child who has recently joined her class. Through her teacher’s extraordinary leadership the child and fellow students have learned to work and play together.
Elizabeth takes an active role in the school community and volunteers her time every week in the classrooms. She was appointed as the PTA liaison between the international and American families. It’s a new position and definitely needed. So far the American and international families have remained two very separate and distinct groups. Her goal is to encourage parents to interact and connect with one another. She strives to help newcomers feel honored and valued, but most of all, welcomed- even welcomed around their table at home. “It’s a little intimidating. I feel I don’t know enough about their cultural norms, but I am learning that asking them specific questions is okay. It honors them. It breaks down isolation and opens communication.”
Steve nodded in agreement and took it a step further. “Our ultimate heart is to see them come to Jesus, yet the cultural gap is so wide that I believe God gives us a mindset that wants to explore and engage these differences. To really take an interest in people, their stories and their world that’s familiar to them and not us, I think that’s honoring to the Lord. I think that’s called loving people.” Almost as a side note, he read aloud Revelation 7:9, a visual image of their heart felt mission: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
For these two lifelong Ohioans and faith-based missionaries, moving into the city of Dayton was exactly where they felt God wanted them to be to raise their kids. “We love the journey. We love that our kids are growing into this experience. They are getting a bigger picture of who God is- His beauty and creativity. Steve and I feel like we are kind of riding this God-sized wave right now. He’s doing something in Dayton and we happen to be right in the middle of it. We feel like somehow we’re getting a front row seat to what He is doing.”
Have you ever thought God placed you where you live and work for a reason? How well do you know your neighbors? I mean really know them. Are you beyond the smile and wave stages while mowing the lawn ever so carefully down your side of the grass line? How do your conversations around the office encourage one another? Are they adding salt to someone’s otherwise typical morning or challenging their thoughts about God?
What an inspirational story. What a practical reminder for us not to settle in and get too comfortable in this world. As Christians we believe this is not our home and in Romans we are told not to conform to the pattern of this world. Our time here is short and our true home is with our Heavenly Father. How are we being the salt of the Earth if we remain satisfied with the status quo and stop reaching outside of our holy huddles? You may not believe it but God has placed you where you live and work for a reason. How then will we step outside of our comfort zones and add some spice to someone else’s day today?
Author: Carrie Kempisty