“Can we be friends?”
Most of us recognize that hopeful question from younger years on plastic swing sets or outside a small school building—while our mother waits for us in the car. Not yet able to judge whether they’re compatible with another human being or not, younger children simply put forth the possibility of friendship, and if accepted, make the decision to stick together.
Once older, we learn to watch carefully for connections. Do they like the same TV show? Do they have the same fashion sense, or love the candy bar we used to eat as a snack every Saturday? We place each other in boxes—compatible and incompatible, with a few who truly click. That’s friendship.
And that’s why I was surprised when a girl about three years younger than myself asked me that exact question in broken English at the Roma camp this August. We knew absolutely nothing about each other except for our differing mother tongues, but she offered me that pact of friendship anyways. I accepted. From that moment forward, we spent most of our time together, and through her I met other girls who also desired the term, “friend.”
She loved going on walks, playing games, and going to the lake. If we weren’t attempting to discuss every aspect of our lives in a strange mix of Hungarian and English, we were playing hide and seek with other campers or swimming. All of the Roma campers were very comfortable with physical touch, at least more than I normally am, so it took a bit to get used to the hugs they besieged me with whenever I stepped out of my cabin.
The first night of camp, after my friend and I had long since nonverbally agreed on the terms of our pact—basically just spending time together—they taught me how to gypsy dance at the worship time by the fire. In the days after that, they showed me how to make a traditional food of theirs, and one young girl gave me a paper holder she had created during craft time with a verse in Hungarian written on it.
If I had been elsewhere, and my first interaction with this girl had been her question of friendship, I might have felt more hesitant. Friendship is a precious thing, and trust can easily break. But what’s the point in being so scared of a lack of connection when there’s so much to learn from other people? Especially in ministry, friendships are fundamental to touching another person’s life in a face-to-face exchange. God calls us to make a commitment to Him without seeing Him, so it can’t be too hard to commit to a person we see and show them the love God has for us all.
I hadn’t expected to be thrown into the mix so quickly, and at first I wasn’t very comfortable with it. I had to give all of my time to a person I only just met, and as a generally private person, that made me nervous. But if she hadn’t pursued the friendship and I hadn’t accepted, conversations and situations that occurred never could have happened, nor would she have connected me with the other campers.
God can use anything for His glory as long as we follow Him, and friendship is one of those things. We don’t have to sense an instant soul connection the moment we make eye contact with someone—although those rare occurrences are wonderful—to be their friend. We just have to love them with love the Father has poured on us and trust that He can use the friendship in His work. As the verse states on the paper holder from a new friend of mine: “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).