Every time I return from a journey, I’m amazed at the beauty of the country I live in. Snow peaked mountains, deep blue lakes, and cities glistering in the sun like pearls or pieces of jewellery. “As in Heaven”, I say to myself, (pseudo) poetically.
However, what makes me particularly thankful for living here is the people. During these 3.5 years in Geneva, I’ve been making friends with loving and insightful persons from all continents (including this island called Switzerland), and God has been teaching me immensely through these precious human beings.
Originally, I didn’t expect relationships to turn out as the most important aspect of my Geneva experience. I had primarily wanted to come here to first study a degree related to development and then to get a job in one of the many UN organisations and NGOs having their offices in the city.
Part of the story is indeed about the highs and lows with regard to following this plan. (For instance, I changed my major from anthropology and sociology of development to development studies just a week before the start of the academic year. This allowed me as a student of a cross-disciplinary programme to pick courses on international law to “broaden my perspective” – an experience through which I learned in a painful way how my brain is not wired to work. Or, as another anecdote, after a number of twists and turns, by chance – or rather by God’s grace – I found myself working first in the same office and later in the same team with a person whose presentation in Finland some years back had made me want to do another master’s to be able to get a job in the humanitarian sector!)
However, in the light of the big picture, these study and work related events didn’t turn out to be quite at the center of my life in Geneva. This doesn’t deny the importance of my professional development. Rather, it means that my mission as a human being is primarily relational, which is something that has sunk in during my time here. Jesus commands me to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:28-34). A sustainable relationship to studies and work comes through the underpinning perspective of love for God and for my neighbour – and God’s grace and love for me.
Love and servanthood go together, I believe. But to serve another person, be it God or my neighbour, I must respect him, building trust with him and learning with, from and about him (see Duane Elmer’s ‘Cross-cultural servanthood’).
When it comes to my neighbour, what I can learn from the people in my life is a question I’m planning to address here through a blog series with a focus on my friends in Geneva. In the course of the following weeks, I’ll present some of these ‘real pearls’ through pictures and quotes on insights they want to share.
Hope you’ll stick around (especially as it’s going to be their quotes, note mine 😉 )
PS. I have been inspired by Humans of New York, though my version will be a thing of its own as I’m planning to use the series to give a face and voice to the people I know already, rather than people I meet on the street.