Every year when Mary Ann was growing up, her mother learned about a different country. In the fall a set of little books would arrive from the women's society of the church covering the history and culture of the country and profiling service programs there sponsored by the national denomination or an affiliated relief organization.
"This is fascinating," Mother would say, as she read aloud about a ritual in the faraway land or the kinds of problems seen at a medical clinic — always of interest to Mary Ann's father, a doctor. When the family moved to Pakistan for three years so he could teach in a medical school, all that carefully cultivated curiosity really bloomed. Now mission projects weren't just descriptions on the page — they were people we sat next to in church or places we visited on weekends.
Frederic's interest in foreign lands developed from reading books and going to movies. Adventure stories set in distant places captured his imagination. As a boy, he even thought of becoming a missionary when he saw the movie Keys of the Kingdom about a priest in China.
Movies about cross-cultural experiences are still a favorite genre. We both enjoy stories about journeys that force the characters to face the unknown, learn from their encounters, and return home with new understandings of themselves and the world. We also have grown to love slice-of-life foreign-made movies — often filmed on location with non-actors and presented with subtitles — that show us how other people live and deal with everyday situations. Invariably it's not how different they are that touches us: It's how similar their hopes and dreams are to our own.
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