I just returned from a two week cruise to Turkey and Greece. Retirement is good! We saw some beautiful country and explored many wonderful ancient and modern sites. Saw a lot and learned a lot.

The ship carried about 2,000 passengers and 946 crew members from all over the world. There were some very obvious differences in language, dress, and customs. I am sure that many different religions were embraced and practiced among the population of this floating city.

The first night my wife and shared a table at dinner with a retired American couple. We had not even finished the salad before they began to share with us their politics. There was no uncertainty about their views on several significant social issues. They must have been extremely confident that their perspective was correct because they never asked what we thought. Although we saw this man and woman several other times during the trip, we did not have dinner with them again.

One morning we invited a couple to share our table at breakfast. They were from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Our conversation began with inquiries about each other’s place of origin, employment, reasons for taking this cruise, our families, and other things of mutual interest. It was a delightful beginning of a relationship that continued throughout the two weeks. On several occasions we visited with each other and shared our experiences. I hope we will find other opportunities to be together.

We met another couple, both ordained clergy from a different denomination than mine, who were in their eighties. After 43 years as missionaries in Japan they returned to Indiana to be near their family. During their years of missionary service they helped start an orphanage for Japanese children who had one parent who was black. They had traveled all over the world and possessed a wealth of wisdom which they shared with such gentleness. You wanted the conversations to go on and on.

There was an elderly couple (that means they were older than me) with whom we sat at breakfast one day. We discovered rather quickly that they were very active members of a church in Michigan. The husband sang in the choir and occasionally sang solos. I would later hear him sing and he had a rich and strong voice. During our breakfast conversation he said, “I don’t want to get into your theology but what do you Methodists think about women ministers?” I suspect he already knew and he was not surprised that my answer presented a different perspective from his. But he was not defensive or argumentative about it.

Although I did not get into deep conversations with them, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the men with whom I played ping pong on several occasions. There was Arie from Hong Kong- now living in Australia, Chris from India, John and Richard from England, George from Germany and others from different other parts of the world. Most likely we would have discovered many differences if we had taken the time and effort. Instead, we just enjoyed our common love for ping pong and friendly competition.

The more I travel, the more people I encounter, and the different cultures I experience the more I am convinced that God delights in our differences. If not, why would God have created us in so many different colors and allowed so many different languages and cultures to develop. I just wish that all of us could find value in our similarities and not make so much of our differences.

Jamie Jenkins