Students at Wellesley College-Wellesley, MA realized the need for racial reconciliation within their InterVarsity community, which is eighty percent Asian American and twenty percent Caucasian American. A conflict between Samantha, an Asian American, and Pam, a Caucasian American, who led a Bible discussion group together on campus, caused the Bible study to split up and issues were never fully resolved.
Samantha’s open view of friendship led her to try to build a friendship with Pam by initiating conversation and by offering opportunities to attend activities together. This confused Pam, who felt crowded and pushed by Samantha. Pam grew up thinking friendship builds slowly as a process over time. “Samantha shouldn’t assume we are going to be best friends or something,” Pam responded to Samantha’s attempts at friendship. “I don’t like you, and I don’t want to have any sort of real friendship with you,” is how Samantha interpreted Pam’s words.
InterVarsity’s leadership team at Wellesley College decided the best way to solve the conflict was to dissolve the small group and place the members in other groups. Samantha and Pam were not forced to work closely anymore. They agreed to meet with Kate Vosburg, InterVarsity Staff at Wellesley College, to attempt resolving their differences. Kate acted as mediator to allow Samantha and Pam each to hear what the other was really trying to communicate.
“As we talked and prayed, difficulties between them became clear, and there was forgiveness and understanding. Christ clearly provided for this conversation, giving these women the perseverance, hope, forgiveness, and grace to talk together,” said Kate. Samantha and Pam are both on InterVarsity’s leadership team at Wellesley College and see one another a few times a week. They seem content with the friendly distance and peace they have established working within the team instead of co-leading a group and working closely.
“At the heart of the conflict were two different communication styles that led to a series of hurtful misunderstandings, anger, resentment, and insecurity. When it became clear that their communication styles were clashing, tensions quickly cleared up,” said Kate Vosburg. Samantha and Pam’s experience shows that communication is a key factor in building relationships and fellowship between American and International students.