A huge struggle in third world culture ministry is how much you can get involved in the local culture. We are so different that we do watch what water we drink, we expect a certain level of cleanliness. We dress a little different. We live in a house with a cement floor rather than dirt. We eat different and usually healthier food. We homeschool our kids, we expect certain behavior from them. And the list could go on and on and on.
Many of the women in the village have little or no education. They have little or no logic skills. The relationship with their husbands is a lot different. They work hard and often are beaten by their spouses. Others find themselves in polygamous marriages or at least with an unfaithful spouse. So having intelligent or similar conversations is tough.
We try to get to know them but often the friendship is one-sided. They will be our friend to “get” something from us. Even if they are somewhat educated we still have cultural differences and the fact that we cannot talk about our ministry woes with most of them.
So we struggle how to befriend them. We try not to stay in our missionary bubble, but we need time to visit and converse in our own culture and language sometimes. We need time to share experiences and encourage each other in ministries.
When a missionary mom is home all day home-schooling her kids, it’s tough for her to get time with nationals as much as her husband who spends all day at the village or the church or the school or the clinic or the building site. So when she gets the change to teach a Bible study she often doesn’t know the culture or the language well enough to really teach. (I know the Spirit works even when we don’t know what to say).
We often live this lonely life without “girlfriends”. Those that we have at home live such different lives that we have trouble sharing our deepest heart issues with them. this should drive us closer and closer to God but it can also break us.