In the culture

   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. 

cross cultural and international internet dating?

LOL, I had a serious marriage proposal last week.  It is common to have proposals, but they are usually in passing. This one was thought out and involved church leaders.  Yet it was so “wrong”. He was from a culture I know a bit of, but not much. I am from a culture he knows nothing of.  So there were several taboos in the first couple minutes of the conversation.  Like rather than just introducing yourself and getting to know someone. After telling me his name, he said He wanted to marry me!  Whoa!!  I had never met him before and he had seen me for like 10 minutes during which I translated for someone for 3 of those minutes. I was gracious and let him down nicely—I hope.  We’ll see if I continue getting phone calls.  How awkward.

Sadly this guy and many of the nationals I work with have no clue what I mean when I say there are too many cultural differences.

We had a good laugh about it, but then someone said, “You should really go home so that you can get married.”  I was taken back for a bit and then brushed off that phrase from a fellow expat.  But it stuck with me.  I wanted to lash out and say, “So I should put marriage ahead of God in my life?”  But I dropped it.

C360_2014-02-08-16-36-36-10585% of single missionaries are women. Most of us are “doomed” to stay old maids until we die. But yet we have chosen to serve and that is a blessing. We can serve with our entire self and time because we don’t have a family to care for.  Scripture talks about this.  Yet I know people who won’t come to the field because the want to be married. So, they sit in the US and wait….

Ironically I just learned about a new website — internet dating for missionaries only!  That’s scary. Cool, but scary.  you can check it out if you’d like — Called together.  How many of us will actually sign up?  Are we really that desperate?  Will some who are in the US just waiting take the bait?

Ashamed?

(Or pride, or fear)

In a brief conversation with some national friends yesterday, I realized that it is hard to step into the unknown – or should I say the untried.  I have lived here long enough to know the language and many of their traditions.  I still make mistakes in language, probably always will.  But there are some things in their culture that I understand but don’t do myself.  They are so different from my culture, they are actions, sounds, phrases, etc.… that I have never tried because I am afraid of making a mistake. 

   There I said it, “I am afraid/ashamed.”  What if I say it incorrectly? What if the sound is not right? What if I don’t do that action exactly right?  They will laugh at me, of this I’m sure.  But I also know there are different types of being laughed at.  Sometimes people laugh at your mistake but they are not judging you, they are actually happy that you’ve tried. 

   Yet, I’m afraid to try. I’m afraid of looking silly. I’m uncomfortable of doing this myself, although I’m totally fine if they do it.  I may even encourage my visitors to try it when they are here, but I am reserved.  Even at home there are things that I won’t try, I’m conservative/reserved/afraid/ashamed/uncomfortable/ or in truth maybe it’s all just PRIDE.

   So the perfectionist in my wants to master the language in my head and in books before trying to speak.  Yet the purpose of my being here is to serve, to love, to show Christ. So I need to humble myself, I need to try. 

Give if they have given to you …

  Read that title again. What goes around comes around, or Payback  is another word for it. Is it right? NO!

and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

   We need to be kind and giving toward others because of what Christ has done for us. Never should be do anything so that we will get good back in return.

wopotssilfinalab   In this society I am struck by the necessity to be involved so that you will receive payback.  If you help out by bringing food or water to a funeral in the village, then when a family member dies you will have lots of people in the village bringing food and water to your funeral.  If you decide to go to the fields on one of the days of a funeral and don’t participate, they will notice. You will be talked about. You may even be sat down by the elders in your clan and scolded for not participating.  

   It makes sense in some ways, but in a society of tropical illnesses, AIDS, poor health care and a high infant mortality rate, there are always funerals.  Recently there were three funerals in one week in a village near us.  The population is about 2000 able adults.  Death is part of life here, and everyone is related to everyone.  So you end up getting no work done when you need to sit at a funeral for 2-3 days.  But if you don’t sit and bring food, participate in some way, it will come back to bite you. 

   When a young man gets married, his family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings, parents) all pitch in to provide the  bride-price.  If it is a cow or two, some clothes, farming implements, money, chickens, food, grain,  or whatever is required, the family pitches in to give.  When you pitch in toward your nephew’s wedding, when your son get’s married, his parents will pitch in toward your son’s wedding.

   When your daughter gets married, many of the gifts received as the bride-price are dispersed among those same relatives. You may give some corn and then a few days later receive some corn because you are related to both sides of a marriage!  Read the title again!

images (4)   When a husband or wife is not involved in the community as they are expected to, the other partner pays the price. The wife may pitch in whenever needed but her husband is a deadbeat. When a marriage or funeral hits their home. Some participate because of the wife and others don’t because of the husband. 

   So in your culture are these principals true? 

  Sadly I find this  mentality often mixed into the Gospel.  If you do this or this, then you will be saved.  Give offering so that you will receive a blessing.  I wish they would rather say, give an offering because you have been blessed.  Give to God because you are thankful for what He has done for you. Give because we are told to give and we should obey. 

    Must it always be a give and take?