The Culture Gap

This past weekend I just happened to watch two movies which were about the Pacific conflicts in the second world war.  Both movies brought out the point that there was extensive difference between the Japanese and the British/American culture. For example, the Japanese thought their opponents were cowards because they surrendered rather than fighting to the death.  The Allies thought the Japanese were fanatics because they preferred death to surrender.  These assumptions coloured their treatment of each other on the battlefield and in the POW camp. But this misunderstanding arose due to a lack of appreciation of culture.  The Allies weren’t cowards, but they valued life and preferred to live to fight another day.  The Japanese on the other hand, valued honour, and would prefer to die honourably in battle than live with defeat.

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“We were prevented…”

Much frustration, confusion, anger and loss is incurred by mission workers who find their plans thwarted.

Perhaps a family need draws us back home from the field. Some of us inexplicably lose visas and are given 48 hours to leave a country we’ve lived in for 20 years. The risk of terrorism forces our evacuation. A sending agency decides to pull out of a given location. Our funding falls to an unsustainable level. The list goes on.

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Let the nations be glad!


May God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine on us. So that Your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for you will judge the peoples with uprightness, and guide the nations on the earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, so that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

Psalm 67
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Excellent Extraverts!

Last week we looked at introverts, thought about the environment they function best in, and how we can help them thrive. This week I want to look at extraverts, and consider how we can help them thrive too.

Extraverts primarily gain their energy from the world outside them, so need to engage with it. Unlike introverts, being alone and reflecting will make them uncomfortable and they are much happier being involved with people, often in large groups. Being naturally gregarious, they are confident at meeting strangers, building bridges and enjoying diversity, and they can quickly make connections in a new culture and engage effectively with people.

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Incredible Introverts!

It is said that introverts enjoy living in a secure private space to themselves and recharging their batteries in solitude rather than in a group setting.  So how do people who are introverted cope in the mission field?

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Mourning

Mourning is something that many western cultures don’t do well.  Unlike our Mediterranean neighbours, or more expressive people from tropical climes, we think holding our feelings in check is a Good Thing.  “Stiff upper lip, old boy.”

Christians are often even less inclined to mourn than others, because we have a sure and certain hope that our departed have gone to be with Jesus.  We use terms like “promoted” to express our positivity.  I was even once told by a family member at a funeral that we were not going to cry, because it was a happy day of celebration for our friend who had gone to a better place.  Which left me with a lot of grief and no outlet for it. Sometimes we need to express our emotion and have a good wail.

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Rethinking exclusivity

A Muslim man joined us recently for our regular communion service at the place where I live and work.  Which made me think hurriedly about how to do communion inclusively and build bridges rather than barriers.  I could of course simply have said “This is not for you, but you’re welcome to observe”, as indeed you might, but as part of a community that is trying hard to get along well with our ‘cousins’, I knew this wasn’t how we would want to treat a visitor.  So I improvised.

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Self-care

I have written many times about the need for mission workers to be actively supported by their church, agency, family and friends – all of whom are very important for the resilience and fruitfulness of the mission worker.

However, the provision of intentional, pre-emptive, supportive care does not absolve mission workers from caring for themselves!  With millennials in the mission field, who are accustomed to more attentive parenting, workplace nurturing and personal mentoring, there may be an expectation of higher standards of support than were previously considered appropriate.  We need to lovingly remind mission workers that they are not children, they have been selected for their ability to thrive in the mission field, and have been trained to withstand the challenges of life in demanding places.

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Coping with constant change

Change, it has been observed, is the only constant. And that was pointed out 2500 years ago by a Greek philosopher.

Many of us in mission struggle to keep up with various aspects of change, whether it’s organisational structure, new technology, government regulations or the constant coming and going of co-workers.

Most of us are not particularly disposed towards change, and the accelerating rate of change seems ever more bewildering. So how can we learn to survive in a world where change is guaranteed, to continue apace? Here are our top tips:

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