SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Cross-Cultural Living Page 1 of 2

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to train indigenous workers?

Why do we raise thousands of dollars of monthly support, move ourselves and our families to foreign cities, learn their languages and cultures, and seek to plant churches or establishing disciple-making movements within those cultures?

Because Christ tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. Matt 28:19-20.

But the response we often get from those who have thought about the human and financial resources being expended in this effort:

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more effective to train and support indigenous believers to reach their own people?

How should you and I respond to this pushback?

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Accepting the help of those whom we serve

Have you ever turned down an offer of financial help? As cross-cultural workers who are expected to raise our support “by faith”, most of us cannot imagine a situation where someone would like to give toward our ministry, and we would refuse to accept the gift. But apparently this was what the great apostle Paul did – and multiple times over a period of a year and a half while living in Corinth. In his second letter to the church, he says:

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

 2 Corinthians 11:7–11

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Multi-tasking is a cultural trait

Over the past few weeks, I have been listening to a fascinating series of lectures by Dr. David Livermore of the Cultural Intelligence Center.  I purchased the lectures on Audible as part of one of “The Great Courses” that they offer. This course is 12 hours long and is entitled “Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are.” I would highly recommend the course in learning more about other cultures and as part of learning to work in other cultures and on multicultural teams.

In one of the lectures, Dr. Livermore talked about how different cultures view time. Besides contrasting a value on punctuality with a value on relationships, he talked about monochronic and polychronic cultures.

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Missionary, know thyself!

I vividly remember the moment I understood that culture permeates all of life. I’d already been a missionary for a few years, and I was reading “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” the true story of an epileptic Hmong girl and the cultural tug-of-war over her medical care. The author casually mentioned that in the girl’s Hmong household, family photographs “hung close to the ceiling, to show respect.”

“My gracious,” I thought, glancing at my own eye-level art, “culture even affects where you hang your pictures.” (Check out these “Fantastic tips for perfectly placed art;” surely nearer the ceiling would be easier!)

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Making the Most of Multi-cultural Teaming

SEND International is intentionally multi-ethnic and multi-national because it takes people from all nations to reach all nations. Our membership is currently composed of at least 13 nationalities, and many more cultures are represented within those nationalities.

Our “multi-culturalness” provides unique opportunities as we seek to fulfill the mission of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ among unreached peoples of the world. But the diversity that accompanies this mix of cultures also has many inherent challenges; challenges that should be acknowledged and addressed.

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Mapping your cultural values

 

I have just finished reading a great book on cultural differences as it applies to working with multicultural teams. The book: The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business is filled with fascinating real-life stories of how cultural differences impact relationships between people working together.  The author, Erin Meyer, is an American living in Paris and a professor at INSEAD, the “Business School for the World”.  She trains leaders from many different cultures of the world.   No, the book is not written specifically for missionaries, but is nevertheless a very valuable resource for anyone working in a cross-cultural environment, and particularly those who serve on multicultural teams.

Based on extensive research and experience, Meyer has come to realize that you cannot simply categorize cultures into two camps on a particular issue.  For example, cultures are not simply time-oriented or event-oriented.  The English see the French as not punctual and disorganized, but Indians see the French as too rigid in terms of time!  Both are right – from their vantage point.   And from yet another place on the spectrum, the Germans see the English as being “disorganized, chaotic and always late” (p. 22).   See the diagram below that compares Israeli (red) and Russia (yellow) cultural maps.   So we see that cultures are scattered across a spectrum, and what matters is not a culture’s absolute position on the spectrum, but rather its relative position in comparison to the culture it is interfacing with.

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