How will a culture God calls me to compare to mine?
Most cultures are similar in that people get up in the morning, work and care for their homes. They supervise their children and want life to be better than that of the previous generation.
Cultures differ in that they may have access to fewer amenities and have different occupations. Some shop for food daily. Some struggle for every crumb because of drought, poverty or poor farming techniques. Some tend to be late and others early. Some follow societal rules legalistically and others are more spontaneous.
Above all, in spite of the similarities and differences our goal in missions must never be to “Americanize” the culture but to show them the Savior. Our focus should always be on the fact that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and that includes us!
As we do missions, we cannot ignore the struggles in meeting basic needs. We can show the love of Christ through charitable work such as teaching more efficient farming practices, helping dig wells and teaching skills to guide them toward a living wage. This charitable work is necessary for some such as the family mourning a child’s death from dysentery. They may not be able to hear about a Savior above the sorrow of digging yet another grave. But if we can show them how to protect their children with clean water, we can also demonstrate how the Savior can give them eternal hope. A society that has been oppressed may have those who turn to alcohol or drugs to drown their hopelessness. They, too, need to know that there is a future hope in a Savior in spite of their circumstances.
No matter where we go and no matter what work God has called us to, we must remember that our ultimate purpose in going to the “front lines” or into a support role is to introduce others to the Savior. Charles Spurgeon said, “If there be any one point in which the Christian Church ought to keep its fervor at a white heat, it is concerning missions. If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is in the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world.” This kind of focus can help us navigate the everyday similarities and differences that we encounter when entering another culture. Servant leadership and humbleness before God are basic tools.
Helen and her husband David confirmed God’s first call to missions at a MissionNext Conference in 2002. After three short-term (2-4 month) projects in Lithuania, they joined Wycliffe Bible Translators. They then taught for 7 years at Black Forest Academy in Germany. Black Forest Academy serves mostly US passport missionary families who work in over 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Now, back in the States, David continues to serve Wycliffe in a human resources capacity.