How will a culture to which God calls me 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 their lives 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.
Despite the similarities and differences of cultures, our goal in missions must never be to “Americanize” their 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!
But we cannot ignore the struggles in meeting basic needs when we do missions. We can show the love of Christ through charitable work such as teaching more efficient farming practices, helping to dig wells, and teaching skills to guide them toward a living wage. This charitable work is necessary at times, 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 then 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, despite their circumstances, there is hope in a Savior.
No matter where we go and no matter what work God calls us to embrace, we must remember that our ultimate purpose is to introduce others to the Savior, whether we go to the “front lines” or serve in a support role. 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 seven 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.