Tips for Interacting with Other Cultures

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.


An Open Letter to My Previous Self Before Entering the Mission Field

When I was growing up on a dairy farm, I was afraid of missionaries who visited our church. I feared getting too close to someone so holy and strange. They had to be strange to do what they were doing, didn’t they? If someone had told me that someday I would be one of those missionaries, I would have laughed. I might also have cried because it frightened me to think of going into an unknown place to work among unknown people who spoke an unknown language. I knew that I was not smart enough, Godly enough, or brave enough If I could go back in time to give myself some encouragement, this is what I would say. “Helen, the God you’re getting to know is bigger than any challenge you will ever face.  If He calls you to go somewhere new and do something different, be encouraged that He will go with you. The Bible promises; ‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.’ [Psalm 139:9-10] This life adventure with Him won’t always be easy but you will learn about trusting God in hard times and rejoicing with Him in good times. You will see how faithful He really is. As you enter the unknown, He will equip you to do the work to which He has called you. You will not always do it perfectly, but that’s alright because only God is perfect. He will provide answers to questions you have not even thought to ask. He will open doors in surprising ways and hold your hand to guide you through as you walk with Him. Your mind will be expanded as you see a world that is much larger than the one you now understand. You will be light in a dark world. Will there be loneliness? Perhaps, but obedience to God is of utmost importance. Helen, don’t fear. Prepare for your future by learning more about God, thus learning to fall more in love with Him till He calls you. Truth be told, I still say I’m not smart enough, brave enough or Godly enough, but I’ve learned that God is enough. I’ll tell you a little secret, Helen. Just wait till you see what God does with cream of tartar!!”


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