Friday, July 11, 2008

Cultural Insights

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from Grand Rapids - our home away from home! So many great memories here - it's where we went to college, got our first jobs, met, fell in love, got engaged, got married, bought our first car (which we STILL have), bought our first house, had our babies, spent time with family, made great friends, fell in love with Lake Michigan, etc. We are enjoying our orientation with CRC World Missions and thought we would share some initial impressions and then some insights from the speakers/the reading we have been doing.

Dan shared that he is very appreciative of many of the new insights from both presenters and other orientees in regard to the importance of adapting to the culture that we are called to. We spent most of today talking about issues of race and justice and I think we are both walking away recognizing the complexity and the challenges of these issues. For example: On the one hand, I believe that I have more in common with the Latin American culture than Western culture in the sense that relationships are far more important to me than completing a task efficiently. However, in Latin America there are different expectations for what a relationship looks like and how people interact in that relationship. I think that we are also realizing that it is possible to live in a third world country and yet escape to the "little USAs" (our homes, international church, having only missionary friends, etc.) to avoid truly understanding and being a part of the native culture. Dan and I are both thinking through these things and desire to be more intentional about assimilating into the Latin American culture. We know that this will also benefit Rebekah and Will - preparing them for the impact of globalization which will be a reality for their generation.

The following are insights from what we have read and heard the past couple of days:

A Kenyan Pastor says:
When the American speaks, the conversation is over. The American is usually the most powerful voice at the table. And when the most powerful voice gives its opinion, the conversation is over.

Don't call short term trips "mission trips". Call them "short term learning opportunities". The problem with calling it a mission is that it implies an agenda. There's something I need to come and do for you, or to you, to better your life. Life is too complex. Please come to my country with humility and an open heart to learn from us.

Latin Americans speak candidly and honestly to missionaries offering the following suggestions:
1) Do not teach so much theory, but practice your teaching in your life.
2) Live at an adequate level, neither too high above us nor too low below us.
3) Do not feel you are superior to me. We can sense pride even in small amounts. You came to serve in humility.
4) Show love to people as you do in your country, and then learn how we do it here.
5) Be willing to accept our suggestions. That may hurt, but we want to help.
6) Do not greet us as you greet each other. You are too cold and distant. Ask about our families and our personal lives.
7) Develop serious and deep friends from among us, people with whom you can be transparent and vulnerable.
8) Eat and like our food. We also want to know what you eat as a family.
9) Learn to read the Bible from our perspective and culture. Note how much of the Bible was written to people who lived in violence, injustice, and political uncertainty.


Insights from presenters:

"Live simply so that others can simply live."

You cannot lead people where you are not going yourself (in terms of intimacy with God).

"I don't want to do anything that ends with me. I am about multiplying and empowering others."

There are two kinds of missionaries: 1) Those who are relational and come to get their hands dirty. 2) Those who stay at a distance and keep their privacy - working with us during the week but never letting us into their homes.

Personally, I've stopped planning grand outcomes requiring massive efforts and started simply looking for the next right thing to do. The thing that is in front of me. The thing that looks too simple.

Ask for the gift of epiphany eyes. To have an epiphany is to see the truth of the matter behind the smoke and mirrors. To have epiphany eyes is to have eyes that see through the fa├žade to the real. They are eyes that pay attention, that look twice, eyes that ask the "why" questions. Epiphany eyes see by the light of Christ's word.

I pray these insights have encouraged you and challenged you as they have us. Thank you for being willing to take the time to read and wrestle with them.

Praise:

1) The results of my sister's test came back and she was told that the cells were "one step away" from being cancerous. She will go in for check ups every three months for a year. We are praising God for yet another provision of "just in time" health intervention for our family.
2) Our small group dinner guests on July 2nd braved tornados and thunderstorms to meet with us and our time together was one that inspired both laughter and tears. We are so thankful for the opportunity to share our story with others and listen to their stories of God's grace and goodness.
3) We continue to have a great deal of interest in our house. We had one offer that fell through this week, but are praying for God to bring the family He has chosen to our home. Praise God for a GREAT realtor!
4) A time of renewal and relationships and visioning at orientation. We are really enjoying our time and catching the greater vision of God's call.


Petition:

1) Please continue to pray for my Dad. His kidney doctor postponed his next surgery until the end of August/September because Dad's creatin level is at 1.9 and he would like Dad to get a little stronger before the stent is put in to open the blood flow to his kidney. Dad does get stronger each week.
2) We sent out our first group of letters last week requesting that family members and friends consider a prayer and financial partnership with us. Please pray that those who received the letters would desire to be a part of what God is doing in Nicaragua by supporting us in these ways.
3) Would you please pray for protection from spiritual warfare for our family? There have been a number of "odd" things that have happened the past few weeks that add stress to our lives. One example is this past Wed. morning (the first day of orientation), I got out of bed and a rib snapped out of place. I could only breathe shallow breaths because it was so painful to breathe. While Dan prayed, I got in the hot shower and took big breaths as I pushed hard on my ribs. By God's grace, it snapped back into place! Anyway, we recognize that opposition is part of following a calling and so we request prayers of protection. Thank you!

Thank you again for praying for us. Thank you too for sending us prayer requests. It is our privilege to pray for you as well!

Peace to you,
Lisa (for Dan, Rebekah, and Will)