Cultures “Stress”

We started off this morning by dividing into four groups of four and being handed instructions for a card game. Each table had its own set of instructions with a small deck of cards. We had five minutes to learn the rules of the game and begin playing. After that, the rules were taken from us and we could no longer communicate…except through gestures. After another five minutes, the winners rotated clockwise to the next table. We played another round and then we rotated, etc, for another 15 minutes. Sound easy? Oh…if only.

The first round was okay because we all had…you guessed it…the same rules. But, when we moved, we discovered that either the new players or ourselves played by a whole new set of rules. We could not talk, so the only way to explain what was going on was either to just go with it or try to gesture. Of course, there’s always the few (ahem, Karen) who don’t even catch on that people are playing differently and just simperimpose their own rules onto them! [I mentioned her name because I figure her family and friends would appreciate knowing her blunders. 🙂 hehe. She’ll get me later, I’m sure.]

Anyway – a definition of culture is, quite simply, “the rules by which the game is played.” Culture Shock can be defined as, “the disorientation we experience when all the cultural maps and guidelines we learned as children no longer work.” All of a sudden, this little role play made sense.

It was, honestly, frustrating when you learned that people were playing differently. When my team moved, we all of a sudden started losing every hand because the other team’s “trump” card was different; our rules didn’t work and weren’t gaining us any points. And we couldn’t communicate!! How INCREDIBLY frustrating!

But, then it turned fun. How in the WORLD are they doing this? How can we fit in? How can I play this so I can win? How can I stop looking so foolish and start feeling more confident? I wonder how everybody else is playing this game…

It was nice to hear during this class that culture shock is part of life. A lot of people say it’s because you’re not spiritual, you’re not mature, or you’re just not handling this well. No – in all reality – it’s a very real experience. It affects you emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. You can get actually physically ill from culture shock! This is real!

The nice part is…we aren’t gonna die. We’re gonna get through it. It’s up to us how we handle it. I’m positive we’ll break at some point (probably myself more often than Brian…), but that’s okay. It’s normal. 

It was interesting to hear them relate it all to self-esteem. Basically, when you feel like you’re not fitting in and things aren’t going well and you’re not catching on as quickly as you’d like to, you feel like it’s you. You feel like there’s something wrong with you! The common thoughts are, “I am abnormal; I am unspiritual; I missed God’s call; I am not skilled for ministry; God is punishing me.” It’s an attack.

So – my request is that when we head off to our new home – please be praying for us. They say the normal cycle for getting used to a culture is two full years. Well, that’s our first term. To be honest, that’s not horribly encouraging. So, will you join our prayer team? We could use all the help we can get!!  

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Risky Expectations

Today and tomorrow, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of missionary life. All this morning, we talked about risk and what it means to be a missionary in this day and age. Let’s face it: our world has changed and Christian Americans are targets. So, we talked about lots of basic safety and even went over what to do in case of a hostage situation. We went over how to register with the U.S. Embassies in our respective countries, what to do if the government calls for an evacuation, and what to do in case something serious happens overseas. It’s not pretty to talk about, but it’s reality. It all comes down to how committed we are to serve the people we’re called to. We had to write our own “Theology of Suffering” paper this weekend, based on the book of 1 Peter. The goal with this is so that when we get faced with a persecution-type situation, we already know where we stand on it, what we believe, and how God will respond. We touched on exceptionally hard topics, like, should a missionary carry a gun if it’s legal and protect his family? To what extent do we go in protecting our family? How much do we really trust the Lord to protect us AS HE SEES FIT? Most of us will never have to think about these questions and even though Peru is a basically safe country, we still need to keep them in mind. Our world is changing and in five years, Peru may not be as stable as it is now. Who knows what we’ll face? The question is – are we ready to face it? Peter reminds us that suffering is not something that might happen. It WILL. In fact, it’s part of our calling. Not just for us as missionaries, but for you at home as well. It’s a different ballpark when it becomes reality.

This afternoon, we moved onto a not-so-heavy topic: expectations. Our prof started off with asking us what we think it’ll be like to step off the plane, go through customs, who will meet us at the airport, where will we sleep that first night, what/where will be our first meal, what will our housing be like, and what will our team be like? Just in these initial questions, we realized that we all hold expectations of some sort – be them legitimate or not. We spent almost two hours going through legitimate areas where we all have expectations and then figuring out how to filter them and make our expectations more realistic. Basically, the more realistic your expectations, the less culture shock you will experience because you will be ready for it. Tomorrow, we’re covering culture shock. And we’re so anxious to hear what they have to say.

Brian is feeling much better – thank you all for praying! It was beautiful weather here today and we’re looking forward to a nice weekend. We’re planning on going to a place called Chimney Rock this weekend; we’ll be sure to take pictures for ya’ll. 🙂 We’re also going to try a different Presbyterian church this weekend that’s about two seconds down the road from us and is iddy-biddy. Should be fun!

Please keep in touch…let us know your thoughts on these issues, too!

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare has been the topic for us for the past couple of days. It was actually presented differently than I thought it would be. I assumed we would go over tactics on how to deal with the demonicly oppressed, how to deal with hands-on spiritual warfare, those kinds of things. However, instead, we focused more on ourselves. A great deal of spiritual warfare begins “at home.” We must take daily inventory of our own lives to make sure that we are not giving Satan a foothold. It’s interesting to note that a “foothold” is much more broad than we normally think. A “foothold” in Satan’s legalistic mind is anything – past or present, including family history that has not been renounced – that he thinks he has a right to exploit. If our lives are not in line with the Holy Spirit, Satan can get his foot in the door and try to do whatever he wants. He has a will, just like the Lord does, and he wants us to accomplish his will. Therefore, he will do whatever he can to get us to leave the Lord’s jobs on the side and do his work. That’s quite scary.

I know that Brian and I have encountered spiritual warfare, especially since moving to Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal; it’s coming in various forms. But, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s real. We are actively making sure there is nothing in our lives that would make Satan think he has a foothold in our lives. But, we are also aware that Satan knows, like we do, that God has called us into this ministry. He does not want us to succeed, so he’s trying to make it not happen at all. We ask you to join our prayer team and stand by our sides and pray with us, not just now, but when we get to Peru as well. Peru is very animistic – meaning there is no distinction between the spirit world and the human world; everything is intertwined. Therefore, there’s quite a bit of demonic oppression. We are going there to work against the devil himself; I can’t imagine he’s happy about that. If you remember in the book of Daniel, Daniel prayed for an answer and it came 20 days later. He prayed intensely for 20 days without any answer at all. When an angel finally appeared to Daniel, he said that he’d been waylaid by the Prince of Persia – meaning, the demonic that was in charge of the Persian Empire. They were in battle and the angel had to have more warriors come to help him before he could continue on to Daniel. And then he said he had to return quickly because the Prince of Greece had joined the Prince of Persia in the fight. Sometimes, our answers to prayer don’t come as quickly as we’d like because there’s a real battle going on that we don’t see. Prayers need to be going up constantly! Please join us in this fight! We cannot do this alone.

On another note – for those of you wondering about our support, we were able to get in touch with a church in South Dakota, Christian Life Center, and we are to find out sometime this month what date we can come to speak in May! We are so excited to be returning to South Dakota this spring. We’re looking forward to speaking at CLC and seeing our friends again. You can continue to pray that God will open more doors for us to present our ministry – not just at churches, but wherever He will let us.

You can be praying also for our health. Brian spent the entire weekend very sick. He’s doing much, much better now, but I’m afraid I’ll contract this awful cold that’s flying around the campus and I’d really rather not! 🙂 For those of you reading this who know other people here, keep them in your prayers as well. Quite a few have been pretty sick the last week. It really puts a strain on learning. Thanks so much!

The greatest of these is love

Today was a wonderfully relaxing day – finally. This week has been pretty tough mentally – a lot of things to work through and think about. So far, CIT has been more about bringing up more questions and not really answering a whole lot for us! We’re getting a lot of tools so we’ll know how, but not a lot of just blatant black and white answers that we were hoping for. So, today, instead of just giving us more stuff to think about, they decided to kind of put it into context. We spent the morning talking about how everything you say, do, sing, smell, etc., is filtered and interpreted by everyone you meet. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know how you’re coming across! Especially in another culture. So, everything we’ve been studying this week was brought down to – how do YOU want to come across? Culturally ignorant – or full of love?

At the end of class, we watched the whole live Steven Curtis Chapman concert where he brings out Steve Saint and the Waodoni Indian who helped murder the men in the ’50’s who were trying to reach them (Nate Saint, Jim Elliott, etc.). The entire purpose for having us watch this video clip was to help remind us of WHY we’re doing this. No one has twisted or arms. No one is making us go. This is our choice. This is our personal calling from God. But, why are we obeying? Can we say with Jim, Nate, Ed, and the rest of them that we truly LOVE the people we are called to minister to and that they are WORTH dying for? Is the Gospel message still just as urgent? Can we honestly leave behind family and life and risk our lives for a people we’ve never met who completely different from us? It all comes back to love.

Our instructor this week has been reading missionary versions of 1 Corinthians 13 and I thought I would share my favorite one with you. It really sums up everything we’ve been studying since we’ve gotten here.

1 Corinthians 13 – A Guide to Culture

“If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; Love does not envy those who stayed home; Love does not exalt his home culture; is not proud of his national “superiority,” does not boast about the way we do it back home, and does not seek his own ways. Is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil about this culture. Love bears all criticsm about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture; confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences. Love never fails; but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change. For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part. But when Chirst is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant. When I was in America, I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American; but when I left America, I put away American things. Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately; Now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart. And now these three remain: cultural adaption, langague study, and love. But, the greatest of these is love.”

-Unknown Author via a missions worker in the Ukraine regarding cross-cultural endeavors.

What is truth?

Yes, the question that Pontius Pilate grappled with the day he consented to crucify Christ was the question we grappled with today. It’s horribly confusing and I’m not going into it all here. But, basically, what they brought up was that what looks true to us has actually been greatly influenced by our culture, not necessarily by solely the Word of God. So, truth looks different in every culture. In America, we consider cheating on a test as a form of stealing. In the Far East, they consider not sharing your answers a much, much bigger sin than sharing your answers so everyone does well. What is truth? What is sin? Is it culturally defined or is it all clearly laid our in Scripture? Here’s the end to the “Reflection Paper” I wrote today about it. It won’t clear anything up, but at least you can see a tad of what Brian and I (and the others here) are working through.

So, “what is truth?” Christ. He is the only truth and He is the only One that can reveal truth to each individual heart. He’s molded my view of truth many times; I’m sure He’s not done yet. I’m excited to work with another culture because I hope that it will broaden my view of truth – which, in reality, will broaden my view of Christ. Isn’t my goal to know Him better and more fully? I cannot imagine a better way to do that than to enter another culture, another worldview, another epistemology, and learn from them. It’s not going to be easy, but God never promised that either. He did promise me a Helper Who will guide me into all truth, regardless of what country I happen to be in at the time.

Culture Theory

Today, we just brushed the surface of Culture Theory. Basically, we talked about how our view of a culture will establish our strategy for reaching that culture. Let me just basically copy my notes because they say it better than I can.

The Scriptural Perspective on Culture:

 God created Adam and Eve – all are created in the image of God. God ultimately started a culture. Sin affected all of human culture – God was grieved by culture and decided to wipe out all but a small group. God multiplied human languages and scattered speakers throughout the world – diversity of culture was part of God’s plan! Abraham moved cross-culturally with a new message – his moving out was the start of a new God-ordained culture. Jesus was born into a specific culture – God used a specific culture to orchestrate His plan of redemption; the virgin birth, the census, the Roman empire with roads and general world peace. The Great Commission is the mandate for us to go cross-culturally – Jesus did not command us to change the people groups, just to bring the Gospel to them; no particular method of obedience, just obedience to God. And lastly, Revelation assures us that one day, representatives from every human culture will be present among the redeemed of God before His holy throne – still worshiping God in their own language!

These quotes sum up everything:

“There is also a synergy of the church universal, across time and culture. A local assembly takes strength in a world full of local assemblies, diversified in practice, united in the Spirit. The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11 joins a storefront congregation in the South Bronx. The South Bronx communion unites itself, by faith and in mutual indwelling, with an underground church in China, one in Christ with the congregants in the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Charismatics join with sacramentalists, grape juice mixes with wine, drum sets harmonize with pipe organs, formality links with informality, rich unite with poor, and so on throughout the past, present, and future world of the redeemed and the assembled. In each local gathering a synergy of son goes up to God through Christ. Corporate confession, corporate prayer, corporate hearing (both of Word and homily), coroporate grief, corporate praise, corporate Communion, corporate giving of gifts, corporate alleluias, and corporate hush – all of these combined into a not-to-be repeated whole by the work of the Spirit.” – Harold M. Best

And…

“We are not called to reform the culture as such. We are called, rather, to transform the world by living out a radical altyernative that the world cannot know apart from the lives of God’s people. Certainly we will influence the culture. How, in view of the resurrection reality can we not do so? For God’s people, influence on the culture is a by-product of their transformed lives.” – Alice P. Matthew/M. Gay Hubbard

And lastly…

“…It’s interesting to note in Revelation how distinct languages are still used in heaven. Our bodies have changed – we don’t even know what we will look like when we enter heaven! Our marriages no longer exist. Our sin has been completely eradicated. But, our languages, our nationalities, our culture, if you will, remains the same. God created each people group for a distinct purpose. He rested after creation only after He created man and woman and said it was “very good.” Just like men and women use their differences to glorify God, so also do different cultures use their differences to glorify God in a way that some of us have never seen. Worship is expressed differently in every culture around the entire globe and God is glorified in all of it. Why would He change that in eternity? More importantly, why would we want to change that now?” – Me. 

Church Project

Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone! We attended the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church this morning for Sunday mass. I won’t go into great detail, but basically, it was just very, very different being in a place where they appear to worship the same God, but really do not. We did not participate except when we could follow along. We observed and it was fascinating to compare notes in the restaurant afterwards. The Father/Priest/Pastor (not real sure what to call him….) read Scripture and one of the verses he read was the one where Jesus says to look up and see that the fields are white unto harvest. I felt the Holy Spirit tug at my heart and say, “Lisa – look up now! See? The fields are white. Now, go.” They keep telling us here that if you can’t love the people here in America, you won’t be able to love the ones overseas. If you can’t attend a service of the religion of the country you’re going to and feel love for the people here, you won’t there. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m called to love these people and share the love of Christ with them, using whatever means possible. I just wish standing up, interrupting the service, and preaching the Gospel right then and there would’ve been appropriate, but alas, that probably would’ve been unproductive.

We’re gearing up for another week and I did not realize how tiring this was until we slept in until 9am yesterday and today and I took a nap this afternoon. This is definitely mentally tiring! So, if you could keep us in your prayers, that’d be wonderful. I know some of you are friends with others that we’re attending classes with – keep them in your prayers as well. It’s hard to remain focused and retain all this information that’s going to be so vital to our future ministries.

We appreciate SO MUCH your comments, prayers, and emails!! We look forward to reading them each and every day. Have a wonderful week!