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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā 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!