This part of the world is no exception to baggage existing between the nationals and International volunteers. I really respect recent work that our friend, and volunteer of our non-profit, is doing in helping to bridge the painful gap that exists between these two groups. Reading her paper on cross-cultural relationships helped bring many things to light for me. Here is an excerpt from her paper,
“Participating in cross-cultural teams is always challenging because of different and possibly
clashing cultural values expressed through language and behavior. Diverse cultural values lead
to a different understanding of ministry praxis, success, leadership, power, financial
responsibility and accountability, to name just a few pertinent areas. Of course, relational
failure often happens when individuals do not accept their own ethnocentrism, or their tendency
to judge and interpret the other through their own cultural framework. This is only exacerbated
when one or both cultures have had past negative experiences with the other” (Magda,
Wachsmuth, “Discerning the Body” in Cross-Cultural Relationships: A Critical Analysis of
Missional Partnership in Southeastern Europe, p. 33).
It can be confusing and tiring to always be aware of your own cultural lens as well as to decipher messages received within these types of intercultural relationships. But, I want to tell you that I feel encouraged today!
While some days are hard, today I am reminded of a living hope, a hope I choose to cling to, which has been given to us – in Christ! I believe there is a bigger, more beautiful picture at hand to grasp. It is one of unity. We read from Paul in Ephesians, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” So, today I’m encouraged to seek unity and give grace!
The author of 1 Peter tells the persecuted Christians that their living hope is a life in Christ, which is a new paradigm that has been ushered in. It isn’t one where we try to have power over each other, which would mirror the hierarchical structures of the Greco-Roman society that surrounded them. He says (in Ch. 3) “Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.” So, today I’m encouraged to be a blessing!
And Paul tells the churches in Galatia, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, it doesn’t matter what culture we come from, we are all part of the Body of Christ, and we are to be a Kingdom community, where the “the focus of mission is not just on something we produce… It is tied up in our mutual interdependence where God is glorified in the very action of our cultures rubbing up against each other, and out of this, a greater creativity and power of the kingdom is revealed” (Magda, Wachsmuth, “Discerning the Body” in Cross-Cultural Relationships: A Critical Analysis of Missional Partnership in Southeastern Europe, p. 42). So, today I’m encouraged to see past categories!
I also feel challenged to shed my baggage and pain and to fully embrace what it means for God to use me to build a Kingdom community, where I will have to fight hard against my self-protective nature, which may want to discard others in order to protect myself. It is one in which I will commit to bringing life to others and seeing their humanity as we serve one another in love.
So, today I’m encouraged to see with new eyes, with restorative eyes, with Kingdom eyes.