continued from part 1, Mission My Town
How do mission trips help me become a better missionary in my town?
Mission Trips Help Me Think Culturally
I can’t remember where I read it, but the author defined culture as, “The water in which we swim.” As you may guess, his metaphor was that of a fish. The fish becomes so accustomed to water he is oblivious to the fact that it is there. We do the same thing with air. We also become oblivious to our own culture – until we are exposed to a different one!
The first mission trip I ever took was to Russia. I lost six pounds because I don’t eat cow tongue. It was the first time in my life I needed a translator just to help me do simple things. It was also the first time in my life I realized that common mannerisms and gestures I use everyday may be highly offensive, sexually provocative, or explicitly crude in another culture (that is a story for another day). At the time, going to Russia helped me to realize that not everyone grew up watching the Dukes of Hazard, addresses other people as “y’all”, or knows what a Herschel Walker is.
Mission trips help you realize you are a cultural product, an international anomaly, an alien everywhere else but home. But there is a positive reverse effect. By seeing what an alien you are in other worlds, you begin to slowly begin see the water in which you swim. You see the culture of home.
Cross-cultural missionaries invest years trying to cross cultural barriers. At home, you are already way past the line. You swim in your world without thinking about it. But think about it. Think about what makes your town tick? What are its shaping historical influences? What are your town’s major events? Who runs the sports leagues? Who owns the local diner? Where do the sages of the community eat breakfast (you know what I mean, the table of old men who know everything about everybody)! If you want to reach your town for Christ – eat pancakes with its tribal rulers – the dudes with the gossip!
On mission trips we gawk and awe at other cultures. We study them. In some respects we pompously judge them laughing at their quirks and pointing out their flaws. But the mission trip ultimately turns our gawking at other lands into observations of our own. Missionaries try to not only overcome cultural barriers, but they try to find veins within a culture in which the gospel will freely flow. What are those cultural veins in “my town?”
to be continued . . .