Bridging the Gap Between Culture and Missions
My passion for cultural understanding stems from my growing awareness of how deeply intertwined that is with our worldview. Each person’s cultural upbringing is an ongoing tapestry of their understanding of the world around them which influences their understanding of God. From my time overseas, I have learned that cross-cultural ministry can be two-fold. It can be an opportunity to serve and be served. It is a unique privilege to share Christ with others as we live in their distinct cultural environment. But also, stepping into a cross-cultural context can serve us by expanding our view of our great and almighty God. These truths sink deeper into my heart each time I am overseas.
This past month, I had the opportunity of spending three days in Port-au-Prince, Haiti through my internship with P4H Global. Although it was not my first time to Haiti with them, my appreciation for Haitian culture deepened. This organization is committed to meeting the needs of God’s people in Haiti through investing in long-term partnerships with local communities by training teachers as they hold fast to their belief that education can eradicate poverty. Although 80% of Haitian educators lack proper training, their enthusiasm and passion to educate is in surplus. Therefore, this organization invests in the minds of the brilliant young students by providing quality training to educators throughout Haiti. This model of serving affirms to the locals that God has equally equipped them with the intelligence and capacity to rise above their circumstances and not depend on others.
Our short trip was dedicated to creating a needs assessment for two non-profit organizations who requested teacher training. A good chunk of our time was spent observing classrooms to see how to best tailor training to meet the needs of the schools. As I took in the learning environments, I was overcome by how powerful it was to stand alongside teachers and affirm their God-given talents and skills to lead the next generation. It was transformational.
Through my time with this organization, I have learned and witnessed how standing in solidarity and entering a cross-cultural context as a partner, you can serve well and be served simultaneously. First, by coming from a different context, I have realized that we have knowledge on methods and theories that are different to another context that can serve to their benefit, just like they might have for our context as well. For example, in Haiti, pedagogical theories popular in the States have proved to enhance classroom engagement and develop critical thinking among students. But this conclusion has developed over extensive time in dialogue and discussion with community leaders and educators. By building these lasting relationships, needs were not only identified but understood. Which leads to the beauty of being served cross-culturally. People have a wealth of knowledge and resources in the places we serve. By engaging with an enthusiasm to learn from them, our vision of how God works increases. We see the resilience in the people and are encouraged by how the Lord has strengthened, provided, and sustained them despite extensive hardship. By engaging in these conversations with an attitude of humility, our understanding of the world will inevitably expand. It will magnify God’s masterful design through the diversity in knowledge, resources, and culture discovered beyond us.
Although humbled by how much there is left for me to learn in serving well cross-culturally, I am also encouraged and grateful for the opportunity to grow and witness nations rise.