Thank you for your response and challenging questions. Pertaining to the last two years of my life, I will try to give one example of effective communication management that may apply to a lot of intercultural ministries. I will also add, that I have grown up with a family involved in missions in South Africa for 15 years.

Synchronizing intercultural teams in South Africa together is difficult for numerous reasons, but some of the obstacles I see most are differences in honesty, efficiency and contentment. Focusing on communication beginning with building personal relationships and trust, before trying to fix any perceived problems or deficiencies is vital.

Trust was and still is the hardest concept for me to adjust to, because levels of honesty are different in other cultures than ours. You definitely could say it is a “grey” area. Nevertheless, holding on to relationships that you have invested personally, regardless of some of these differences may be a lifeline to success working in an intercultural setting.

Focusing on building relationships often leads to simultaneously realizing that the diverse culture you have targeted a project for is already content with what they have in place. This requires being comfortable with adjustments on the fly and re-evaluating goals. It also means getting comfortable with temporarily feeling inefficient with some of your plans.

Adjusting to these discoveries made within a foreign culture is difficult to do, especially when donors are footing the bill and are not there to observe and build the same relationships you are learning from. However, I have witnessed organizations spend years building and maintaining long-term relationships with the same people. This often leads to discoveries that there is already contentment in things your are discontent with and helps with efficiency, by not spending time on projects the community/culture doesn’t see a need for. The trust that is established through these relationships leads to more honesty down the road and healthy relationships are maintained in diverse intercultural workplace environments.

One thought on “Endurance

  1. This is right on as far as my experiance. Short term and even seasoned missions oft times have difficulty, regardless of how much pre training is done, adapting to the cultural shock and relative morality. To be warned that something like honesty is not important to a culture seems easy enough to accept. You rationalize that you can adapt and overcome, however once you encounter the reality it becomes much more difficult. Of course this is not limited to missions as relative morality exists from person to person as well as from country to country. No two Christians are alike as are no two countries. As humans we are not able to control, at least around the edges, our thoughts or our Self. Our perspective are based on experiance and observation. These things are bouncing around in our skulls, are processed and come out as our relative sense of morality. Stuff just pops in, forms our thoughts, feelings and emotions after some grey matter processing. The difference between the perspective of a Xhosa 10 year old girl and a Johnson County 10 year old girl is so vast that the miles between them is the width of a hair compared to the distance to Mars. The difference can only be brought closer by Christ.

Leave a Reply