This week we had a message brought to us called Christians and Culture by Brent Homcy. I thought was interesting to see how Christians often times respond to culture. He gave a three main ways.
1. Condemn: This is a reaction to culture that causes Christians to fear and disrespect world views and retreat into a “Christian only” club.
2. Conform: This is a reaction to culture that causes Christians to adhere to culture in such a way where they are no different then the people around them.
3. Cultivate: This is a proactive movement where Christians are involved in creating a new culture.
Confession Time: I think I’ve tried the first two more than enough times to realize that they don’t help the end goal of sharing Christ with others. My new goal is to stop reacting to culture and instead begin to proactively create it. Its interesting in Acts when Paul gets to Greece he hangs out at all the marketplaces-places where culture is bought and sold-with a regular presence, so much so that he was aware of all of their culture norms and lifestyles. This is especially remarkable when he’s sharing the gospel using Pagan poetry and art to convince people of the message. We can see from Paul’s model that he wasn’t merely adopting culture but creating a new meaning around it.
To give me an idea of what are cultures top influences are I checked out Google Zeitgeist to find out what the top searches where.
The fastest rising in 2010 were:
In 2010, in the United States, the ipad, chatroulette and the iphone 4 were the top searches. It seems that Apple is having a HUGE effect on culture. So what does this say about our culture? What does this say about what were into and where were going? I challenge us to be cultivators and innovators not merely reactors.
Long Jack Lobo
So, where are you from?
by Tiff M.
Where am I from? That’s a good question, and not a very easy one to answer, as many of you already understand. This was a question I never really had to think about answering when moving around as a child but one I dreaded answering when I moving back to Canada. It is understood that when we ask that question of a fellow TCK, we should, at least I expect a long yet fascinating story of countries lived in and possible mutual friends we have in common. In university, I met a foreign service kid who had lived in Egypt and went to school with a girl I knew in Pakistan. It truly is a small world.
I am from Canada but I consider Germany, where I spent my formative years, to be ‘where I’m from’. As a military brat, postings were usually two years long but somehow two turned to four and then another four. Not a day goes by that I don’t long for the cobblestones of the marketplatz, the delicious, scalding-roof-of-your-mouth hot bratwurst, and the hot cider of the Christmas Markets with the towering, gothic hall cathedrals in the background.
The place I now consider my ‘hometown’, (but not ‘home’, that word is loaded with emotion and is much harder to define) won this honour purely by default, as it’s the one place in Canada where I have lived the longest. When I did live here as a kid, I was that weird, out of touch kid who really didn’t get when I was being weird and out of touch. Living in Germany provided so many wonderful opportunities to travel to neighbouring countries and benefit from countless experiences. These were arguably better than a graduation trip to watch the local, very bad baseball team. As a twelve year old, I was the walking definition of ‘obtuse’. Let’s just say that I never really fit in. By the time I grew up and moved to Japan on my own, I’d learnt to be a bit less alienating about my life experiences - ones that I am lucky to be able share with you in the future.
As this site grows in numbers and stories, I look forward to being lucky to share my mine with you
Thoughts from PNG Part 4. (humidity)
On New Year’s Day, we were invited by the village across the fjord (using fjord in it’s non-scientific terms, as the fjord was not carved out by glaciers, but by volcanic eruptions) for a feast and cultural performance. We were told it would be a half an hour walk over there. I wasn’t looking forward to the walk.
Every night in PNG the rain poured. I think the only night where it didn’t sound like the entire contents of a giant bathtub had been upended on the resort was the last night, but I might be getting that wrong. One thing was certain: it rained a LOT.
Some people said it wasn’t the “rainy” season, but it was my impression, and my understanding reading since, that it was. Even if you don’t call it the rainy season, well, it was extremely rainy. Crazy amounts of rain.
So, on New Year’s Day, they put off the cultural ceremony and feast until about 2.30pm because of the rain. They told us that we would go over by boat, but failed to mention there would still be a walk at the end of it. Unfortunately, many of us had inadequate footwear so there was a lot of walking barefoot.
We scrambled out of the boat straight into the water, and then headed up the hill to the settlement. It appears (again, 8 days people) that PNG locals live on hills. I can see the merit in this - with all the rain, it leaves your settlement and settles in low lying regions.
We were walking along a 20cm wide track slipping and sliding with the mud when my feet slid straight out from under me and I gently (dare I say “elegantly”?) fell onto the grass alongside the path. I wasn’t hurt: the only thing I lost was my dignity and it’s not like I have much of that at the best of times.
When we finally got to the village, we waited around until the dancing started. And watched the dancing. And watched the children watching the dancing. They were soooooo cute.
Dark clouds came over and soon enough, it was pouring again. We sheltered under one of the (surprisingly) dry rain shelters, but it was evident the rain had settled in for the day. The rain wasn’t going anywhere, but we were. So we trudged. We trudged through the pouring rain down to the beach. The muddy paths turned from muddy into flowing. As in flowing streams. We got wet. We got wetter. There was a point when the wetness was 100%. There was no more wet to be got.
This walk through the jungle has cured any desire to ever walk Kokoda, which was about 100k away (I have no idea how far it was actually). It was crazy mud.
So, it strikes me: how can people live like this? It rains in Sydney, I stay inside. I use an umbrella. I use a car. I use a dryer.
It rains in PNG. There is no “inside”, although there’s “under the shelter”. There’s not many umbrellas, and anyway, what’s the point of an umbrella when it’s equally wet and deep on the ground? There is no car. There is no dryer.
Life is tough in PNG. Just another thought…
2011 Year-End Review
Dear CULTURELink Family,
First and foremost, I want to thank you for being part of our ministry. Your prayers and encouragement have been a blessing. 2010 was a year of establishing a non-profit organization, writing and publishing a new curriculum, and field-testing new training. To my amazement, 2011 has surpassed both my hopes and the accomplishments of 2010.
Last week, my colleague, Ryan Hurlburt, and I dug through evaluation sheets, class rosters, and calendars to prepare our end-of-the-year report. The data we gathered is trackable and verifiable. These numbers are also conservative because not all CULTURELink seminar graduates provided us feedback. Therefore, as you read the bullet points below, know that the data is realistic and most likely lower than actuality. Be encouraged because YOU are part of this movement called CULTURELink.
- We conducted seven Help! We’re Going on a Short-Term Trip! seminars (Atlanta, Greensboro, Hanover, Little Rock, Pittsburgh, Spokane, and Tampa).
- 270 short-term mission team leaders representing 90 different churches across the United States were trained, each completing 15 hours of instruction.
- From these classes, 112 teams will be discipled by our graduates and sent out to at least 68 different countries (see map at the end of the letter).
- Two Introduction to Short-Term Missions Discipleship seminars were conducted for 60 participants.
- CULTURELink’s new website was launched.
- Strategic world missions consulting services were provided to three different churches.
- An international trip to Romania took place. CULTURELink linked two ministries together so that their ministries will have a greater impact in that country. Make a Positive Difference and The Gypsy Education Fund are now partnering to influence hundreds of Gypsy children.
- CULTURELink and I were featured in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement’sonline alumni newsletter, which was distributed to 60,000 readers.
- I served as a guest speaker in 12 churches, taught three Perspectives on the World Christian Movement courses, and served as the plenary speaker at two world missions conferences.
While the above stats are measurable and can serve as an indication of God’s hand on this ministry, numbers can often be a human gauge of success. Knowing this, what honestly blesses me most are those things that cannot be measured in numerical terms. Below are some comments by seminar participants that reveal CULTURELink’s impact on their lives, the likes of which, on this side of eternity, will never be able to be measured.
- The spiritual impact of this seminar was memorable and life changing!
- Thank you for developing me to be the leader God made me to be.
- I didn’t really have the time this weekend to easily attend this seminar, but I am so glad I came. I have learned so much and have been very blessed and encouraged by the teaching. The application to several areas of my walk with Christ and the mission He has given me has been outstanding.
- This seminar makes me mad and frustrated! Why? I wish I had taken this class years ago, because I realized how many trips I led so poorly. I am thrilled and anticipate more impact-filled trips in the future as a result of this seminar.
- You not only gave us training, you discipled us to be better followers of Christ and motivated us to be disciple-makers of our teams and those we go to serve.
- I had no idea this seminar would be as much or more about growing spiritually myself as it was about details and logistics of trip travel.
- We have spent over a month doing/attending pre-field orientations to be long-termers. This tool/discipleship plan is BY FAR more useful, beneficial, practical & do-able! Thank you!
- The seminar served to resurrect thoughts of serving as a missionary, challenging me to take the next steps in continuing preparation…for my wife and me.
- I’ve been challenged by the question: “Is Jesus enough?”
- This training is valuable. We’ve received feedback from nationals we serve that they notice and appreciate how prepared our teams are; compared to some others, they have less stress when our teams are there.
- Thank you for being vulnerable; I felt like I needed that. I can’t understand how God has put me in so many leadership positions. I am just a shy, insecure person. I realize that God’s plan for me is more than I ever can imagine. He can use a broken person!
- Renewed my passion to remain in the disciple-making process here and there, wherever I go, until Jesus returns.
Also, in 2011, I am thrilled to inform you that God has kept us financially healthy. Through foundations, individual donors, seminar tuitions, and consulting, we are solvent! This month, I have read newsletter after newsletter from ministries that seem to be going under. I don’t understand God’s generosity toward us, but He is blessing. You are investing into something healthy, something eternity-changing, and something I am convinced God has ordained.
I was recently sharing our mission with a potential donor. As our time together came to a close, he asked, “Are you struggling financially?” My temptation was to seem pitiful so he would give, but I told him truthfully instead that God meets our needs, that people are faithful, that seminars are filling up—and that, of course, we can use more resources, but that we know it is up to God to provide. He listened and said, “I am so grateful to be part of something healthy!”
Your gifts allow us to provide scholarships for many missionaries and nationals to attend our seminars. They allow us to give our ministry away to countries like Romania and the inner cities of urban areas like Atlanta. They allow my family to be provided for, as well. We are in this together.
Remember: a board of directors governs CULTURELink’s finances. Our operating costs are monitored and set by them. Therefore, as resources come in, we are able to continue fulfilling our mission of making disciples of those who will make disciples of all nations while endeavoring to be good stewards of all that God provides.
If you would like to give a one-time gift or become a monthly partner, or make an end-of-the-year donation to CULTURELink, you may do so either by visiting the GIVE page on our website or by sending a check to:
P.O. Box 6623
Marietta, GA 30065
I’m thrilled to be in ministry with you!
I am going to kenya next may…well I’m applying to the program.
applying next week after I make an apt with the prof to talk about it more.
I’m jumping in. My friend who was gonna go backed out, but I think I can do this on my own. It’ll be okay. It’ll be an experience. I’ll be a few months shy of 21. It’s only three weeks.
Just do it, kailyn.
“Similarly, consider Youtube, which has encouraged the widespread dissemination of visual and auditory ideas by anyone with an inexpensive digital video camera”—From my cross cultural communications book.
WHY DO YOU HAVE TO USE SO MANY FILLER WORDS!? that could have been so simply said, if everyone talked like that we would be having hour conversations about a ten minute story.
Camping, Being Non-Confrontational, and Other Confusing "Canadian" Practices
As someone who spent her formative years living in six different countries, I’ve had a vast array of ‘fish out of water’ moments, ranging from the educational (e.g., learning how to conduct myself properly in divergent cultural/religious contexts) to the mortifying (e.g., asking for a ‘sankie’ in a bar in the Dominican Republic because I thought a sankie was Dominican slang for a drink rather than being slang for, well, a gigolo). I revel in these moments. Though I realize how cultural curiosity can, in many ways, quickly degenerate into cultural voyeurism, can I just have a ‘We are the world’ moment here and say, with utmost sincerity, that understanding cultural differences is by far the coolest thing about traveling?
Lately, I’ve been struck with how much I am still a tourist in Canada, my ‘home’ country. Though I classify myself as Filipina-Canadian, there are instances when I feel more Filipina than Canadian (and vice versa, though this topic merits a separate blog post). Such are the joys of having a diasporic identity!
Herewith is a completely random, tongue-in-cheek list of “Canadian” practices that continue to befuddle me:
Camping and the great outdoors – MOTL’s favorite childhood memories invariably involve going to the Albertan mountains to camp and to bask in nature. My favorite childhood memories involve going to Hong Kong with my entire extended family to go shopping. Although I’ve had a few opportunities to go camping,* I invariably get bored. Don’t get me wrong. I like going on hikes. I like sitting by the campfire, eating grilled hotdogs, and chatting. I like seeing the vastness of the evening sky. I like the peace and quiet of my surroundings.
Soon, though, I get restless. The mosquitoes start becoming a nuisance. The absence of contact with the outside world makes me antsy. My companions start emitting body odor. I start feeling unclean. Sadly, my inability to really enjoy camping makes me feel like I am admitting to a huge personal defect. I’m not resourceful, rugged, and strong. Does that make me un-Canadian?
Being non-confrontational – To illustrate how my tendency to be blunt is occasionally perceived as being un-Canadian, consider the following anecdote. I was standing in line at Immigration Canada, having returned from a trip overseas, when one of the volunteers told me to bypass the people ahead of me and to step at the front of the line. This is most likely because I had to make a transfer, and risked missing my transfer if my papers didn’t get processed immediately. The couple before me did not hear this exchange. When they saw me go in front of them, they started talking to each other, loudly, about how rude “some people” were and how “some people” didn’t know that “in Canada, people stood in line.” Upon hearing this, I turned around, looked at both of them and said, “hi. Are you talking about me?” The two of them gaped at me, shocked; one of them looked so surprised that one would think that I did something completely inappropriate, like kick him in the shins and yank off his toupee. When they wouldn’t respond, I told them that I actually was told by the volunteer to bypass the line because otherwise, I might miss my connection. After I said this, both of them automatically nodded and uttered a few “oh dears” for my benefit. We then made idle small talk about how ghastly some airport connections can be, how Toronto Pearson’s renovations look, etc. It was completely surreal. I guess talking to people directly and confronting them for being passive-aggressive is a violation of some sort of social code? I’m still not sure.
Other immigrant friends have told me of how this social code – this tendency of Canadians to avoid confrontation– has made it confusing to navigate the workplace. A recent example concerns IS, a friend having a hard time decoding the meaning behind her co-workers’ words. Specifically, her boss keeps complimenting her for her good work but when it comes time for her performance review had more critical things to say. When IS asked her boss to clarify his expectations, he told her “not to worry”. “When Canadians say that you are doing ‘good work,’ do they mean the opposite? Why can’t he just tell me what is wrong with my work?” IS moaned to me. We both decided that to be completely forthright is not nice and thus, not Canadian.
“Cottaging” – Perhaps this is more of a practice in Ontario, but the social etiquette surrounding cottaging is so complex that I am surprised no one has written a rulebook on cottage behavior. I base this observation upon reading with amusement the numerous plaintive letters written to the Globe and Mail’s advice column on cottage protocol.
Two, in particular, stand out. The first concerns a family complaining about how the people in the cottage next to theirs have been “harassing” them by constantly inviting them over for dinner and dropping by to say hi. Though I am as misanthropic as the next person, that such friendly overtures are deemed “harassment” strikes me as being weird. In the Philippines, my grandmother’s house always has visitors who dropped by just to say hello. People certainly did not intend to be intrusive – far from it! In India, where I lived for a bit, having friends come over without prior notice was more than welcome. Why then do the same practices constitute “harassment” in cottage country?
The second letter involves a letter writer who was affronted that her sister’s daughter had the temerity to ask her if she could use the cottage for a wedding party get-together during ‘her’ week there. The letter writer was further aggrieved over this ostensibly inconsiderate request because she was not invited to the wedding. It is this very point that perplexes me. It is clear that cottage politics in her family only became acrimonious once the letter writer found out that no wedding invitation addressed to her was forthcoming. In contrast, Filipino wedding protocol mandates that all family members – especially close relatives such as your parents’ siblings – get invited. If I were to exclude relatives from my guest list, I will feel the full extent of my families’ wrath, believe you me. Consequently, it is odd for me to see that the letter writer’s niece felt that inviting the letter writer, her mother’s sister, was not necessary; it is even odder that her aunt, the letter writer, is determined to use subterfuge to prevent her niece from using the cottage. Why can’t they just talk about it? Oh wait, that’s too confrontational. So we return to point number 2: Canadians don’t talk to each other directly. The letter writer’s family is doomed! I can just imagine decades upon decades of chilly family gatherings, where nothing is ever said, but the tension runs high.
Shoes On/Off – In the Philippines, people take off their shoes before entering the house and put on slippers. In other Asian countries, people take their shoes off and walk around barefoot or in socks. In Canada, the great debate on whether it is rude to ask guests to take off their shoes rages. Though a lot of the houses that I’ve visited in Toronto require that guests take off their shoes, apparently, this practice has caused so much consternation that an entire National Post column and Globe and Mail “group therapy session” was written defending why there are some circumstances when it is perfectly reasonable to ask people to remove their shoes.
To say that other people disagree is to make an overstatement. Some of the readers in the aforementioned G&M piece argued that prioritizing the removal of shoes over guests’ comfort shows that “rules are more important than spending time” with loved ones. Emily Yoffe, an advice columnist from Slate, even goes so far as to say that people who ask their guests to do so are neat freaks with OCD. One of her readers agrees, writing: “Some of us are in pain walking without shoes and the inserts that support our feet and some of us have holes in our socks, some of us have ugly toes, and some of us have smelly feet. Also, some of us just don’t want to walk around in bare feet on your floors which may have anything on them. Don’t embarrass your guests by asking this of them. I don’t see how it’s the least bit courteous to draw attention to someone’s feet.” When another reader told her that s/he would happily supply slippers for her guests to don while in the house, the same reader said, “I don’t want to put on someone else’s shoes. That’s just offensive. Wow, I can’t believe the attitude of some people who assume their floor is cleaner than people’s feet!” Yet another reader chimed in his/her agreement by saying that it was a sign of “low class” and “poor etiquette” to ask guests to remove their shoes.
I guess this is a no-win debate then. And, low class and poor etiquette be damned, I am not having people’s dirty, wet shoe prints all over my apartment. And I reserve the right to confront you about this if I see you clomping around in galoshes on my floor, even if confronting you makes me un-Canadian.
A Disregard for ‘Loss of Face’ – Filipino culture, and, by extension, Asian culture is all about saving face. This means that my parents, being Filipino, consider this an important concept. In fact, ‘saving face’ is probably one of the reasons why I had a difficult time persuading them to allow me to go on sleepovers. (“What if your friend’s parents think that we don’t have the resources to take care of you? What if they think we’re sending you over to them so they can feed you?,” thunders my dad. “It’s a sleepover. No one’s parents are going to think that you can’t feed me. We’re just hanging out,” I would shriek, to no avail).
I didn’t realize until recently that I, too, have been influenced by the notion of face saving. I think that a lot of my actions are based on the desire to help other people save face, however quaint that may sound. For example, some friends recently threw a party for me, where I was confronted with an abundance of gifts. Protocol here mandates opening gifts in front of everyone to show my appreciation. I initially hesitated. Why? Well, what if some of the gifts were modest, leading the gift givers to feel embarrassed over their inability to give me something more? What if opening their gifts led them to lose face? Though I immediately dismissed these thoughts, I can’t say that I feel comfortable opening presents in front of an audience.
My desire to ensure that people don’t lose face is so ingrained that normal interactions become loaded with meaning. To use another example, recently, I was at my neighborhood coffee shop and ordered a latte. Instead, I got a mocha. I didn’t ask my barista for a new drink because her manager was there and I didn’t want her to lose face in front of her boss.
So there you have it, folks. What are some of the ways where you don’t feel entirely Canadian? And what does it tell us about how we think of Canadian identity?
*MOTL would argue that I’ve actually never gone on a ‘real’ camping trip. After all, I’ve never slept in a tent, but have only slept in cabins.
Thoughts from PNG part 1. (Servitude)
Papua New Guinea is a country to the north of Australia. For much more information, you can check out Wikipedia. Apparently, despite being extremely close to Queensland in particular, PNG does not have many Australian visitors. I visited there to go to a dive resort called Tufi, in the Oro province, on the northern side of the main island. The posts that follow are just random collections and thoughts from my 8 days in PNG. 8 days is a very brief period, so I absolutely have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m just writing out some comments. Just so you know. Anyway, part 1 is on servitude…
Tufi Dive resort was originally a WWII site and there are still remnants of WWII wreckage around the site. It’s very isolated - the only way to get there from Port Moresby is by air. There was virtually nothing besides the resort and a small local village. No restaurants, no shops, nothing. Therefore, we had to eat all meals at the resort. We had paid for 3 meals a day in addition to diving. The three meals were served by lovely PNG ladies with table service for lunch and dinner most of the time. Being waited on by such diligent and careful waiters made me think… how easy it is to get used to this!! Australians are typically very low on the power index from Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. To put it another way, we are very egalitarian. There is not much status difference in Australia (though I would be really leading you astray to say there is none - that is simply not true, though perhaps the status difference is usually that the person commenting on it feels they have a higher status, by whichever way you choose to measure it).
For me, this cultural dimension meant I really struggled being waited on so constantly. It wasn’t just at the restaurant, it was at the dive resort, where all our equipment was put together each day (being a diver is damn hard work usually: by the time you get your equipment ready, go for a dive, and then rinse everything and look after the equipment until the next dive - but at Tufi this was all done for us) and even getting a lift back up the steep hill to the resort from the wharf. Being waited on constantly can make you very spoilt. It made me wonder how long it would take to “expect” to be waited on, and how hard it is for our own pride not to get full of yourself when someone is waiting on you.
Just a thought from PNG…