If you’re from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, it might be comforting to be part of a team overseas consisting only of Moose Javians. After all, you would share so much common experience and culture that there would be few barriers to understanding and acceptance. They would “get” all your jokes! They would not only know what the Grey Cup is, but they might actually share your joy that the Roughriders won it in 2007. It would be cozy, a group that would feel as close as family. But it would probably have some big weaknesses.
No matter how educated, how cosmopolitan we may think we are, each of us carries the stamp of our own culture in our attitudes and behaviours. For example, folks back home may appreciate how forthright, open, and honest you are, and you may view your “tell it like it is” style as one of your better virtues. Christians are supposed to speak the truth, aren’t they? However, such a manner will create difficulties in many Asian societies, where politeness, respect, and giving honour are held as greater virtues. Cultures have different ways of dealing with difficult, sensitive issues, and doing things the way you did “back home” may cause you to appear rude, disrespectful, arrogant, and condescending. After such an entry into their culture now try telling them how wonderful your religion is. You may get consistently polite smiles and nods, but you’ll wonder why, after so much effort, nobody’s heart is open to you. Now, if there had been a couple of Asians on your team, they would have noticed this blind spot right away, and made you aware of it before any permanent damage was done.
On the other hand, you may have a much easier time adapting to Mongolian winters, say, than someone from Singapore. “Just send me my mukluks!” Our cultures have both strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes our greatest strengths can simultaneously be our greatest weaknesses. Our cultures are much like our temperaments, part of the shape of who we are. In terms of ministry, it makes one person a pair of pliers, and another a wrench. One is not better than another, just different.
WEC International is just that – International – Our teams, at present, have members from over 50 different countries. This diversity increases the breadth of cultural experience within our teams, and helps us to reach out better. Hopefully, we have fewer blind spots than a team of all Moose Javians would. Sure, no one else may care about the Grey Cup, but it sure beats having a toolbox of only pliers.