The team of 11 — all from Westside— returned from the Dominican Republic July 29th. We experienced great cross-cultural training.
The best moment was when we were divided into four different cultures and given one cultural trait for each of our cultures. These were based on actual people groups from a missionary’s experience in Papua New Guinea.
Then we were instructed to decide based upon the trait how we would greet, welcome, engage with others, give gifts, etc. Then we were visited by each of the other cultural groups and we visited them. Finally we visited while trying to adapt to their culture — receiving what they offered and appreciating who they were.
My cultural trait was to value being relaxed, indeed we viewed doing anything hurriedly as improper. Our word was calm. We felt it offensive to greet or be greeted too quickly. Fast movements were shunned. This was the opposite of my wiring. Really tough for me!
When we visited one of the groups who hugged instantly, enthusiastically greeted, and offered gifts immediately, it overwhelmed me! And I realized that other culture was more how I am naturally wired. What an awakening moment. I wrote my family about the experience apologizing if I was ever overwhelming to them!
Grace wrote “Dad, you are not overwhelming!”
Anna wrote this: “I was thinking about your cross-cultural experience that you texted about yesterday! What an amazing exercise.
I hope you know, though, that no one is “poor” for knowing you. You make every life you touch richer!
But it is probably helpful to understand why some people react to others in certain ways. And still let people own their own feelings.
I’m sure you know all that. 😉
Love love love you!”
What gifts to receive these messages.
As we went into the community of Rio Grande we all kept in mind our cultural experience. Indeed we would joke “Remember to tone down culture 3!” That was the enthusiastic culture. The exercise had been so helpful.
We were allowed no cameras the first day. “Focus on building relationships,” Tim, our leader said, “If you exit the week having built relationships but having finished no work, then you were successful. Money brings aid but relationships bring hope!”
Watching how relationships have changed lives was my lesson this trip. Mary, whom I had met last year, gave me a huge hug this year when she saw me in the street and calling me, “Mi Brian!”
Mercedes the mayor and who runs a small grocery store came to bring coffee to our team and thanked us for coming.
Ken who was one of our foremen who is off drugs and has met Jesus because of working alongside teams of people who weren’t talking about Jesus but who were living Him. It’s not possible to talk much about your faith across a language difference but faith communicates through smiles, hugs, gestures, and how you handle stress.
These are a few. The children now in school because of this work have dreams. Rather than saying they will become farmers like their parents when they grow up, they say “I want to be an airline pilot.” “I want to be a forensic scientist.” They have visions beyond the community. One little second grader is the top student in all of the DR and three years ago had no access to education.
We all were impacted by this experience— even though we were only there one week. Life changed for us.
And I kept returning in my thoughts to the work God has called us to here with teens and Family Promise. And I was struck with how much can happen when we live our faith. Even though we cannot use our words about Jesus unless a youth or adult asks, Jesus is not limited to words and if we live well, if we embrace their lives, then this will speak loudly. Besides communication is only 13% verbal, the words, the rest is through facial expressions and gestures.
We are working to bring culture change as we do these works here. Having seen such changes in the DR, I know it works.