“What happens when an American cultural trait places you at odds with one of the key cultural traits of the people you were sent to reach? Pastor Jeff Jackson shares an essential truth that the SSMF servants in Asia are living out even though it runs counter to their own culture.”
I just returned from another trip to Indonesia and Taiwan.
On this trip, I had the privilege of not only visiting SSMF servants that live in both countries, I was also able to lead a small team of people from my home church for the Indonesia portion of the trip.
As I reflect on the trip, I continue to be amazed at the way our Amazing God graced it in ways that exceeded what I had envisioned.
And for obvious reasons, I’m not at liberty to share most of the details of the Indonesia portion of the trip in a forum like this.
But I would like to pass on to you a crucial truth about American culture, (my culture!) that I have been thinking about for quite some time and that finally crystallized in my mind.
Understanding and expressing this truth is the culmination of:
–A key idea mentioned in a book I read many months ago.
Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole
–A two-part question I was asked by a professor at a significant Islamic University while I was in Indonesia.
“What is your impression of my country and how is it different than you expected?”
–What I observed in and through the lives of the SSMF servants and those they live among in Indonesia and Taiwan.
To put it as succinctly as possible, American servants that choose to live among, love, and serve people in other countries and cultures must reject the American cultural norm that places what COULD BE in the future, (think: VISION) as a higher priority than what actually IS today.
To be shaped by that mindset is to be so future-focused that we end up devaluing the meaning and significance of TODAY by viewing it as merely the next necessary step towards the fulfillment of the vision that God originally gave us.
When we have this kind of mindset, we also don’t value the people we encounter TODAY for who they are, but for how they might serve a purpose in helping us fulfill our vision.
I’m not saying that vision isn’t important. It absolutely is.
Having a clear VISION is essential at a number of levels for every missionary.
It is right and good that they embrace what God has shown them that should become a reality.
They should clearly articulate it to others.
They should take the steps necessary to move forward so that the vision becomes a reality.
These are all necessary and noble things to do and these are some of the things that American culture soars with.
But as with so many other things, that can, and does get taken to an extreme.
Which is why our culture also has this simple phrase of exhortation, “you need to stop and smell the roses”.
Although few of us take it seriously until we’re confronted with a major life-change or a potential life-threatening event, there’s a reason that phrase noses its way in to all of our lives every now and then.
In Asia, where the predominant culture places a high value on TODAY and the relationships and people that are a part of TODAY, an American follower of Jesus that refuses to acclimate to this cultural trait will limit the depth of their relationships with the very people they are there to reach in His Name.
This is exactly what I saw in the lives of the SSMF servants that I visited.
Without abandoning the vision the Lord has given them, they have masterfully made a significant cultural adjustment and have learned to value TODAY and the PEOPLE that make up today for what they truly are–gifts from God.
And because they have, they have endeared themselves to the locals at a deep level.
It was observable and I was blessed to see it.
But probably not as much as the people they interact with on a daily basis.
And certainly not as much as the Missionary God who sent them in the first place.