Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ministry as Mission

My supervising minister made a comment on my synod report that suddenly changed my whole perspective on phase 1. What he said, simply enough, was that he thought orientation to the culture beforehand would help with adaptation. I think this was in response to my sharing how inadequate I felt in the situation.
For my theology degree I did three years of mission studies. I've written exams on preparing missionaries and adapting to culture and more. But I never realised that this stuff is absolutely applicable to where I am now.
But the crazy thing is that no credible missionary organisation would send a new worker into a field for a year without significant preparation. Just imagine . . . how different this year would be if I had had a month's focused training on the structures and protocols and accepted practices in the Xhosa-speaking church? If they had taught me what was courteous and what was not. What does Xhosa hospitality look like? What do they expect from a minister? Where should I take a lead and where should I allow them to guide me? It could me done in a month of classes. I could teach it about my own culture, I know it so well.
If I could have had that and gone into this year with the confidence that I was a missionary, going to share my life with another culture and people, and that I had something to share. But rather we are told - don't be arrogant. You have nothing to say to them. God is already there. You are going to learn.
What does the church want from this year? From me? Surely not to destroy? I know that individuals are supportive, but the system . . .
I am on a journey. I ask questions . . .


Steve Hayes said...

Culture shock has a way of sneaking up and zapping you where you least expect it.

It's often food.

In Zululand there was an English nun staying in a Zulu convent. She longed for fresh milk, and had to watch it go sour before it was considered fit for human consumption.

When I went to England for the first time I thought that at least they spoke the same language, it can't be too bad. And then I went to a restauant and got macaroni and cheese with chips. Thereafter I ate in Indian restaurants wherever possible.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thank you. You have reminded me that there is lot of stuff that I might have had to deal with. Generally, I don't have to eat odd food - and I would have struggled with it! By and large the cultures communicate well in Grahamstown. It could be a lot worse!