Looking for the right girl for me was something that I had been doing even before arriving in Chile. I was very cautious as looking for your mate, obviously, deserves care. There didn’t seem to be any “fish in the sea” for me in Florida, and I went to Chile knowing that if God blessed me with a Chilean woman to love, our intimate relationship would break down cultural barriers and bridge cultural gaps. I spent thirty years alone and God used the hard times to make me stronger, but now here I am, finally, where He wants me to be.
The fact that I love my Chilean fiancé more than anyone, after Christ, is helping to build trust between myself and other Chileans, as witnessing proof of someone’s cross-cultural love seems to speak more loudly. Obviously we can still build strong cross-cultural unity and friendships without marrying someone from the other’s culture as my good friends Mike and Tabi Boyce exhibit so well. However, the hypothesis formed from my multiple cross-cultural experiences, is proving to be correct, that it does help. 🙂
Apart from my beautiful Chilean wife-to-be giving me some “street-credit”, I had the opportunity to publicly declare my long-term (life) intentions to a large number of ministers and other brothers from the Iglesia de Cristo at the men’s conference in Concepción this weekend. For the first time I publicly elaborated on my mission and intention to dedicate my entire life to ministry in Chile. Multiple opportunities presented themselves for me to use my education at Johnson University in a way that allowed us to exalt one another within personal conversations, and then to communicate an application of God’s grace for us, during public discussion, after a sermon on “the Lord’s supper” given by a friend from Osorno.
While at the conference I did some interviews for K2H, a new-born radio station out of Santiago that is ran by members of the Iglesia de Cristo. The interviews gave coverage to the conference and I tried to pick someone from each region represented, for the interviews, in order to bring unity to the Iglesia de Cristo. And a trust-building conversation with a pastor late in the conference on Sunday presented an opportunity to exhibit my knowledge of cultural differences and that I do respect and, am growing in my understanding of, the Chilean culture specifically, more than some past missionaries, in that I don’t spend time with people from my own culture. I was able to advocate my trustworthiness as a missionary, where there may have been wounds in the past, because the people I spend the most time with are Chilean. Furthermore, these are not just people that one has surface conversation with. I truly love my in-laws and the rest of Daniela’s family. I was able to empathize with the pastor’s assertions of the cultural insensitivity of past missionaries, and at the same time strongly advocate, with integrity, and without much effort, that I am living out this idea of putting Christ before my own hometown, country, culture, family and other things that try to take my identity before who I am in Christ. Like the rest of us, I am still a long way from perfect, but am thankful that by God’s grace in my life, my actions and lifestyle testify that the gospel comes before the United States, Chile and any other people-group, culture, or government. None of it compares. Finally, after the past year and a half, another important mile-stone was reached.
Although the original plan was to visit the Osorno region of Chile before the wedding, the back injury has prevented this from happening. However, I did make a promise to the pastors of the region that my next trip, would be to the Osorno region to get to know the churches in the area and to better understand the Iglesia de Cristo in it’s national context. This will be a fact-finding trip, that will help me understand what the churches in Osorno need, by observing and more importantly, by listening to the pastors and brothers in Christ of the area. There may not even be anything there for me to help with, but I’ll return with a better understanding of Chilean culture, the Iglesias de Cristo on a national level, and will be able to provide insights of the needs of the region for others who may want to help, wherever they may be from.
Meanwhile, the youth meaning on Capitán Thompson was canceled this week due to the men’s conference. Miguel and I will be meeting after the weekly prayer meeting, for young people, on Thursday, and I hope to spend a considerable amount of time with him in prayer together sharing our thoughts with God to promote a unity in our spirits before Christ. We’ll probably be talking about where the youth ministry is as it stands and bouncing ideas for the future off of one another as well. Please be in prayer that God would help us understand his direction for youth outreach in our community that is best in a Chilean context.
There is much more to say, but I would like to end with a note on the importance of culture to the majority (of the) world. For those of us who were born and raised in the United States, we may be less understanding of other cultures as our culture typically does more of the impacting, as it is more developed in various ways. At least we should be able to agree that the US is less influenced by people outside of it’s boarders. The movies and shows we watch aren’t typically in subtitles from French, We don’t know many songs in Polish, and news about what the president of Japan is doing does not typically air on our local TV stations… But in Chile, and the rest of the majority world, people do see close to the same amount of coverage on news about the president of the United States as they do of their own president. The majority of the movies and shows come from other countries (with the United States leading). Chileans know songs in English even if they don’t understand what the words mean. It may be that United States citizens don’t think so much about culture, because it would be virtually impossible to argue that the US is not a front-running trend-setting country in the global context. This innocent ignorance of the US’s position in global cultural development has produced obstacles to the progress of the Gospel in the past (in Chile, in the US, and everywhere else in the world). This kind of problem is not new to the spreading of the Gospel. I imagine even the early church was faced with the issue.
The point is that, although cultural awareness and sensitivity is growing in a post-modern society, reading about it in a book, or learning about it from a documentary, only scratches the surface of all the information one can understand when actually experiencing it and living it out in daily life. The US is obviously a melting pot, and their are people from all over the world right next to you. So, I invite you to ask your foreign friends and family what they think about the US’s position in world-wide cultural development and how they perceive the cultural impact of the US on the culture of the country where they are from. It seems that people who have less impact on the greater cultural development of the world as a whole, might be more eager to prove that they have something to offer to that global cultural development. That is why it is so important for missionaries to be culturally sensitive. Especially gringo missionaries like myself.
Please pray that God will continue to use my growing love for this beautiful Chilean woman and, my ever-deepening relationship with her family to bridge cultural gaps and brake down cultural barriers that will help me better understand my other chilean friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.