• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

What is going to keep you there?

Once the cultural bridge has been crossed, we might think that the ‘journey’ is over.  However, it has only just started.  Not only do we need ways to ensure a safe and sure passage across the cultural bridge, but we need to discover anchoring points that will keep us on moving forward in ongoing cross cultural learning and living.

It is somewhat like mountain climbers who use screws to secure an anchor for all the climbers in the group to move upward on the rock.  Crossing the cultural bridge calls us to be ‘equipped’ to look for such anchors.Carabiner

What are those anchors?  Several come quickly to mind, but there are certainly others: identity, community and laughter.

Identity.  A firm grasp of our identity and value in Christ is the first anchor we need to secure into the ‘rock’ as we move forward.  It is easier to say this than it is to actually live it out.  When you find yourself in another culture, you want to feel part of that culture. You make an effort to learn the language and the customs.  However, that ‘petit accent’ (that slight accent) always seems to give away the fact that you are not from there.  And when someone says again: ‘Oh, you must not be from here,’ you can easily feel devalued.  Speaking the Gospel to ourselves reminds us that we are not defined by what others think of us, nor by our ‘slight accent’, nor by our work.

Community.  God created us to be in community.  Our communities are a tangible reflection of the community that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As one moves through the cross cultural world, all kinds of emotions can rise to the surface of one’s heart.  An arena where honest sharing, mutual support and accountability can occur is vital.  That forum is the place where we can remind one another of the Gospel; where we can speak the Gospel to another.  That community is the place where our ‘strength’ is restored, where our idols are challenged, and where we are sent back out into life and ministry with a greater hold on Him.

Laughter.  This anchor doesn’t seem to fit often with the others.  However, it is just as vital.  The capacity to laugh at oneself in a cross cultural context is a gauge, in one sense, of how well are lives are founded upon Christ.  If we are unable to laugh at ourselves when we confuse again the ‘ou’ sound with the ‘u’ sound, for example, after years of living in a culture, then our value may be based more on my desire for language fluency, or on what others think of me, or on a desire to avoid the shame of just not measuring up.

None of these anchors are ‘for sale’ anywhere, but you will ‘find’ them in authentic relationship with fellow believers (both expat and national).

6 Responses

  1. Great follow up article that nails some of the keys things that I would also affirm them strongly. Thanks again for putting your reflections down on paper and giving the WT family a possibility of seeing this great challenge of going cross cultural. Will await the next installment

  2. Strong affirmation for the anchors you cited! Since you asked – perhaps others WILL share still more anchors. Two more here:
    FLEXIBILITY – cultivating this personally will prove very helpful in crossing the cultural bridge. Not everyone does things my way; I’ve learn to enjoy and adopt other ways & means.
    EXPECTATIONS – I’ll never forget Woody Phillips asking me, many months into our Budapest sojourn, “How is Beth doing?”. My reply “She’s loving it”; to which he volunteered “Because she decided she would like it even before she arrived.”

    • Thanks Jay! Flexibility goes in tandem with laughter, I think. And expectations is one outworking of the Gospel just as you cited in Woody Philipps response.

  3. The three you mentioned are good anchors in cross-cultural living. Thanks for sharing those reminders. For me, I’ve had to tap into a different anchor about two years ago to “keep me there” and to keep me focused. My anchor was a daily prayer reminder that the people I work among are created IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. Yep, that means as crazy as they all may seem and even if their actions and beliefs are skewed towards destruction they ARE God’s creation….loved and have value and purpose. This daily reminder helped me thwart the cynical attitude that was developing in me. With this reminder I was able to engage the people with love and hope that God is/will work His purposes in the people.

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