Friday, September 25, 2009

Prophet to Pastor

For most of my life God called me to be a prophet. One who loved Him and His church and was unwilling to allow the church to continue to run on only one rail. I saw the churches I was in and working with as being more concerned with nurture/fellowship and self improvement. I spent my energy focused on drawing them to a ministry of outreach. Then God did a strange thing. He changed me from Prophet to Pastor.
I mention this because I - being one of God's "special" children (as in "Be kind to Sherman is a bit...'special'"). I have had an epiphany of late and that is that the reason I have felt stymied in my ministry is because I have been thinking like a prophet when I am gift - now - as a Pastor.
This is going to require some thought - not to mention a bit of reprogramming. Be patient with me as God is not finished with me and I am finally on the same page as my Father.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Stages of CultureShock Part 2: The 4 Laws

Stage 2 is exchanged for Stage 3 by those who have a healthy acceptance of own culture as one of many, but, their own never-the-less. They view host culture as an environment where how people interact my be different but not necessarily wrong, Pemberton’s first Law of Cross-Cultural Communication is, “It is not wrong, it is just different.” Of course, some things are patently wrong, such as infanticide but much less of a host culture is actually wrong – though it feels wrong to eat dog, for instance – and just different. I believe this is the first law for moving from “teacher” to “learner” and preparing oneself for a healthy transition.
The second law tag teams as “It Doesn’t Matter Why, It Only Matters That.” Once one agrees that what they are experiencing is merely different the next obstacle is the “why” question. For the purpose of living and learning one is best served to begin life accepting certain truths without searching for the origins of them. Why do some cultures not allow shorts, sandals, hats, the color red etc. in public places? It does not matter why – it only matters that you have learned this to be true so practice it. If you are asked to be a change agent – as in the case of a missionary – you may want at some point to know the answer to the question why, but for emotional health and good interaction it is unimportant.
The third and fourth are mirror images of each other and help learn the “that” mentioned in the last paragraph. At dinner with a host family one of family members “intentionally” passes the main dish by you to your seatmate which momentarily causes you to feel some slight has been given. First, “Never Assume” what you think you saw is what you actually saw. There are any number of reasons for that practice, none involving rudeness. If you practice Law # 3 then you will need to follow it with Law # 4 “Always Look for Alternate Interpretations.” Living in a new environment involves an endless cycle of Observe/Experiment/Adjust from Observation/Experimentation and repeat till satisfied that Stage 3 has been achieved.
Stage 3 is achieved when the irritation of Stage 2 has been replaced by an understanding that the irritant is “normal” for the place and time and it is ok to accept it as not necessarily “normal” for the traveler. I can live any place where dog is a meat without becoming a butcher of dog meat, or, anti-dog eating activist.
There is a Stage 4 to transition shock and it is achieved when the traveler can both understand and tell jokes in the local language receiving appropriate responses.

The Stages of Culture (Transition) Shock Part 1

Transitioning from one living environment to another almost always involves a process typically referred to as transition shock or in the case of cross cultural transition, culture shock. Transition shock is most commonly described as being in four stages, which are described in terms of experiences and not in terms of length of time. Time is less of a factor than attitude. Some people will transition through three of the stages in relatively short time, only infrequently reverting to the most toxic, Stage 2, while revisiting Stage 1 and living in Stage 3.
Stage 1 is the time when transition is new and is usually full of new experiences, most of which are seen as “interesting,” “quaint,” or “unpleasant” without being unbearable. At some point, when it becomes clear the environment is going to continue to operate as first observed and not adjust to the “foreigner” in the midst, these observations will become “intolerable,” “antiquated,” or “unacceptable.” Whether entering a marriage, new school, or new country almost everyone moves from Stage 1 honeymoon to Stage 2 distaste. Moving through Stage 2 to Stage 3 – as opposed to bouncing from Stage 1 to Stage 2 and back again – depends on how one enters the new environment.
Enter as a teacher, one who has better information than the locals, and you are doomed to live in Stage 2. The danger is determined by how long you intend staying. Vacationer’s returning from France, for example, who spent their two weeks identifying the things that need to change for their comfort suffer minimally, usually by not enjoying their vacation, as long suffering friends and neighbors will attest. They will most commonly reject “host culture.” However, there is also the possibility of rejecting “own culture.” In the first instance the host culture is negatively compared to own culture using paternalistic and patronizing references to the “childlike” nature of host culture or “barbaric” choices of host culture. Less common is to negatively compare own culture to host culture thus rejecting personal history and focus points. Longer term workers for corporations, government, or missions can suffer depression even to the point of suicide in this cycle.