We have just launched our most recent course Crossing Cultures 101! It’s free to complete and consists of 3 online modules with several lessons in each, to be completed in your own time.
This is the course we wish we could have done before starting our missionary journeys - and, after learning a lot of things the hard way, it’s the course we would recommend to you!
Crossing Cultures 101, as the name suggests, is a very basic introduction to the subject of what it takes to move into a new culture and thrive there. In a sense it is so basic that it will probably raise more questions than it answers. But that might just be helpful! Better to start having the conversation before you go than to be shocked when you get there by issues you were not expecting.
We know from personal experience that having sufficient support and training is vital to thriving on the mission field. Our concern is that across the world, there are many who are setting off without those very things. This course won’t give specific help for adjusting to the actual culture you are moving to, but it will give a lot of general principles that will apply in any crossing-culture experience.
We think there are three different groups that would benefit from doing this course…
Firstly, those who feel called to go and are just beginning to research their way to finding out what is involved. I’d like to think this course would give you the basics and cover, with broad brushstrokes, the things you need to know as you begin to embark on this journey.
Secondly, those who have already set out on the journey and are discovering, perhaps the hard way, that there are a whole host of things you had not thought about before you left. For your encouragement, both Ross and I started out this way, with no cultural training, and we at separate times had to learn everything the hard way. We wish there had been a course like this that we could have done back in the day! It certainly would have helped.
And thirdly, our target is the churches that are sending folk out – for those churches to know, if they don’t already, what it takes to support those they send out well. If you fit the role of a sender rather than a go-er, you may prefer to skip the first two modules and focus only on the third. But on the other hand, doing the first two modules might also help you understand what those who have gone out are experiencing when they go through culture shock, for example, not knowing what has hit them. Finding that this is a normal part of the process of cultural adaptation will help mitigate the concern you might otherwise feel as you hear about their struggles. They will need your understanding to help them push through and come out reasonably intact the other side!
So that’s it - three modules, about 13 lessons in total, taking only about six hours to complete! There are other free courses on the site that you can also sign up for (go to: https://courses.fieldpartner.org/courses), and more will added in time. We will be there in support as well, and, in addition, we’d love to see fellow students form a cohort amongst themselves, providing mutual support and encouragement.
If you are reading this and you fit any of the categories mentioned above, I’d like to invite you to sample the course and give us your feedback in the box below. Or, if you know anyone else to whom it might apply, please forward the link to them as well.
Thank you for your interest and welcome to FieldPartner!
A while ago my husband and I were talking with a friend about the huge task that faces us in setting up an online training school. In the course of about an hour’s conversation, Eric asked a telling question. He said,
“Ross, Christine – looking back over your several decades of experience in international living – and granted the fact that you didn’t receive any cross-cultural training before you went – what would you say now are the top five things you wish you had known before you went to Asia?”
Wow – what a great question!
Below is my own considered answer. For me, this list actually encapsulates the substance of a basic course I have constructed, called Crossing Cultures 101. These issues I am talking about now are some of the topics that are covered in this course. And let me just say here, if you would like to come on board for that course – or if what I say in these few moments resonates with you in any way, please do sign up! It’s totally free to join.
OK so let’s drill into this: Five things I wish I had known before I went!
1. The best time to build a strong foundation is at the beginning!
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But when it comes to life, ‘stuff’ often just happens, and sometimes good planning does not! Perhaps we only realise later that a bit more time taken early on, along with a lot more good input received from others, could have helped us build a stronger foundation for our marriages or our ministries. Looking back, Ross and I regret that we didn’t take time out at the time we got married to do some of our adjusting to each other in our own culture first. But we were young and zealous, Ross had already been in Taiwan for six years by then and was fully involved in student ministry, and I had two years of full-time language study facing me before we could start a family… We thought we didn’t have time for that, and besides, it was complicated by other commitments. However cultural adaptation, on top of marriage adjustment, were about to take a huge toll on us. If only we had realised how it was going to be and taken it slower!
2. More than we often realise, we are the products of our own cultures – and that can create unforeseen problems in the new culture.
The first module in my course focuses on this topic at some depth and, if you come with me, we’ll be checking out our assumptions and beliefs about the ‘right’ way to do things. Often, we are completely unaware of how our own socialisation influences the way we do life and the value judgements we make about others who do life differently. This shows up hugely when we arrive in a new culture.
Here are some danger signs to watch out for:
A tendency to reject what is ‘different’ from the way it is at home.
Wanting to enforce our own ways of doing things as ‘correct’.
Above all, we need to watch out for the things we tend to criticise or ridicule in the new culture…
3. The new culture will impact me too in distinct ways – that’s what’s known as Culture Shock.
In Module Two of my course I depict the whole cultural adaptation process as navigating a path between two mountain peaks – one being my own culture, where I belong and feel comfortable and the other being the new culture, which is at yet a mystery. In between these two peaks there is a valley, involving pitfalls and dangers and sheer hard slog. This is Culture Shock.
Not everyone navigates this valley successfully, but yet, the challenge of it can be an adventure that draws you on. In the course we will talk quite a bit about the anatomy of culture shock and what it takes to navigate through it.
And then there is Reverse Culture Shock (or Re-entry Stress) to navigate through as well, when returning home. This too is a ‘real thing’, but often more shocking because it is not anticipated! People assume that going back to their home culture after an assignment in a different culture will be completely straight forward and nothing to worry about. After all – are we not just returning home? Well, yes – but in the same way as you can never step into the same river twice (as the philosopher said!), you will be a different person after all you have been through, and the people and situation you are returning to will also have changed. That can make for some unwelcome surprises, which it is good to be prepared for. There will be a lesson in Module Two that deals with this issue as well.
4. I need support for my endeavour of navigating a new culture. Where and how can I find that? (We will be looking at much of what is involved in this in Module 3)
This brings us full circle to the first issue – how vital it is to build a good foundation and prepare well for our endeavour before we leave. That includes having good closure with those we leave behind and building a strong support base at the sending end. Why? Because we need to stay connected with those who know us well and are sending us out. We need their support and understanding, to involve them on our journey and keep them on side in what we are going through.
Here is one thing we strongly advocate for anyone going into another culture: find a core group of friends and family members who are willing to support you on this venture, be a sounding board for you and provide encouragement when you are struggling. They will be worth their weight in gold!
And look for support in other quarters too:
A culture coach maybe – someone who is ahead of you in the crossing culture journey and can give you some valuable tips.
Local friends who will explain the inexplicable and help you gradually to understand. If you are open and willing, they will be an invaluable resource.
A community of like-minded people who can encourage you.
Hopefully you will find that in the place where you are serving. But what if you don’t? This is where we in FieldPartner hope that we can continue to help, by providing an on-line community: others who may be at a different stage and are probably working in a different culture from you, but who can still encourage you and cheer you on.
5. Your choices impact your children in countless ways!
Of course you may not have kids, but if you do, you need to know they experience this journey very differently from you. Kids have the capability to ‘enter’ a culture and learn a language much more easily than their parents, but they may also feel deeply the loss of their former life. They may blame you for the discomfort and disorientation they are feeling. Embracing a new culture may come more easily to them, but going through that process will also permanently alter their identity. From now on life for them, even more than for you, will never be the same. So in Module 3 on my course, we will also be looking at terms like Third Culture Kid and Global Nomad, helping you (I hope) to think through the implications of your choice to move abroad as it might impact on your kids.
There are some definite upsides to this, but also some very real challenges. We will be looking at what some of those are.
OK so there you have it in a nutshell! Five things I wish I had known before I went. In actual fact, I didn’t know half of this for many years, but that is a story for another time!
So many events take place that speak of the grace and power of the Lord in answer to prayer, yet at the same time we may not hear about them if they take place in “closed countries”. When we do hear, we are encouraged and challenged to pray for the Lord’s work in other nations, knowing that He is faithful to hear our prayer on behalf of the suffering church.
The Story of Yazdan
In 2016 Yazdan, a young man living in a ‘closed’ Muslim country, became a believer in Jesus. Yazdan had met a believer on a work related task, and while working at the believer’s house, he saw Christian literature and a Bible on the desk, became interested in Christianity. After talking with the believer Yazdan gave his life to the Lord.
At that time, Yazdan was 15 years old. Yazdan soon became a successful evangelist and a church planter. He turned his little shop into an underground church gathering place. The same week as he gave his life to Jesus he invited his customers to his shop and testified about Jesus. 60 students turned to Jesus. During the next 5 years, he planted 13 churches and led hundreds of Muslims to Christ.
Because of his activities, Yazdan's parents got very upset as they were radical Muslims. They went to a religious police station and betrayed their son. Yazdan was put in prison after his own father had handed him over to police officers for his faith and spiritual activities. Because his father was a religious leader in the city and had a great reputation, Yazdan’s case was even worse.
During his stay in a temporary jail, he was visited by the mullah of his city. This leader urged Yazdan to renounce his Christian faith, telling him to confess before a camera that Christians gave him money to spread Christian literature; otherwise he would be hung publicly. Yazdan refused to renounce his faith, telling the mullah that even if they killed him by hanging 1000 times and then they raised him 1000 times from the dead, he would announce publicly 1000 times that he was in love with Jesus and that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour. As a result of this, the mullah became angry and said he would kill Yazdan with his own hands.
After this, the prosecutor accused Yazdan of crimes that he had not committed: international terrorism, drug dealing and rape. Thus they changed his offences from religious ones to terrorism and drugs; they did this so that his arrest would not come before the Human Rights Commission and no one would know about Yazdan’s case.
There was a big possibility that he would be executed in 2016. The court did actually sentence him to death but then commuted it to over 20 years in prison. The court offered his parents the chance to mediate on Yazdan’s behalf and to pledge their house as security but his father refused.
Folk who knew about his situation prayed that God would change his father’s heart. Finally, his father made the decision to be a guarantor for his son and Yazdan was released and expelled from his country. He is now safe and secure in another country, but for the time being, he is unable to talk publicly for security reasons – his parents are still in that country and they are in danger.
In answer to prayer the Lord reached out and rescued this faithful young middle eastern believer. Whether for one or for many, our heavenly Father’s promise remains true as we pray for believers and those not yet saved in other nations, as we enlarge our hearts for “the ends of the earth”.
In these 5 talks Ross shares his life’s message. He shares concerning what the Bible says about cross cultural mission being the heart of God’s plan for the church, especially focusing on the book of Acts and the early church. God has used this teaching in the US, Africa, India and Asia - where churches have adopted this teaching in Bible schools and essential training of believers.
The Antioch Factor ＃1
The first talk is a basic introduction. Ross starts with Acts 1:8 to show that Jesus divided the world into 4 different territories, and every church should involve in each of these 4 regions. But often we ignore the difficult one, “the ends of the earth”, even though Jesus told us to reach peoples who are different from us. This is a unique opportunity to think this matter through before the Lord.
The Antioch Factor #2
Ross in this second talk in the series looks at more verses from the New Testament, to show that cross cultural mission is a key part of the Bible's teaching from Genesis to Revelation. He then begins to look at the church in Jerusalem. He comes up with a very surprising conclusion which may shock you! Listen on to find out what that conclusion is!
The Antioch Factor #3
God gave the Jerusalem church 3 great chances in Acts chapters 8-11 to understand His global agenda, but they did not. Ross asks the question “am I communicating to you the strength of resistance to the Gospel going to the ends of the earth?” Ross then shows how God birthed the church in Antioch to move with that global agenda.
The Antioch Factor #4
Ross stresses eight key elements that make up the Antioch church. He states that Antioch churches do not grow up by accident or naturally, rather like weeds in the garden. We have to be intentional in making sure these elements are in play in our churches.
The Antioch Factor #5
Ross continues to stress that Antioch churches do not happen by accident. He gives more elements that need to be in play for us to become an Antioch church today, sending folk out and supporting folk to reach the nations.
Now, I am going to address three questions, let me describe the questions and then kind of jump into the middle one.
What is a Quiet Time?
What does that have to do with Cross Cultural Mission?
What is the Problem?
Quick aside: What does that have to do with Cross Cultural Mission?
Well, can I dive into the second one very briefly first?
Imagine, you're going to meet your boss. It's a really important interview, and for some reason you're going to meet outside. If you have a car, the car really needs to be looking good. So, you polish and shine the car and get in the car, turn the key and you realize that you forgot to put in petrol (gas) and didn't fuel the car. It's not going to move. You would then miss the interview with your boss because you were so busy with something less important, that you forgot the most important thing - that a car runs on fuel.
That's exactly why the Quiet Time - the time of the Lord - has everything to do with cross cultural mission and is important for Christian Missionaries. A really good brother who was working with us in China ministry said to me, "Ross, I need to go home."
I said "Why?"
He said, "Well the pressure’s too great, I can't really hack it."
I said, "Well you need to spend time with the Lord. Set time aside with the Lord meet with the Lord. Quiet Time in other words, and get fuelled up."
And he said, "I do not know how to do that." And he went home. A promising service for the church in China finished, because he didn't know how to fuel himself with the Lord.
Another guy, a wonderful brother, who came to me, working in an Asian country, said "I don't think I can hack this, I need to go home."
What is a Quiet Time?
What is the Quiet Time? Matthew 14:22-27 "Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side. While he sent the multitudes away. And when he sent the multitudes away he went on the mountain by himself to pray. Now when evening came he was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea tossed by the winds, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were troubled, saying it is a ghost and they cried out in fear. But immediately, Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I, do not be afraid.’”
Now Jesus and the disciples were all at the supernatural meeting that took place before the boat trip. Jesus sent the multitudes away when his job was done. He didn't bask in the praise of people but sent the disciples away and went on the mountain by himself to pray.
Jesus spent time with the Father and had his Quiet Time. The disciples didn't, they jumped in the boat, "Hey, we're fishermen we know how this works."
Guess what? Jesus heard from the Father that he was needed to rescue the disciples. Jesus was empowered to walk on the water. Jesus knew what the Father was doing, because he said elsewhere, "I never do anything, except the Father tells me".
One writer (Word For Today) said, "Jesus dismissed the crowd of disciples and fans, in order to spend time with his Father in prayer. As a result, when he returned to the crowd, he was empowered to work miracles."
And then he gives an interesting illustration. “Think about it, before an airliner takes off, the attendant tells you, that if the plane gets into trouble, you should secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others with theirs. After all, unless you're getting enough oxygen how can you help them? So I trust it's clear now, what this has to do with cross cultural mission.”
What does that have to do with Cross Cultural Mission?
Of course it has to do with absolutely everything that we do. Any kind of service in a local church whatever. But it's critical for cross cultural mission, because when we work cross culturally, the sociologists and psychiatrists will tell you that we function under greater pressure than those who live in their own culture.
[bctt tweet="When we work cross culturally, the sociologists and psychiatrists will tell you that we function under greater pressure than those who live in their own culture." username="FieldpartnerInt"]
When you're out of your culture, so many things are a mystery and a pressure: Greater loneliness, greater pressure, greater attacks sometimes and so on.
Selwyn Hughes emphasizing this point said this, "The Quiet Time is where the soul grows receptive. Where prayer becomes a place of healing, an oasis of peace, where the touch of his presence becomes as real and as dramatic as the touch of the woman on the hem of Jesus’ garment. Where peace flows into our turbulence, where love resolves our resentments, where joy heals our griefs and where we enter into the present process of being known.”
[bctt tweet="The Quiet Time is where the soul grows receptive. Where prayer becomes a place of healing, an oasis of peace, where the touch of his presence becomes as real and as dramatic as the touch of the woman on the hem of Jesus’ garment. " username="FieldpartnerInt"]
The Quiet Time shuts us in with God. The door closes upon us and then infinite resources flood into our soul. The door opens and we move out with an increased awareness of God, ready to face a world that knows so little about him. There is as we've said, great benefit in stillness but when we meet with God in the stillness. Ah, what then?”
The Problem of Legalism
Why do we need to talk about this? What is the problem? Well Selwyn Hughes outlines two problems. One is legalism. First, there is a reaction to the legalism of past days. Selwyn Hughes said that at one time most disciples were told that the life of discipleship turned on whether or not they’ve established a daily Quiet Time. And you must never waver from it.
“In my youth someone who said, I heard one Bible teacher saying ‘If you don't begin every day by reading a chapter of the Bible and spending at least 30 minutes in prayer, you have no right to go into the day expecting God to bless it.’"
Selwyn Hughes commented, “I don't believe that's true,” and I don't either. That is legalism.
There are many reasons why it might be impossible to begin every day with a Quiet Time. God wants to meet with us and bless us whatever our morning routine. God wants to bless us even when we're too busy occasionally to have a Quiet Time. God isn't a legalist.
[bctt tweet="God wants to meet with us and bless us whatever our morning routine. God wants to bless us even when we're too busy occasionally to have a Quiet Time. God isn't a legalist." username="FieldpartnerInt"]
But there's an opposite which I'm calling an "overly casual approach". Selwyn Hughes says "However in turning from the legalism of the past," (This is addressing, to be honest, many younger listeners, but not exclusively.)
The other extreme: Being overly casual
"However in turning from the legalism of the past, many have replaced it with a more casual approach to personal devotions. If they don't feel like it. they don't find a time to be with God. And that," Selwyn Hughes said, "I suggest is as risky as the legalism from which they've turned away." It's dangerous to say, "Hey if I feel the Holy Spirit is moving me, I'll spend time with God."
The problem is when you most need to spend time with God, you may not hear the Holy Spirit. So those are the two extremes.
I'm going to close this talk with a quote from John Wesley, “It is for your life. There is no other way, else you will be a trifler all your days."
[bctt tweet="John Wesley, 'It is for your life. There is no other way, else you will be a trifler all your days.'" username="FieldpartnerInt"]
Now John Wesley, in his day along with John Whitfield changed England. John Wesley set up, at that time, the Methodist Church, which was one of the purest and most successful and anointed in soul-winning churches the world. John Wesley also did cross-cultural work, going to America and so on. And here he's saying, whether you like it or not whether you feel like it or not, read and read the Bible and pray daily.
That's an interesting comment addressing this issue of legalism, an overly "随便" approach (casual as the Chinese would say).
So put the fuel in your car, or you'll miss the appointment. Spend time with the Lord, be refreshed in your loneliness, in the attacks against you, in discouragement in failure, spend time with the Lord.
[bctt tweet="Spend time with the Lord, be refreshed in your loneliness, in the attacks against you, in discouragement in failure, spend time with the Lord." username="FieldpartnerInt"]
I'm going to carry on digging into this. This is just the first one, an introduction.
“Lord help me make it a habit of a lifetime to spend time each day with you. Remind me to make this approach a priority Father. Amen.”
Thank you, and we'll be back another day with part 2.
If you enjoyed reading this Quiet Time resource for Christian Missionaries, then check out our courses on courses.fieldpartner.org
Thought for the day: How important is the Bible to me?
Acts 11:26 says: “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Selwyn Hughes connects the first and second half of this verse in an interesting way. He writes:
“This text in Acts 11:26 tells us that, seeing the great need of these new disciples at Antioch, ‘Barnabas and Saul taught great numbers of people’ in Antioch. Now, as then, new Christians need teaching in the great truths of the Gospel and in practical Christ-like living. It is not enough for large numbers to come to Christ; they need to be taught. Now, as then, new converts need to be ‘detoxiﬁed’ from their pagan ways of thinking and behaving. Converts learnt to demonstrate over time how they were learning to live and behave like Jesus. The Early Church brought about this spiritual detoxiﬁcation by ‘catechesis’ – a process of discipling new converts that could take up to two years. Only when they had been fully instructed were they baptised and admitted to the Lord’s Table. This was not legalism but reflected the Church’s determination to ensure, as far as possible, that newcomers were converts in fact and not just word. It was not enough to profess faith in Christ; converts had to show over a period of time that they were learning to live and behave like Jesus. Decisions were not enough; making disciples was what mattered. So Barnabas and Saul taught the believers in Antioch for a whole year. What a wonderful experience that must have been, to be taught personally by these great men. These were not just Bible studies for the curious. The teaching of Barnabas and Saul was intended to shape the hearers’ lives.
Eventually, when those inside the Church had grown to live like Jesus, to act and react in Christ-like ways, then those outside the Church, perhaps rather mockingly, or possibly affectionately, started to call them ‘the Christianos’ – the Christ people!”