This week we have been learning cross-cultural studies. I’m really grateful that we are taking time to learn these things because I don’t think the importance of understanding culture could be expressed enough. My senior project in college was a study on the effectiveness of foreign aid. Whether you are sharing the Gospel of Christ, providing food and tangible goods to sustain life, or trying to improve someone’s livelihood, it is pointless if you don’t try to understand the person or persons with whom you are working. Instead of having our own ideals of what needs to be improved in the lives of others, it is essential we first understand what improvement means to them and how they hope to achieve it. It is easy to be blinded by our desire to help others and neglect to see what help truly means to the people we are serving.
Missy and I have “opened ourselves” to the possibility that our language training might take longer than the original 6 months we anticipated. Any of you who have studied a second language know there is a stark difference between understanding vocabulary and how to organize it into thoughts as opposed to learning the heart behind the language. Our director here at the school has suggested that once we finish language school, to enlist a tutor to help us dive deeper into the heart of the Guatemalan language so that we can adapt our learning to the changing environment around us.
We have also learned the importance of developing a solid foundation in the culture once we get to Guatemala. We learned early in our training that NLAI recommends that their missionaries stay in the country they are serving for 2 full years without returning to the U.S. We have been praying since learning this for God to show us if this is what is best and what He wants for us. Missy and I have decided to stay a full two years in Guatemala before revisiting the United States. It is our goal to achieve a foundational understanding of not only the language, but also the Guatemalan culture in this time.
God has given us an undying love for the Guatemalan people and a desire to serve them. It isn’t always easy for us to convey this through our words, but we have had some of you say that you can see the passion in us when we speak about it and in our actions. Because of this drive, our goal is to serve them in a way that they need and desire to be served, not how we think they should do things. Too often, we as Americans think that our way is the best way or that our methodology is best because theirs is different.
My friend’s dad made me promise him that when we go to Guatemala to make our priority one of love. “Just love them,” he said. Simple and wise words from a simple and wise man. This is our intent and desire and the motivation for the things we do. We hope that in the years to come you all will help us in this mission by keeping us accountable to it and making sure that our motives are purely out of love. We don’t want to be blinded by simply “doing good,” rather we desire to exemplify and express the unconditional and completely relevant and practical love of God so that others get to experience a close relationship with Him as a result. Anything other than that is simply not pure love at all.