22 November 2014

building bridges of cultural understanding

"The dialogue between us and our national colleagues is important in building bridges of cultural understanding. It is also important in helping us develop a more culture-free understanding of God’s truth and moral standards as revealed in the Bible. Our colleagues can detect our cultural blind spots better than we can, just as we often see their cultural prejudgments better than they. Dialogue with Christians from other cultures helps keep us from the legalism of imposing foreign beliefs and norms on a society without taking into account its specific situations. It also helps keep us from a relativism that denies truth and reduces ethics to cultural norms."
Hiebert, G. Paul. 1999. “Cultural differences and the communication of the gospel.” In Perspectives on the world Christian movement: A reader. 3rd ed. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, pg 381.

One of the things I was MOST excited about when I was preparing to live and serve overseas was to have God challenge and strip away beliefs I hold which are more American values than Biblical ones. While I can't give you an itemized list of what those are, I can tell you He has been and continues to answer that prayer and reveal those blind spots... via my own time in His word and in other cultures, and via relationships with brothers and sisters of other nationalities. It's a beautiful thing.

However, I don't believe there is such thing as a "culture-free understanding of God's truth."

As believers seeking to faithfully live out the Christian life in our social context, we must be aware that our formation and formulations are not acultural. 

19 November 2014

patience

"If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly;
if I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing)
till Christ be fully formed in them,
then I know nothing of Calvary love."

~Amy Carmichael

19 March 2014

rising to the surface

Amazing what intentional downtime... escape from work... deep conversations with friends who know you better than most... raw & honest chats with God in the silence and space of an empty house... and getting out of your familiar surroundings... will do.

Hopes. Fears. Dreams. Revelations.
Desires that you've pushed away, out of sight.
unbidden... come rising to the surface.

I want to write. But more than that, I want my life to matter. I want to write things that matter.
I want to live... no, truly LIVE...
I want to grow and to cultivate growth... to learn and cultivate learning... to understand and cultivate understanding.
I want my life to communicate value--in everything I say/do--to those who aren't valued. Because God says they ARE valuable.
I want to love well: truly, deeply, fiercely, relentlessly LOVE... each person I meet, in the way that communicates love most clearly to THAT person.

With this reminder from my soul sister: "If your doctrine doesn't border on the heretical, then you don't know the God of the Bible."

And this reminder from the Holy Spirit:
"We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people proud. But love builds them up. Those who think they know something still don’t know as they should." (1 Corinthians 8:1b-2, NIRV)

The things that are making my spirit quicken, my mind wrestle, and my heart strive to understand more, deeper... cultures, languages, people, and Jesus.
I have MUCH to learn.

15 February 2014

Ethiopia, I applaud you

Ethiopian drivers are incredible! Truly... big truck crowds into your lane almost crushing you. No need to panic. A polite, brief "beep" is all you need for them to apologetically swing back and wait for you to pass. Pedestrian walks out in front of you? It's ok, they have the right of way. Take it in stride, just don't hit them. Give them their space. No traffic light? No worries, there is generosity and grace here. You'll eventually be courteously allowed through, once you allow others through before you. The calm, unfazed, careful, courteous, yet speedy way in which Ethiopian drivers navigate skillfully around this huge city completely fascinates me! It is unlike any other place I've ever visited.

19 December 2013

delightful moments

Had a few delightful exchanges today while out and about town... fluid moments in time, where you share laughter, companionship, and joy on this fine line that is the "present", second by second converting the future into the past.

Buying a pair of rubber house slippers at the roundabout in our sub-city, at a corner stall we walk by regularly... we are greeted by a smiling young man with a depth in his eyes that exceeds his age. With my broken Amharic phrases (since I can't form a sentence yet), and his grasp of English... he searches through the mound of shoes to find my size selasa-smint (38) -- his eyes sparkle "Oh... 8," he says. The middle-aged man inside the stall is the one who answers my question of how much they cost (senta-new?)... "hulet meto amsa" (250) he says. We smile, I tilt my head back, switching to English "Last price?" His eyes flash with an understanding that I know the correct bargaining questions... and he answers me in English, "230... 20 birr discount" and he turns to another customer. I look back to the younger lad... he sees my hesitation. I know I'm not getting a deal, but I really want the shoes. He coaxes me in English, "It's a good price." I wink at him and then, as playfully as possible, shoot back: "Yes, it is good. But hulet meto (200) is better." He breaks out into laughter and the other customers (2 young women) also chuckle as they watch. Bemused, the middle-aged shop owner casts me a sideways look and trying to act a bit annoyed, says, "Go. Take them." Still chuckling, the young women say delightedly: "very good... he accepts!" The young lad quickly bags them, still beaming, hands them to me and gives a hearty handshake goodbye. I tell them we will come again... especially if they break. ;-)

Further down the way, we interact with some vegetable (atkilt) selling ladies. We are learning the words for tomatoes (timatim), potatoes (denitch), onions (shuncourt), carrots (karot), and other vegetables. There are several kinds of greens, which you cook differently. One I recognize as gomen or what we know as collard greens. The other one is more like a mix between spinach and bok choy, and I suddenly realize I don't know the English word for it either. (Now, in the States, I can clearly differentiate between my mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, bok choy, kale, and lettuces. But here, I want to relinquish my English labels and anchor what I'm seeing, tasting, touching with the local label/word. That's part of the language learning process.) I point to the spinach looking green and ask what it is, "mindinao?" I regret to say, I do not remember the answer... it takes many times hearing it. Then I review the things I've learned, pointing and repeating the name. I point to the collard greens, "gomen" but I am corrected, "No! habesha gomen!" (meaning "Ethiopian goman") I point to the cabbage, "mindinao? .... " Then suddenly, before they can answer, I try to be funny and ask, "ferengi gomen?" (white-foreigner gomen?). But AT THE SAME TIME, one of the other older ladies also decides to be funny and shouts out "ferengi gomen". We end up speaking in stereo. Laughter ripples amongst the 3 side-by-side stalls, and smiles all around.

Little moments. Laughter breaking down differences and uniting us in seconds of understanding amidst language and culture barriers. It's a beautiful thing... this really being all the same. :-)

10 December 2013

along the journey to becoming a good Ethiopian

Things I am learning about how to become a good Ethiopian and do things the Ethiopian way... as per my Ethiopian brothers. :-)

1) Do not store up food in your cupboards. Use it up, then buy more. Buy your bread, vegetables, injera, milk, etc. on the day you plan to use it... not several days in advance.

2) Turn your water heater, stove propane, power strips, internet OFF when you are not using it or planning on using it shortly.

3) Do not walk away from milk you are heating on the stove. It WILL boil over.

4) Tea & Coffee are served after the meal. Not before. Not with.

5) When leaving the house, lock everything -- close all window shutters & lock drawers, closets, bedroom doors, house doors, out buildings, and finally... the gate.

6) Put onions, tomatoes, and berebere powder in almost everything you cook. ;-)

7) There are 12 parts/cuts to a chicken.

8) Liquid soap (dish detergent) is ferengi soap. The crumbly blue bar soap at all the little shops is Ethiopian soap. (I'm still trying to learn how to wash out water bottles with bar soap... will let you know when I figure it out... hee hee).

9) Salt. Ethiopian salt is like miniature rock salt... too small for an ice cream maker, but too large to just put directly in food or to fit through a salt shaker. It must be ground with a rolling pin before use. :-) And speaking of salt-shakers... you do not put salt on your food after it's cooked. The flavor doesn't blend well... you should put the right amount of salt in while cooking. :-)

10) It is 10 December. I went looking for Christmas decorations. Was told by shopkeepers that I am too early... come back in 10 days. ;-) Last-minute-Christmas-shoppers... come. This is your haven. (Ethiopian Christmas, or "Genna," is on 7 January).

Learning, learning, learning, learning... and that what life is about. :-) *happy sigh*