You are about to leave your homeland and travel to another part of the world. The places you are going to see will be interesting, maybe even exotic. As interesting as those places are, you aren't going for the sightseeing. You are going because you have a message. You want to see and meet the people. You are interested in getting to know them so you can point them to the one who gave you light, freedom, joy, forgiveness, and life!
What do you carry with you on this trip, for this purpose, to these people? You may not be back to your home for years, so you pack carefully. Even in the days of the worldwide web, there are things that you can't replace. There are things you need to take on this journey that you can't physically pack in a suitcase. The CultureBound team would suggest four things you should be sure to take with you into an unfamiliar culture and language.
1. A Learner's Attitude
You are going to a new culture and language. People native to that place are experts in how to live there. They innately know how to speak, how to act, and how to survive in their land. They know all about the food, faith, and medical system. You don't know these things when you arrive.
A learner's attitude is vital for success. You need to learn what the people already know. It is essential to have an attitude open to learning from them. Too often we enter new situations ready to teach our way. When you are the traveler, it is of utmost importance to learn in every scenario.
2. Courage to Get Involved
No number of books, videos, travel sites, or testimonials will ever introduce you to people. Those things will never allow you to share the message you have to share. You must get involved!
You have to learn to eat with your neighbors, to walk in their markets, and to join in their festivals. The founder of our organization, Donald K. Smith, had a phrase that sums this up: "Communication is involvement." It's easier said than done. You must have courage to get involved in the ups and downs of life with the people who live where you are going.
3. Humility to Accept Differences
For patterns of life in a new culture, there is not a "right" or "wrong" way to go about things. There is usually not even a "good" or "better" option. What exists is the simple reality that there are different ways to live life - not better, not worse, not good, not bad...just different.
You can be clear about the few things that are matters of "true" and "false" or "right" and "wrong." For everything else, you can adjust and learn to live in a way that is different than what you are used to. It may feel wrong at first to go against your natural inclinations. But having the humility and willingness to change is a key part of building relationships across cultures.
4. A Relational Mindset
The most important thing to take on your journey really can't be packed up at all. Your interactions and relationships with others is the whole purpose of your trip. Build, develop, and grow your relationship with God. We call that your vertical relationship, and it grows by faith, obedience, prayer, worship, and other biblical values.
At same time, think of the relationships you will build with people in your new location. Whether in professional or social settings, learn how to be a good friend, co-worker, and neighbor. Those horizontal relationships between you and other people are the pathways over which the gospel will travel. When you arrive, seek opportunities to form these relationships. Change your thinking patterns so that you identify when you have an open door to connect with someone.
These four essentials are not physical objects to put in your suitcase, but we argue that they are more important. You can always purchase new clothes or vitamins, but can you re-create an opportunity to change someone's life? Can you rebuild a bridge if you've burned it? Will you have the opportunity to share the gospel with that person again? These traits will set you up for success in your mission, which is to give the good news to the nations.