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Taking up the Cross, Shedding Preconceptions

June 12, 2024

Jon Mazarella



“You’re like a son to me, “ he said as he hugged me.

 

I didn’t know how to respond. To be a son to someone so different from me, different upbringing, culture, and values, the honor of such a label was too much to process. It had only been two weeks, but they had been long weeks, sharing the Gospel with the communities of Indianapolis. He was one of our guides we met on our first day in the field as he escorted us around the deep city of Indianapolis. He introduced us to the areas that were safe to walk as a group and which areas he would escort just a few of us. The subculture of Indianapolis was a rich blend of cultures, and my cohorts, most of them from small towns in the rural US, struggled to make connections in the community. On the other hand, I was able to build relationships fast. Why was I able to make connections while others ran into roadblocks?

 

“Your accent sounds funny,” he said.

 

I had just moved from West Virginia to a small town outside of Massachusetts. At age six, this was already my third move across state borders. I had already experienced four separate subcultures of America, from the corn fields of Minnesota, the cities of Wisconsin, the mountains of West Virginia, to now the suburbs of Massachusetts. In the following years, we continued our path across the US, experiencing the unique communities of another four states. This experience across adolescence affected how I built my internal values, developed my social skills, and ingrained my mental flexibility. These “symptoms” or gifts come up in research about Third Culture Kids (TCKs), but I wasn’t a TCK. I didn’t live outside of American culture, and I didn’t grow up in another culture. I grew up spanning subcultures. This related closer to a Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), also known as a “Domestic” TCK.

 

“You’d really eat THAT?” she asked.

 

Of course, I would. I couldn’t fathom why someone else wouldn’t be willing to try a new food! I took my pliability for granted. I felt like I could connect with and understand anyone except those who made a point to be inflexible. It perturbed me that someone would miss out on the opportunity to try something new, to meet someone different from themselves, just because they are too comfortable in their patterns. To see fellow humans as “others” and not as children of God, lost or found, never made sense. I understood we could recognize each other’s differences, even celebrate them, without giving up our own. After years of looking down on those whose mindset was the opposite of mine (I now see the irony), I decided to walk beside them and show them how to build bridges.

 

What if the global church could learn to look past itself and connect with others using the example of Jesus opening his arms to the Samaritans, the sinners, the tax collectors, and the children?

 

During the two weeks of my trip to Indianapolis, I made it my mission to minister culture learning to my peers. Walking alongside, I saw them connect with parents, gangsters, the unhoused, community leaders, and children. Not by any genius of mine, but because they decided to lay down the baggage of their presuppositions and meet those where they were, seeing each person they encountered as a child of God.

 

CultureBound does this.

 

We train you to look past your presuppositions. We explore your values and why you have them so you can identify why others have theirs. We give you the tools to break down barriers and build bridges. Jesus made relationships wherever he went, and now he offers that relationship to us freely, with the expectation that through the Great Commission, we pass that good news to others. The good news free of cultural baggage, free of human rules, free of political motivation, and free of our values, the good news in its purest form.

 

The good news that someday we will be welcomed into Heaven with the words “Welcome home, Son/Daughter”.





Jon Mazarella, is the operations and financial manager at CultureBound.

He is also a district operations manager at H&R Block and is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the ministry while balancing multiple responsibilities.




 

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