Lately, I have really been conscious of something whenever I step out of the house. What is it you ask? Well I’ll tell you. It’s the CULTURE. More specifically, “What am I communicating with my words and actions to the people I have come here to share the love of Christ with?”
The other day in Spanish class a teacher asked me to talk about how people from the U.S. see people from Latin America, especially the negative side. Not wanting to offend him, I dodged the question by saying (in Spanish) “You first, How do Hondurans see people from the U.S.?” He said, “Are you sure you want to know?” I said yes, sensing that this was an unusual opportunity to hear the truth directly from a people who are usually very reluctant to say anything to anyone that might be considered offensive. Bluntness pretty much doesn’t exist here. However, this Spanish language teacher has been around lots of U.S. missionaries and also non-Christian humanitarian workers, so he forged ahead. “Fasten your seatbelt,” he said. He did point out that these are the general thoughts of the people and not him specifically. Here is some of what he shared with me:
It is believed that people from the United States:
-believe that they know everything and that the people (Latinos) know nothing
-don’t respect the values of the Latino people (I asked for examples of this one)
Such as: putting feet on tables ( like relaxing and putting your feet on a coffee table), smoking and drinking alcohol anywhere, using bad words and making insults, not respecting the relationship between novios (ie: boyfriends and girlfriends)
-don’t like having friendships with the Latino people and only ‘hanging out’ with others from the U.S.
Now some of these things I’m sure relate to non-missionaries, but others made me cry. First, I like my comforts. We literally shipped our sleep number bed here (it collapses easily!) because I just HAD to have it for my back. I really DON’T like eating food I don’t like, but here, all food is a gift from God. Do I really want to eat that cow-stomach soup? Not really. But do I want the (literally) poor person offering it to me to think I don’t appreciate their sacrifice to provide it for me? Certainly not!
I also think it’s natural that English speakers seek out other English speakers just because it’s easier. And, of course, in the U.S. we think no one is off limits for romantic pursuit unless they are married.
Now, am I arrogant? I didn’t think so, but do I think my 4 year university nursing degree left me better educated than programs here? Yup. I have to admit though, people here know a ton about natural medicine, about which I know nothing. I have to admit also, that I think our ways of accomplishing tasks are often WAY more efficient. As North Americans we are bred that way. But is efficiency so much more valuable than the relationships I am trying to build so that some will come to know Christ, and then GROW in him? I mean, what is the real goal here?
Of course there are many behavioral norms I have broken just because I didn’t know! Let’s just say that I have to be more careful about how I present myself. I want to be transparent, but also not unintentionally misrepresent myself or you. Paul said he had learned to be all things to all people so that some might be won to Christ. So I have to learn to guard some of my North American habits, learn some new habits that are counter intuitive to me, and all the while, let people see the real me so they know what Christ has done in me. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? – Christy