Missions Launch

Helping those who help the world

Emotional Health on the Field

by admin |

Missions Emotional Issues

Photo DisplayLife as a missionary tends to come with a heightened level of stress. This is because missionaries are in unfamiliar territory that gives them a feeling of instability. We can also experience emotional stress as a result of loneliness. This is because we are often isolated from others who can identify with our struggles and the experience of culture shock.

The best way to manage our emotional stress is to maintain a consistent relationship with God which includes bringing your struggles to Him daily. Your dedication to Christ will help bring stability to your life.

It may also be helpful to surround yourself with things that remind you of home. I have friends that are missionaries in Czech Republic and they wanted their apartment to feel like home. They speak Czech and they follow the local customs, but the interior of their apartment reminds them of America. The pictures of family and friends from home, as well as the American decorations give them a place of comfort to come home to.

Being self-aware is crucial to adjusting to life as a missionary. We have to know our own limitations, as well as what activities drain us emotionally and what helps us to reenergize. The ability to depend on others can also be a source of comfort. This is often lacking amongst Westerners, but there is nothing wrong with asking for help or prayer. Loneliness is unavoidable at times, but do not willfully put yourself in isolation. Stay involved with the Christian community, and if possible go through the experience with at least one close friend.

Afghanistan: Etiquette, customs, facts and vital information

by admin |

Afghanistan, Asia, Cultural Sensitivity, Facts and Stats, Language Acquisition, Travel Health & Safety

AFGHANISTAN: FACTS & STATS Afghanistan Map
Photo by Image Editor

Location: Central Asia, bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the North, China in the North-east, Pakistan on the East and South, and Iran in the West

Capital: Kabul

Climate: Extremely hot summers and cold winters with rain and snowfall in the highlands.

Population: 31,889,923 (July 2007 estimate). A series of invasions, war, and drought are main factors in the impoverished state of this country.  The official unemployment rate hovers at 40%. According to 2004 World Bank figures, about 60% of the population are affected by severe poverty. A recent rise in economy is based on agricultural production, a major part of which is opium.

Afghanisan ManEthnic make-up: Pashtun 40%, Tajiks 25%, Hazaras 18%, Uzbecks 6%, Turkmen 3%, Qizilbash 1%, and 7% others.

Religions: Muslims form 99% of the population of which, 84% are Sunni Muslims and 15% are Shiite Muslims. The rest 1% comprises Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, and Jews. The Constitution of 2004 under the new government that replaced Taliban rule, states that Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic while granting religious minorities the freedom to practice their faiths within bounds of the law. However, evangelism is illegal and the consequences of conversion for Muslims may include the death penalty.

The language: About 50% of the population speaks Dari, 35% speak Pashto, and 11% speak Turkic. Dari is used for commercial and government transactions. Dari and Pashto employ Arabic alphabets when written.

Government: Islamic Republic headed by the democratically elected President Hamid Karzai.

 Mountains in Herat
Photo by jaxo2

Travel issues: Travel to Afghanistan requires a visa. Your visa application should include the application form, a couple of passport-sized photos, the visa fees, and a letter of support in the case of those working in Afghanistan. These have to be submitted to the Afghan embassy in your country.  Obviously, there is a war going on there right now, so you should also check with your embassy for travel warnings and additional requirements.

BurquaHealth & safety: Anti-malarial shots required for travel to areas below 6,561 feet for travel between April and December. Also recommended for all travelers are shots for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Hepatitis B. Adult travelers who have not had polio vaccine as an adult are recommended to take a one-time booster doze. If you’re traveling from, or through, yellow-fever infected areas in Africa or the Americas, you’re required to take Yellow fever shots. If you may come in direct contact with animals in remote areas without medical access, you need to consider rabies shots. If you’re born after 1956 and not had a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) shot, it is recommended that you get them. It is also recommended that you’ve had a Tetanus-diphtheria shot within the last ten years.

SOCIETY & CULTUREKabul Market
Photo by Olly L

The People: Farming and maintaining livestock are the two main occupations. Both men and women have important roles here. Being a patriarchal society, men do dictate terms, but women, especially in nomadic societies, make important contributions such as weaving carpets, producing dairy products, spinning wool, and even tent making.

The Religion: Religion is an intrinsic way of life and dictates all aspects of lifestyle from food to clothing. 99% of Afghanistan is Muslim. Afghanistan Family

The Role of Family: Strong family ties find families consisting of several generations living together as a household. The oldest male is the patriarch whose word is law. A group of such families form a village which has a religious leader, the Mullah, as the head. Traditionally, village women take care of children and household duties and are considered repositories of culture which they perpetuate through their children. Family honor especially that of women, is to be preserved at all costs.  

Ancestors: Elders and ancestors are accorded considerable amount of respect. Property and wealth are handed down through generations and the oldest living member is the one in control. Older women such as grandmothers are looked up to, especially if they have numerous sons.

Recreational activities: In more peaceful times kite flying and chess were popular recreational activities. In rural areas polo, ghosai—similar to wrestling, and buzkashi, played on horseback with the carcass of a headless calf, were sources of amusements.

ETIQUETTE AND CUSTOMS

Kabul Traffic
Photo by Colleeen Taugher

Meeting and Greeting:  Upon meeting, it is customary for males to embrace one another and then shake hands. Women kiss each other on the cheeks repeatedly on both sides, two or three times. In professional situations women may shake hands, but otherwise it is totally forbidden for men and women to touch each other or even hold eye contact. The traditional greeting in full form is Assalam u Alaikum, to which the reply is, Wa alaikum assalam.

Courtesy: Address people by title rather than first name.  It is common courtesy to initiate any conversation with general questions as to health, work, relatives, even to the extent of enquiring, “How’s everything?” You never enquire about female relatives, wives, sisters, and daughters. Tea will compulsorily be offered, and should be accepted gracefully.

Afghan FoodGift giving: When you’re visiting for the first time, it is customary to bring along a simple gift that is discreetly offered or left behind in an unobtrusive manner. This is normally something edible in the form of sweets or fruits. Gifts are not opened in front of guests.

Dress Code: Both men and women have dress codes that emphasize honor and dignity. Women, especially in rural areas, strictly follow a dress etiquette that covers their whole body. A long, loose robe called the burqa is worn over other clothes to totally hide the female figure. A head scarf or purda is worn to hide the hair and face. Foreign women are exempt from such measures but loose clothes that cover shoulders, arms, knees, and legs, and a head scarf are recommended. Men may wear formal suits.

Dining Etiquette: You will most probably be seated on the floor on carpets, with cushions for support. It is customary to sit cross legged, but if that can’t be achieved, you can sit any way you want as long as your legs are not stretched out and pointing at other people. There is a seating protocol based on seniority, so wait to be assigned a seat. Food is eaten with the right hand, using fingertips to convey small amounts to the mouth, with head lowered. When dining, leave a little food behind when you’ve had enough, or your plate will be refilled.

Afghanistan ChildrenVisiting a home: Always take footwear off before entering living areas. Never enter a room without first announcing your presence with a knock or a cough. If in a group, the elders enter first.  You should wait to be seated as this will be in accordance to your perceived status within the group. The host will never ask you the reason for your visit and it is up to the visitor to bring it up. It is important to remember that during the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Though foreigners are not required to do so, it would be insensitive to eat, drink, smoke, or even chew gum in their presence.

Communication style: In professional circles men and women do interact though under strictly regulated rules. You do not hold eye contact with the opposite gender. In rural areas, you do not even talk directly to the opposite gender. Foreign women may have some lee-way to speak to men, but it is important to avoid eye contact and keep your head lowered while communicating. A head scarf is useful to show your intentions are honorable.

Winter in KabulDos and Don’ts: It is considered decidedly bad taste to talk or laugh out loud in public, especially if you’re a woman. Keep your voice levels down and adopt a non-invasive body language. Keep the soles of your feet out of sight when seated. Muslims pray about five times a day and it is only right that non-Muslims do nothing to cause disruptions. Avoid smoking, joking, or any other trivial activities at these times, especially in front of elders. Though foreigners may not be chastised for such faux-pas, they will certainly be considered dishonorable.

You drive on the right side of the road and you need an International Driving License for this. Avoid or ask for permission before photographing areas next to military installations. Homosexuality is illegal; so is consumption of alcohol. Lone women travelers attract a lot of attention and is best avoided. Areas such as Kandahar are still Taliban strongholds and are best avoided by all travelers.

Man and Family photos by N Creatures
Burqua photo by Barbara Millucci
Food photo by rochelle, et. al.
Kid photo by Goosemountains
Winter photo by TKnoxB

Raising Support: The Ins and Outs

by admin |

missions Fundraising, Planning to Go

Studying at the coffee shopSo, you’ve made the decision to participate in a missions trip for the first time, but admittedly, getting everything in order can be a daunting task – even more so if there are larger dollar signs attached to it. But fear not – raising the support you need is easier than you think.

Gather Your Information

Potential supporters are going to want information regarding your trip. Think: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Who are you going with? If you are going with an organization or a church, be prepared to explain who they are and what they are about. It would also be good to know who else will be on your team.

What will be the primary focus of your trip? Are you ministering in growing churches or working as a construction team? Are you visiting orphanages or prisons? This is primarily what supporters are going to want to hear about.

Know when and how long the trip will be. I am not very good with dates, so I make sure to write this one down somewhere for reference. Also, make sure you know where you are going – if the location is less than well known, be prepared to give some geographical context.

Explain to potential supporters why this trip is important to you. There could be many reasons for this – do you have a heart for the certain region you are visiting? Or are you passionate about the primary focus of the trip? Take some time to sit down and write them out for yourself before you talk to others about it.

Finally, be prepared to explain the “how.” What do you need to make this trip happen. Be sure to not only include your financial needs here, but also specific prayer needs. Oftentimes you will also have opportunities to gather donations for ministries in the place you are going. For example, one orphanage I visited with a team in Mexico asked us to request donations of clothes and toys for the children.

Bake Sale SignWho to Ask

The first person you approach about your trip should be your pastor. This way you can keep him in “the know.” He could also suggest opportunities you may not have realized were available. Be sure to ask him if you can make an announcement either in a bulletin or during a service to make your congregation aware of the trip. Many churches also have money in their budget designated for missions; don’t be afraid to ask about this, too.

Second, make a list of all the friends, relatives, and neighbors you can think of who would even be mildly interested in what you are doing. Don’t exclude anyone regardless of their financial position or spiritual background. You may think Uncle Jim may not have enough money to help support you, but don’t forget that you also need all the prayer support you can get. And while your neighbors might practice Islam, they may be touched by your desire to help others and put a check in your mailbox. This could also provide you with another cool ministry opportunity when you come home and share what God did during your trip!

Take all the information you wrote down earlier (who, what where, etc.) and put it together in a letter. While e-mail is quicker and more efficient, a letter is more personal and more warmly received. Be sure to include a reply card with a self-addressed and stamped envelope where they can mark a commitment to prayer and/or include a financial contribution. Also be sure to mention that anything they donate is tax deductible. Ideally, you want to get this in the mail six to eight weeks before you leave.

Stacks of changeOther Fundraising Ideas

Besides just asking for financial and prayer support, there are plenty of creative ideas that can not only help you get where you are going, but also involve your community.  Plan a dinner asking for donations per plate. Clean out your garages and have a weekend yard sale. Sell donuts and orange juice at church either before or after services. Some companies, like Krispy Kreme, even offer a discount program for non-profits. Check it out. Most importantly, just be creative, enthusiastic, and informative. Discuss with your team what kinds of events you could host to raise awareness of and support for your trip.

Followup

When all is said and done, be sure to compose another letter to all those who committed to prayer and donated to your trip. Let them know how much you appreciate their support and give them a briefing of all that happened.

Raising support doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Do everything you can do and trust that God is going to provide all that you need.

Does Missions Destroy Culture?

by admin |

Cultural Sensitivity

Native American DancersI am often asked if missions destroys culture. My answer depends on the kind of missionary that we are talking about.  For example, the early settlers to America decided to share Christ to the Native American tribes, but before they learned the Gospel, they experienced short hair cuts, collared shirts, and English lessons. They were also forbidden to dance or play drums.  Today, one percent of Native Americans consider themselves Christians. The tribal dancing and singing were rituals of their old religion, which is why the English settlers desired to eliminate them. However, God can redeem culture and when Christians worship God through their cultural expressions it is very meaningful.*

Greek RuinsIf we identify with our host culture, learn the language and eat their food, we will find a wealth of material for pointing people to Christ.  Paul was a missionary who sought to identify with the people he went to.  When he spoke to the Greek philosophers, he first spent the day walking through their statuaries and looking at their monuments. He discovered an altar to the Unknown God and used it as a bridge to reach the people.  He stated that the God they worshipped unknowingly, could be known through Jesus Christ (Acts 17: 23). Even the statement, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28) is a line from a Stoic poem that Paul used to communicate Christ to the philosophers. 

Paul did not destroy the culture, but by confirming the Greek’s cultural values he pointed them towards Christ.  We should aspire to do the same thing by discovering what is important to the people and respecting what the Holy Spirit has already been doing before we arrived, as well as the culture of the people we are entering into as guests. 

*Twiss, Richard. One Church Many Tribes (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996).

Dance photo by nickolette22
Greek ruins photo by phault

Travel Tip: Healthy Travel

by admin |

Travel, Travel Health & Safety

Crowded TrainNo matter how healthy your lifestyle at home, traveling can be your #1 bane. Your routine immediately becomes non-existent, your menu consists of new and unusual foods, and your stress level has a tendency to blow through the roof. As impossible as it may seem, there are a few really simple ways to keep your body – and your mind – together in one, healthy piece.

Exercise

Travel almost always includes long periods of sitting,  during which your blood circulation can slow and your risk for blood clots increases. This is commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome.” This risk is easily and significantly reduced by standing and stretching every hour or so. If you are flying, just wait for a time when the seat belt sign isn’t lit and the aisle is clear, then stand up and walk around for a minute. If you have room while you are sitting, stretch your calves a bit, and if you have time to spare when you change gates, avoid moving walkways and trams. If you are in a car, make a point to pull over at a rest area or at an exit and do the same thing – walk around for a bit.

Food

Chicken Feet SoupOn the flight there, the airports are teeming with bright signs for McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell – you name it – but you shouldn’t feel as if your only option is to consume your daily calorie allotment in one meal. It may require some thinking ahead, but pack a meal or two – like sandwich, an apple and some crackers – in your carry-on or in the car with you. Not only is this healthier for your body, but you will feel better than if you had scarfed down a burger, fries, and a 32 oz. soft drink between flights.

Once in the new country, it might be a good idea to have packed some beef jerkey or trail mix for the trip in case there is a lack of protein – or in some cases, any food at all. I once went on a trip to Cameroon where meals were not readily available, and we were too remote to find any supplies.  The snacks I brought were all I had to keep up my energy. I did bring some granola bars, but they all completely melted.  If you are going to a hot culture with no electricity, stay away from anything that could possibly melt.

Water

Bottles of WaterIt’s a great idea to keep a water bottle with you while you are traveling. Dehydration causes your blood to thicken, again increasing the risk of blood clots, and can also intensify the effects of jet lag. Don’t feel like you have to chug a bottle at a time, but rather continually sip throughout the day. Do yourself a favor and avoid caffeine and alcohol also, as they speed up dehydration.  In the new country, it is imperative to keep your body hydrated with water.  In order to keep up your electrolytes, and enhance the taste of the water, it is a great idea to buy flavor packets to add to the bottles. On a recent trip to Africa, many of the team members got very ill, and those electrolyte packets really came in handy.

Please remember to keep enough water with you not only for hydration, but taking medication and brushing your teeth. Tap water in other countries can make some visitors extremely ill. Please check ahead before going if the water is safe for you to drink. 

Germs

I am far from “germaphobic,” but when I travel I am extremely conscious of what I touch, and wash my hands as much as possible. The last thing anyone wants it to end up at their destination with a cold, the flu, or possibly something worse. Carry (and use often) a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but remember to keep it less than 3 oz. and put it a zipper bag. However, please use it discreetly to as not to cause offense to anyone in your new culture.

To further assist my immune system I like to carry a few packets of a powdered vitamin  supplement. If you mix it in a little water in your water bottle and drink it down every so often, you will not only help your natural germ and bacteria defense, but will receive a noticeable boost in energy.  Cold Eeze or Zicam are also great, because you take them right when you are getting a cold, and they help you ward it off.

Sleep

Asleep on the planeBesides the extreme stress of travel and how that affects your body, the changing time zones and jet lag can really push you over the edge and lower your immune system.  Your best bet is to try to get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can.  Some people I have talked to actually start adjusting to the new time zone a week before the trip.  For me, I am too busy packing and getting ready to be that prepared.  However, once on the plane, I try to sleep on a schedule that coordinates with the time zone I am heading to.  I also just try to sleep anytime I can fit it in, because once there, sleep is sometimes hard to have time for with all the early wake-ups and in-country travel. 

Besides these ideas, make sure that if you need to take medication throughout the day that you keep them accessible and that you keep track of the time. This can be especially difficult if you are changing more than a few time zones, so plan ahead.

There is no reason you should have to fall victim to any of the potential health-related set-backs associated with travel. Don’t be paranoid, but always be wisely cautious. The planning ahead you do will pay off not only when you reach your destination, but you will be more likely to enjoy your travel as well.

Train photo by jim snapper
Soup photo by malias
Water photo by shrff14
Sleep photo by huong-lan

Missions Field Selection

by admin |

Long-Term Missions, Picking a Trip, Planning to Go

Which Way?After making that decision to become a long-term missionary, the next step is to choose a location. Even if you know the country that you feel called to, there are several questions that you need to explore before deciding on a destination.

When selecting a ministry to work with overseas, rely on recommendations from people that you trust. When you start communicating with this contact, try to determine what their philosophy of ministry is. When I was researching churches in Italy, I considered working with a particular ministry until I discovered that we had incompatible evangelistic methods. This church also had little freedom for diversity in ministry approaches.

Researching as much as you can about possible missions sites is very important. A pastor in Ivory Coast stressed this idea to me. He had seen missionaries come to African villages without doing homework beforehand. There are some villages that are so dangerous that the pastors have been killed, which is the reason why there is not currently a church. Historical, social, and spiritual details such as these are critical to be aware of before making a decision.

Probably the best thing that you can do when deciding what country to go to is take a short-term trip. These trips can expose you to various people groups and different forms of cross-culture ministry. They also give you a picture of what life would be like living there. During your stay in each location attempt to determine if you could plausibly do long-term missions there. I know a married couple who are taking six months to travel to a few different countries to see where they would like to do missions long-term.

It is very risky to whole-heartedly commit to long-term missions without substantial information. As the Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Invest some time in research and short-term trips, and gain all the knowledge you can.

Photo by Y

China: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Asia, China, Cultural Sensitivity

CHINA: FACTS & STATS

 Map of China
Photo by theogeo

Location: East Asia; Bounded by Mongolia in the North, Kazakhstan in the Northwest, Pakistan and India on the Southwest, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam in the South, and the East China Sea in the East.

little chinese lanternsCapital: Beijing

Climate: Ranges from Sub Artic in the North to tropical in the South.

Population: 1,321,851,888 according to July 1997 estimates. China is one of the fastest growing economies in the modern world. This is mainly due to rapid growth in industry and agriculture.

Baby in ChinaEthnic Make-up: There are about 55 recognized ethnic groups of which the Han make up about 93.3%. Minority groups such as the Zhaung, Uigur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, and Korean form the rest 7%. Religions: Major religions are Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. The Constitution grants freedom to practice religion within bounds of the law. Various Christian denominations make up about 1% of the population, of which 3 million are Catholics. Missionaries and missionary work are banned in China, but it is known to be carried out as private enterprises.

smiling old man in chinaLanguage: The major languages include Mandarin (Standard Chinese), Cantonese, Wu, Minbei, Minnan, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka dialects.

Government: Communist State

Travel Issues: A valid visa is required to travel to China. Your passport along with a completed application form, passport sized photos, and visa fees are to be submitted at the Chinese Embassy in your country. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required if you are travelling from infected areas.

Health & Safety: Tetanus shots as well as immunization against Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, MMR, and Diphtheria are strongly recommended. Yellow fever shots are required if you are travelling from or through affected areas in Africa and the Americas. If you intend to spend time in rural areas and among animals, Japanese encephalitis, and Rabies shots are advised. Immunization for Malaria is recommended if you will be travelling to rural areas in warm weather. Meningococcal vaccinations are recommended for all travellers under 40 years of age. Avian flu is a serious concern in some provinces. Get up to date information from your embassy before travel.

 china mountains
Photo by Augapfel

SOCIETY & CULTURE

women in chinaThe People: Outside of the big cities, the society is agrarian and grows rice, tea or soy beans, and tends orchards. Rural people are very traditional in their lifestyle and are barely touched by modern advancements. A remarkable feature is the widespread use of bicycle as the favoured mode of transport. In cities, traditional norms have given way to speed dating, women entrepreneurs, and equal relationships.

The Religion
: The majority of the population follow Buddhism or Confucianism, with small minorities following Islam and Christianity.

little girl in chinaRole of Family: In rural areas, extended families of many generations live together under the patriarch. While this may not be the case in cities where nuclear families are the norm, there is a strong bond between elderly parents and children. They are always at hand to help and keep in touch even if they live apart. Modern families follow the government’s one-child policy.

Ancestors: Traditionally ancestors were considered powerful allies in the spirit world. Early societies held graveside feasting to appease the dead and bring about good fortune and help from the other side.

Recreational Activities: Physical exercise is an intrinsic part of daily life. Early mornings find people of all ages gathered in parks and other open spaces practising traditional exercises such as tai chi, qui gong, and other forms of martial arts. Badminton and table tennis are highly popular. Modern day sport such as basketball, football, and even cricket and baseball have huge takers.

Anything else important for this culture: Chinese believe in the principle of yin and yang, or opposites in nature. They also believe that qui (pronounced chi) is an all pervading energy which when free flowing brings about good health and wealth, but if obstructed causes disease and misfortune. Avoid getting into arguments or heated discussions that may cause your Chinese counterpart to lose face. The term means causing someone to be disgraced in public. Simply agree to disagree amicably and let it be. Punctuality is highly rated and being even 10 minutes late is considered an insult.

Chinese Marketplace
Photo by BenBenW 

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

tiananmen square chinaMeetings & Greetings: The traditional form of greeting involves cupping palms in front of chest and bowing slightly, but this has been widely replaced by the ubiquitous hand shake. The stranger or the younger person is introduced first to the elder. Formal conversation begins with inconsequential topics such as weather and business and then progresses to the matter at hand.

Courtesy: Invitations to lunch or dinner should be returned. Gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver. It is considered bad manners to blow your nose at the dinner table; leave the table should the necessity arise. Pointing with the index finger is to be avoided; you may instead use your whole palm. Handing things over to someone should be done with the right hand or even both hands, even if it’s only a business card.

patriotic chinese boyGift Giving: It is considered common courtesy to carry a gift when attending parties, birthdays, and other special events. When visiting, it is appropriate to take along a gift in the form of wine, cigars, or chocolates. Food in the form of sweets and pastries are also acceptable. Do not offer alcohol to Muslims. Clocks are considered bad luck and should never be offered as gift however ornate. When presenting gifts to elders make sure it comes in pairs as odd numbers are thought to portend death. Gift wrapping is usually red as it is considered a lucky color; never black or white as both are thought to be unlucky. Gifts are to be exchanged without drawing too much attention to the scene and should not be too expensive.

Dress Code: China is a conservative society and so avoid low necklines and too much skin showing. Shoes strings and spaghetti straps are alright in the big cities, but may draw a lot of attention in the rural areas. Chinese men rarely wear shots even in summer and are content to roll up their pants in a bid to cool down. Tourists are often spotted in shorts and t-shirts. If appearing for a meeting, suit and tie is the way to go for men, while women can don suits with pants or skirts.

Noodles in ChinaDining Etiquette: There is a seating protocol in China, so it is best to be invited to sit down before taking your seat. Unless dining at an upmarket restaurant, chances are you will have to eat with chopsticks and spoon. When using chopsticks, make sure it is not pointing at anyone and do not wave it in the air while talking. You should not lick your chopsticks or let it get coated with sauce or dipping. Don’t let them stand vertical in a bowl of rice as this is considered bad luck. Order an even number of dishes rather than odd. When you’re done eating make sure there aren’t too many leftovers, for this conveys that you weren’t happy with the meal. But neither should you polish off your plate. Never turn a whole fish up side down when you’re done with one side; rather remove the entire bone and continue. Though you’re not expected to know all the dos and don’ts, your efforts in this direction will be appreciated and bring you honor.

 Great Wall of China
Photo by exfordy

Visiting a home: Always call before visiting someone at their home and fix an appointment. Be punctual. Bring along a token gift that is not too ostentatious. Greet all members present even if they’re not known to you. Your host will invite you in and ask you to be seated. You will be offered tea and snacks such as dim sum. Never refuse their offer of hospitality. Do not overstay but leave within an hour unless requested by your host to stay longer. Greet everyone before taking leave of them.

downtown chinaCommunication Style: Hand shakes are the accepted form of greeting, but take care that it is not a bear grip. This conveys aggression and is not appreciated. You will soon notice that their grip is firm yet leaning towards limp as this is considered acceptable. Eye contact should not be prolonged but fleeting and frequent. A nod while you are talking does not necessarily mean they are agreeing to everything that is said, but merely that you have their complete attention.

Dos and Don’ts: In the course of a conversation, take care to not hurt sentiments by raised voices, too much gesticulations, loud laughter, or private jokes in English. The Chinese do enjoy jokes but ensure that your jokes are not of a political or sexual nature. Do not make the mistake of writing in red ink as this means you want to terminate the relationship. Never gift pears to a couple.

girl between soldiers china

Baby Photo by Praziquantel
Photo of baby by Augapfel
Noodle Photo by BenBenW
smiling man by mknobil
girl with soldiers by
poeloq
tiananmen by * etoile
china girl by  babasteve
Downtown by JSolomon
women by PhotoFusion
Lanterns by Phillie Casablanca

Entering a New Culture

by admin |

Cultural Sensitivity

Lost in a CrowdI briefly had a roommate in college that thought very differently than I. Although we grew up in the same culture and spoke the same language, our habits and personalities were worlds apart. These differences seem to be hooked up to an amplifier when we take a step into a new culture.

Teaching the Gospel in a way that works at home may confuse or even offend someone from a different culture because of our presentation style. We can avoid these blunders by attempting to understand reality from their point of view.

Hudson Taylor was one of the first missionaries to accept and identify with his host culture, which was China. He dressed in typical Chinese apparel, ate their food and learned Chinese. He also dyed his blonde hair black and wore it in a long braid as the other Chinese did.  He embraced the culture and was able to communicate the Gospel in a way that was relatable to the Chinese people. 

I have a friend from China who recently became a Christian. In the time leading up to her acceptance of Christ, we had several opportunities to talk about faith and various facets of Christianity. One day, we were looking at the map of the world and I pointed to Israel and told her that Jesus lived there while He was on earth. She was shocked and asked me, “You mean Jesus wasn’t born in America?” For her, Christianity was a foreign religion.

We never know what our cultural expression says about Christianity and about the person of Jesus Christ. We want to eliminate cultural barriers so that those who receive the Gospel know that Jesus came for all people and not only a few.

Photo by clownfish

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