Cross-cultural ministry has a few obstacles that a missionary has to be intentional about overcoming. In order to cross cultural and socio-economic barriers, we have to be aware to them. I don't really have solid answers for these obstacles, but I do have some possible suggested solutions.
Paternalistic expectations can be placed on a missionary because he is "here to help." The truth is that paternalism short-circuits honesty in relationships. A missionary has to be careful about creating situations where he becomes the patron. A patron is by nature disconnected by a layer of formality that elevates him. He is like an employer or a charity in the eyes of those who he's trying to minister to. Serving others and spending time together in each other's homes is one answer for this. Another idea might be to limit economic help and increase sweat equity to build relationships.
Jesus avoided paternalism by crossing socio-economic boundaries. He ate in the homes of rich and poor, righteous and sinners. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He sought out and served people from a variety of walks of life.
In America, we have a saying that a man's house is his castle, meaning that people should be invited before they come in. In the Philippines, people are more fluid in their hospitality. I think that the answer to this one is to find ways to invite our friends over that feel unstructured for the guests. One idea that I have is that when I feel most comfortable, might be when my guest feels least comfortable. Trying to imagine how my guest feels in my house, is start for anticipating answers.
Most people understand that a missionary will retain some semblance of the home life that they were used to in the States. Stewardship of funds is of utmost importance to a missionary. But, this presents an area for consideration. God created all of us equal. A man's budget does not give him increased worth. How can I bridge the divide that my budget projects? One way is to share life with people: game nights, dinners at my house, dinners at their house... indiscriminate hospitality can lead to honest conversations and friendships. Another way is to pray together and study the Bible together, bearing one another's burdens through prayer and friendship.
Here to Help:
As long as people feel like I am here to help, it puts me right back into the paternalistic paradigm. Actually, I'm here to glorify God by using my family's talents and skills within a community. The key here is "community." The answer is relationships. Building true friendships within a community gives the missionary the space where he/she can glorify God with his/her talents because those talents contribute to what Jesus is doing in that community.
It's such a privilege being a missionary, albeit difficult to navigate at times. The beauty of mission work is that it is a summation of daily life, lived out in relationships. Through those thoughtful and intentional relationships, the good news of Jesus Christ is received and believed. Saving faith is always accompanied by repentance and a Spirit-filled life that glorifies God in daily life.
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right." Peter
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," James
"Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all." Solomon.
"I have become all things to all men,that I might by all means save some." Paul
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.