Global Missiology English, Vol 4, No 3 (2006)

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Text Box: Global Missiology Box: 1 sur 3	9/14/2008 15:41MAKE HASTE SLOWLY
Jay Caven
Executive Vice President for the Foreign Mission Foundation based in Tigard, Oregon USA

Published in Global Missiology, Spiritual Dynamics, July 2006,
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Dear Team,

There are many ways we manage to humble ourselves. One way is to give a complement in a foreign language we don't really know and have someone tell us that we just said, "That dinner was the most FLAVORLESS MEAL I have ever had!" What we often don't reali2e is how inappropriate we can also be in other forms of communication in a different culture. Here is a brief scenario from the book Make Haste Slowly that describes a cultural communication barrier for an agricultural team "helping" a village increase crop production.

"These Natives are so conservative, they are stupid, they don't understand, they will never change, they are ignorant." The words offrustration poured out, as the agricultural team discussed the failed results of their efforts to improve the crops of the local people. After all, the first year was a tremendous success, and all that had to be done is to put fertilizer on the field! But the Natives also had choice words about the well-intentioned team of experts. "They're proud." "They're arrogant." "They don't care about others' feelings." And, "They're just here to exploit us." Communication and trust were completely gone. The investment of time and money for what should have been a sure success, hadfailed.

What really captured my attention about this story is not only what went wrong, but how it could have been prevented.

After the agricultural experts had spent a year helping the village dramatically increase their harvest, the villagers thought that their crops had done so well because their neighbors fields had been bewitched. They perceived that these outsiders somehow took control of the Spirit World so that their crops benefited at the expense of others. In the village culture, the punishment for witchcraft is fatal. Since it was obvious to them that witchcraft was involved in the success of the crops, no way were the villagers going to be accused of being witches and therefore, no way were they going to put fertilizer on their field!

In hindsight, the solution to the problem was simple. If the team of experts had taken time in the beginning to study and understand the people they wanted to help, the name calling, bad feelings and a failed project could have been avoided.


The good intentions and potential for outstanding results that we bring to another culture are often not enough. What we often miss in our approach is an adequate understanding of the culture and

society we hope to impact. We think to ourselves, "If they can only see what we can do for them they will appreciate it, and they will benefit." Unfortunately, as happened above, even though a community will surely benefit from our new way of doing things, if

their belief system is threatened, there will be no long-term impact or change.

The lesson of the agriculture example is equally important for those of us working to bring the Good News of Christ to other cultures. Though most of us strongly affirm that we must consider the "c" words in everything we do X Culture and Contextuali2ation X most of us don't really understand what that means. The result is that we can easily bring more harm than good to a people group, or simply be much less effective.

Text Box: Global Missiology Box: 2 sur 3	9/14/2008 15:41I have had to admit that I a m being pridefu(, even arrogant, if I do not take the time to rea((y understand the peop(e I a m trying to reach. The first tendency in our cu(ture when our p(an isn't accepted or doesn't work is to try harder X "Then they'(( understand." In rea(ity, this is (ike ta(king (ouder to someone who is deaf, or doesn't understand Eng(ish very we((. It is futi(e. And, making our

assertions, points, and efforts just a (itt(e bit "(ouder" is actua((y counterproductive. By understanding a peop(e group and their cu(ture, creative ways can be found to create an appreciation for change rather than animosity.

Because we have the technology, information, and resources available, there is really no excuse for not trying to learn how to be more sensitive to another culture. It is not just a practical issue but a spiritual issue of truly loving others. The book mentioned earlier, Make Haste Slowly by Dr. Donald Smith, has opened my eyes that good intentions, even with the best ideas can fail, or even be damaging to a community if not properly placed in context. Another example from the book shows how this can happen.

We often think that we will be culturally sensitive by taking one person out of a village, usually the brightest and best, and teaching them and training them so that they can be the change agent for the entire village. On the surface this seems like a wonderful way to bridge the gaps of language and culture.

However, in a "contextual society" that values relationship and community as the bonds that holds the society together, this may totally disrupt that system. "After all," the villagers think, "Why should this one person be positioned above everyone else?" Or they may think, "Who does this young person from our village think they are telling us what we should do?" It totally upsets the balance of their community and relationships.


This example has given me a great appreciation for why we must work with people as a community. Our focus in most areas of India, for example, should not be so much on individuals but on the community as a whole where bonds and relationships are the basis for the culture, belief system, and even religion of the people.


The book Make Haste Slowly offers an eye- opening examination of cross-cultural missions and

communication. The title is so appropriate for our often hyper-approach that wants to swoop in, save the lost or feed the hungry, and hope that we have made a lasting impact. Even long-term workers in one place for

decades can miss the opportunity of bringing about true change because they do not truly adapt their plans to the culture.

The purpose of Make Haste Slowly is to equip those working with other cultures to demonstrate "wholeness in mission." In chapter one, Donald Smith says, "Peop(e are not a b(ackboard on which we draw our designs, but participants in deve(op ment. They must be invo(ved in determining priorities, choosing personne(, and carrying out programs joint(y p(anned and accepted."

Make Haste Slowly gives a framework of how to think about ministry within other cultures. Many examples and stories are given and Smith helps us understand the differences of culture we often sense, but can't quite put our finger on. The book focuses on the following topics:

1.     The basis of logic in the West and East - they are totally different from each other!

2.     The basis of all comunication and how it is done successfully in a cross-cultural setting,

3.     Culture Shock or Culture Stress and the reasons why it happens - both to the foreigner and the people we impact!

4.   Text Box: Global Missiology a structure of a culture can determine our strategy, and,

5.   How change is brought about when one culture is trying to impact another.

The book can be purchased through the Worldview Center for $8.95 at Make Haste Slowly: Developing Effective Cross- Cultural Communication: Books: Donald K Smith.

May God he(p us as we seek to transform communities for Christ in ways that tru(y show His (ove. For His Kingdom,

Jay Caven, Executive Vice President Foreign Mission Foundation

Text Box: 3 sur 3	9/14/2008 15:41Published in Global Missiology with permission from Foreign Mission Foundation Newsletter, April 2006.