I ended the last Ghana blurt by saying I was going to write next about cross-cultural ministry. I actually don’t have a clue about cross-cultural ministry. I don’t really have a clue about ministry to my own culture, or I’d have been a lot more successful at it.
But, I will talk a bit about my experience trying to teach the “Gospel truth” to the students in Ghana. I may not have explained it before, but YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission (clever, using the first letter of every word like that). I’d known about YWAM since the early 70’s, but have never had any personal involvement with the group prior to this trip. I was tremendously impressed with what these handful of people are doing in Ghana.
I had spent many, many hours preparing for my classes over there; I had not done any teaching quite as extensive as what was called for over there, and that in itself was intimidating. When I left, I was as prepared as I could possibly be. I a good sense of the general concepts I wanted to convey, and had loads of notes ready to go.
However, the more I taught the more I realized that I had a lot of material that I simply couldn’t teach there, because it wasn’t “me.” I knew that I could teach it in the U.S. without any problem; in the context of American culture, I would have been fine. But, when removed to this foreign culture, the material couldn’t be translated by me. While I believed it to be true in an objective sense, I didn’t own it; I had no authority to teach it, and I think it would have been obvious.
This sent me back into culture shock; I was doing okay with the food and the heat and the humitidy and super-bright sun and lack of hot water (or sometimes, any water) for showers, but now I had to adjust to me. What did I have to say to these people, some of whom were called to evangelize the Muslim community, or felt called to minister to the orphans of war, or were planting churches in very less than ideal situations?
The result, I believe, was very good. It was good, at least, for me. I felt I was able, on a fairly consistant basis, to speak – alot – with authority. I couldn’t always address questions about how a certain issue should be handled in a certain culture, but was able to convey principles of truth and allow them to apply these trans-cultural truths to their home cultures.
I don’t know what impact – aside from a few individual responses by students, which I greatly appreciated – I had on those I taught. I do know the impact that it had on me. By being so removed from my culture (for the first time, unless you count living for several months in Canada), I was able to better see myself, better know what it really was that I believed, and find that I was happy with what I saw (whew!). I was not just another arrogant American white guy with a conveniently packaged gospel. Underneath that arrogant, Americanized white exterior, is something that held up okay in Ghana.
I’m still trying to find out what that means for me, back here in good old America. But, that’s a topic for another time.