Archives For culture

Sport Builds Bridges

March 26, 2015

Language study is one of the hardest and most time-consuming efforts missionaries make.

There is, however, a language which is common to the world and far easier to learn.

This is the language of sport.

When my family arrived in South Africa as lovers of sport, we missed a trip to the Super Bowl by my wife’s hometown team. At the time, we just did not know how to watch the game. Now I could tell you many ways.

Instead of watching the Super Bowl, in the early days our TV was tuned to cricket. I attempted to understand this game and its rules. Especially difficult was the idea of playing to a tie over five days.

I’ve seen how learning, watching, attending, and playing the local sports of a nation can build bridges and bond you to a culture.


What are the signs which point to Christmas coming?

In every culture there are different visuals which alert us to the coming of this holiday season.

When I first moved to South Africa, Christmas snuck up on me because I did not see the normal American signs. Once I learned the new signs, I could anticipate its approach.

Here are a few signs which pop up in virtually any culture.

1. Things appear. Things which are unable to be found for most of the year, begin to appear around Christmas. Certain music, different types of food, and of course decorations. It is the time of year some people appear in church for the first time all year! Each nation is different, but all have things which appear.

We have friends who have a South African woman come once a week to help out with the children. They recently went on furlough and wanted to keep this woman employed during their trip. They arranged for her to help with another couple’s children.

Recently we learned this woman refused to come and help. The family who would have received her services (during our friends furlough) were from Zimbabwe. This woman, a black South African, refused to help someone from another African nation.

Racism is not only about the color of one’s skin. It goes much deeper.

Racism can be about nationality.
Racism can be about tribe or people group.
Racism can be based on economic status, real or perceived.

While South Africa is making great progress as a free nation, we still see the stigma of racism raise its ugly head.

Teams need to be built , they don’t just happen. Apple Computer has done an incredible job getting employees to commit to their culture and  environment. They begin an employee’s career by telling them they now have the greatest job. Walk into an Apple Store and you see the difference a positive work environments creates.

Even in families, things like traditions and routines create the sense of team and tribe. You are related by blood, yet the knitting together of hearts is a journey.

Here are 7 tips to build the creation of a team environment:

1. Get to know the team – Teams full of strangers do not understand each other in the same way. Time and history build a repertoire which breeds trust. Have times where members share their personal stories. Encourage team members to connect socially or outside of official meetings.

I recently took a teaching trip to the United States. These journeys become times when I reflect on life as a missionary. Being away from the field gives you pause to evaluate, both with positive elements as well as areas of stress.

There are several factors of missionary stress which are apart of everyday life. Stepping out from under these pressures can reveal their impact.

Here are two stresses I feel relief from when temporarily stepping away from the foreign field. 

1. The pressure of doing things in a different way than comes naturally. You are able to relax more without worrying about simple things you normally take for granted like wording or offense

2. The greatest “relief” I feel is not thinking about crime and safety constantly. Living under this causes you to realize you live in a persistent state of tension.