Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's Not Weird, It's Just Different. True?

I am a great example of how NOT to do it.
For a list of some of my practical observations about American vs. Haitian culture, see this.

Great care, listening, patience, sensitivity and a generous dose of mutual trust and respect are required as we endeavor to be in healthy cross-cultural relationship and partnership. It's often a tough road to navigate, but it's a worthy God honoring and rewarding journey! When it comes to our church partnerships, this is where RMI comes in. We can help bridge the gap.

RMI American missionaries on the ground in Haiti, along with our national missionaries, both with a little more multicultural experience and a developed trust and understanding, can have mutually honoring, but also frank, honest and even awkward conversations face to face, so that we can understand one another and communicate that understanding with both our American and Haitian church people. For instance, the RMI national team can ask we American missionaries straight forward questions like, what in the world are these crazy American's thinking?! ;)

Generally, the Haitian culture is based on shame (pride, embarrassment, respect, honor) whereas American culture is based on guilt (judeo-christian, absolutes, sin, morality). Paul Heibert, renowned missiologist and anthropologist says, "Guilt cultures emphasize punishment and forgiveness as ways of restoring the moral order; shame cultures stress self-denial and humility as ways of restoring the social order." 

Note: It is often difficult to have immediate understanding, or get immediate answers and direction about situations that involve one's reputation and relationship, especially if there is a potential for disrespect, shame, disgrace or dishonoring to occur. From my vantage point, Haitians will honor and respect one another to a fault and Americans will dishonor and disrespect to a fault.

We say, "It's not weird, it's just different."  But, let's be real, both Americans and Haitians can be REALLY weird sometimes. ;)