Monday, 6 October 2014

Learning Culture 

Good Morning, its a great morning hear and as I was sitting and thinking this morning about the great weekend we had I wanted to share some of it with you all. 
We've been in Mexico City for a while now, a couple of months, but by no means an exhaustive visit that we could say we know all that is "Chilango". Quit the opposite. As we spend more time here we begin to discover more we don't know, more of the differences that exist between North American culture and Mexican culture, Latin culture and white culture, US and Canadian culture, and even Northern Mexican, Central and Southern Mexican cultures. 

This weekend we spent Saturday with the Youth and then later on we chilled with fellow missionaries Saturday night. On Sunday was church and a birthday celebration all afternoon. It was awesome, church finished up around noon and then by the time we picked up some things for the party; tables, ice cream, bread, it was about 2 and we arrived at the house. The regular, pre-meal norms of greeting everyone and then the women separating-off to the kitchen and doing what women do in a kitchen, which is somewhat of a mystery, as in, if they were men, with the sheer number of persons within such a small, defined space would create awkward social moments; however, the collective hive of female culture does not merely adapt, but thrives within this atmosphere. The men, on the other hand, begin to congregate around the T.V., the football games are on, and they produce a subject matter of mutual interest that generates a sort of conversation between mere acquaintances and some sort of Bonding will begin to develope. It was here that we spent the best part of Sunday. 
As the day drained away and food was consumed the conversations steered away from shallow banter to the more engaging questions of life. And in proportion to the guests that began to beg their leave, the conversation gained in depth and intensity to the point that I found myself alone with the host discussing the most intriguing of questions. 

How do we reach Mexicans with the gospel? 

I proposed a theory that Malu and I had discussed a number of times. Its a theory not without its merits and has been done successfully delivered many a time in North America. It seemed to us, after living here and examining the conditions, that an adopt a block mission plan, a joint operation between the local church and short term teams would be a plausible strategy. I laid-out the basic concept of getting short term teams to come and fix/repair a block,doing the majority of the expensive and time consuming repairs; fixing concrete, setting up benches, painting, cutting and clearing nature areas, etc. I had thought it would be great and have an awesome impact, allowing the local church to then come behind and do the maintenance and keep contact with the community and build relationships...right?

My local Mexican host didn't see it that way...the Mexican interpretation...Gringos cleaning up our neighborhood, isn't that something that our own government is supposed to do? Do the gringos think that we're that dirty, that they need to come here and clean our country? If they're going to be here painting the sidewalk, that the government should do, maybe they should paint my house as well? 


The cultural barrier. 
Our host began to put forth a different concept for evangelism. Meet the people, get to know them, share with them and teach them something they would like/need to know.  How about a group of people coming down and setting up a carpentry school and teach them how to build a basic cabinet? The majority of Mexican homes in this area don't have what we would call a functioning kitchen by North American standards. Imagine buying a house where, when you walk into the kitchen and all there is, is the roughed in plumbing? or if you're lucky a simple sink mounted to the wall with a tap...that's it! no cabinets, no counter tops, no pantry...nothing! Our hosts concept was simple. Bring in a group and setup a class where the basics are taught and the locals build their own 'basic' kitchen. During this time relationships start and friendships are built,from this point the local church has a place to meet with these people and begin to share life with them and earn the right to speak into their lives and share Jesus. 
It was an eye opener...some of the activities remained the same, but the impact would be incredibly different. The thing is, as my host shared, a Mexican is not concerned so much about what happens outside his door, you could clean-up the entire city and he would still ask, what have you done for me? Here, our host declared, a Mexican is concerned about what happens behind his door, his concern for his family, his friends, all that he has come to depend on and value. To reach a Mexican here, you need to be invited beyond the threshold, to be given a invite to come in, and once inside you can share the most precious of gifts, Jesus!!  

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