I’m currently in the middle of Ministering Cross-Culturally, by Sherwood Lingenfelter and Marvin Mayers. It’s one of the suggested (required?) books for the SALT program, or possibly for MCC service in general.
And . . . I don’t know.
I do think that it has useful things to say about being open to cultural differences so that you don’t freak yourself out about things that you assume one way and your hosts assume another way.
It’s also very dated (1986, which is older than I am), which sometimes doesn’t show up and sometimes really does, for example when he talks about “college students today,” and I realize that “today’s” college students are not even part of the same generation I am.
There’s an extent to which I think that the person for which this book is written is not the person I am. There are definitely parts where I find myself going, Yes, you’re preaching to the choir here, or This part could be shorter, or occasionally, You think I WHAT?
In particular, though, I have a really big issue with the end of the section on event- vs. time-orientedness. cmoore is here, and I’ve been reading aloud bits here and there (Did you know that on the island of Yap at the time of writing, a person would not be considered late even if they arrived more than two hours after the time an event was stated to start?), and we’ve been talking about cultural perceptions of time, and the anxiety most Americans feel when someone is late. At one point I said, “I think that one of the ways I deal with variable interpretations of punctuality is to bring knitting or a book with me, so that if someone doesn’t arrive when they say they will, I don’t get frustrated by feeling that I could have spent that waiting time doing something else.” cmoore responded with stories about her trip to India, and how she learned to do the same with food or snacks, so that she could eat when she needed to and not get into a terrible state because she hadn’t eaten.
So then I get to the end of the chapter, which cites, as a Biblical example, the Matthew story of Jesus being pursued into the wilderness by the crowd: “Few of us have the strength or will to follow this example. Jesus attended to the multitude around him, and then he ministered to himself. . . . Our attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, to satisfy the time and event priorities of others before considering our own” (51). I really can’t agree with that. I feel that it is important that my own needs are met, or I am not in a place where I am able to help anyone else. Rather than the Lingenfelter version, I’ll take the cmoore version: I should do my best to be prepared to take care of my needs myself so that I am not frustrated or distraught when others do not cater to them, or perhaps even perceive them as valuable. Only then am I in a position where I can be useful.