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15 December, 2011

an African moment

I (Christine) recently had an “African moment.”  These occur when we least expect them.  My recent one occurred while in the backseat of our car as we were driving back to our house in the late afternoon. I “heard” the sound of zebras, sort of a barking call.  We rounded a corner and I saw a group of vultures out on the plains.  My first thought was to wonder if a lion had killed a zebra and attracted the vultures.  As we got closer, like a second or less later, I laughed at myself as we drove by a large group of Canadian geese honking and feeding in the grass field. 

This happens not infrequently.  We see something, and based on our recent perspectives, setting, etc. we interpret it wrongly.  We hear and/or see what is not there.  We distort what is true, what is, through what has been.  Not a good thing!

This recent “African moment” is a good reminder to me that as I am preparing to go into another culture I need to be sure I pay close attention.  I dare not automatically interpret what I see, what I hear, and what I experience based on what I have experienced in the past.  I need to be culturally intelligent, putting myself into a learning posture and observing others.  I need to be willing to change, being different as well as doing differently.  I have much to learn.

We have lived in Kenya for 20 years.  I know pretty well how to conduct myself within that culture.  I have a fair understanding of the culture I lived in there.  I feel at home there.  I have a sense of belonging and connectedness.

Now God has invited us to leave Kenya and join him in what he is doing in Uganda.  God chose us to participate with him in connecting people in Uganda to Jesus.  It is so important that we look for what God is already doing.  It would be so wrong if we showed up and interpreted everything through the lens of Kenyan experiences.  We are asking God to give us cultural intelligence to enable us to learn what is, not assuming from what has been.