This week, I've been back home, mulling over the cultural and educational training that I participated in for the past couple weeks. While we had plenty of time listening to lectures about the structure of Wycliffe and the importance of children's education to the task of Bible translation, we also played plenty of games.
A typical Wycliffe game goes something like this: break people into groups. Give each set of people a game with simple rules. Let them get comfortable with those rules. Then mix the groups, and ¡SURPRISE—nobody has the same rules! Now what? What results is usually a complex mental and emotional process of trying to determine the new rules, figure out how to win, who is "right," and how to avoid offending too many people while playing. Other variations of Wycliffe games include using simplified languages and peeling mangoes without knives. While we played, I noticed that I enjoyed figuring out the new rules, but by the end I was tired and ready to stop. Except in the case of the mango—I thoroughly enjoyed eating it, even if my hands were covered in juice before I finished!
Some of you can already see what these games illustrate. We all grow up in a culture and learn its rules. We learn languages and ways of doing things (like peeling mangoes with knives—which was surprisingly ineffective compared to peeling it with my hands!) Many of us play the whole game in our own culture, using the comfortable rules that we've known all along. In cases of cross cultural ministry, the worker leaves his or her first group and has to learn the new rules. Sometimes, these new rules are more Biblical than our own. Sometimes, they violate the Bible's principles, and other times, they are simply different. But in almost every case, the accumulation of little differences can be very stressful—food, shopping, greeting, language, climate, and underlying conceptions of the world may all change after a short plane trip across the ocean.
As I reflected on my impending transition to the culture of Cameroon and the specific culture of a new school, I confess that I started focusing too much on the stress and not enough on the blessings. I almost stopped looking forward to going there. I started praying "God, please make me want to go to Cameroon. Make me happy to be going."
A woman from Bethany Baptist Church called me tonight to tell me how excited she was for me and how much she had enjoyed her six months in Niger, working at a missionary clinic. She spoke of the beautiful, friendly people there, the way that the clinic improved their lives, and how God had prepared her ahead of time for what she did. She reminded me that God is preparing the people that I will work with and those I will minister to, and that I will be meeting a need at the school. As I spoke with her, I felt my spirits lifting. I know that the transition will be tiring, and I may end up with juice all over my hands, but it will also be a sweet, delicious journey.