When I first started taking teams on trips to serve cross-culturally, I started with three simple rules to set the tone. We added a fourth and fifth. Since moving back to Asia, I have added a sixth: Be Generous with Grace. I intend to reflect more on this list, and quite likely, add another two or three rules. Why? Because, I am finding that I want and need to be intentional about how I live cross-culturally in addition to what and why I live cross-culturally.
My rules, as of St Patrick’s Day 2018, include:
1. Go as a Servant
2. Be a Learner
3. Practice Flexibility
4. Keep Your Sense of Humor
5. Don’t Ask—Just Eat It
6. Be Generous with Grace
This list applies primarily to how we live cross-culturally believing that how we live is both the goal of the Gospel, that our lives might be manifestly transformed by the Gospel, and the basic means of communicating the Gospel, an “incarnation” of the Gospel so that others can see and hear the Word of Life.
Much of cross-cultural life and service is mundane and tedious. It takes extra work to navigate basic functions of life. When you order a coffee, is the default position coffee black or with milk? When you drive on the road, is the default to drive on the left or on the right? When you go to someone’s house, is the doorbell next to the door or on the gate by the road? There are plenty of opportunities to be impatient, judgement, condescending, and arrogant.
The list of rules here is one of the tools that God has given me to live with a transformed mind and a heart filled with his Spirit. The other day, we put a deposit down on a car. We had only thirteen to choose from—four were too small (at least for my height), four were too big (at least for driving around the city), three would be really nice for the six or seven times a year we will need to get a group from the airport, and so that left three: one was on the small size, one was too expensive, and one is a strange red/purple color. Guess which one we bought? Rule #4. Purple, really?
Likewise, we went to buy a mop to mop the floors of the house. Just a simple mop. But no, there were mechanical sponge mops, and there were “micro-fiber no water mops”, and there were more mechanical spinning mops. But no simple basic mop. There were more kinds of mops then there were cars to choose from. Rule #3. Practice flexibility: we got a spinning mop—and this morning, it worked just fine.
Did anyone come to faith today through our work? No (or at least not that I know of). But my neighbors are watching (they called the other day when we left the air-con on when we went out). Did they see an impatient, grumpy, know-it-all—or did they see someone who is trying to learn (rule #2) and someone with a servant’s heart (rule #1)?