06 September 2012

The title made me think it'd be a great book for missionaries ~

~ but after reading it, I think it is a great book for anyone who has a heart to minister to and serve others.

I'm referring to the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World with Christ-like Humility, by Dwane Elmer.

In one of the initial chapters, Professor Elmer writes:
Jesus came to earth occupying two roles: (1) Lord and Christ, and (2) humble, obedient servant. He alone is Lord and Christ. But he taught and exemplified humble servanthood, the role we are to occupy -- the way of the towel. The problem arises when his followers choose to follow him in his kingly role and not his servant role. They gravitate toward the robe while resisting the towel. The Lord Jesus Christ alone wears the robe...
He then identifies a somewhat linear process for cross cultural workers to follow:
  1. Openness welcomes others into your presence.
  2. Acceptance communicates respect for others.
  3. Risking trust and being trustworthy builds confidence in relationships.
  4. True learning seeks information to change oneself and studies to understand the biblical foundations for change.
  5. Understanding sees through other's eyes.
  6. Servants become like Christ to others.
One of my favorite things about this book was after he presented this linear model, he discussed how many of the national believers consulted and who contributed to the information presented in this book actually preferred a circular model. In that schemata, serving is the center and the person who is open is actually being a servant. The missionary who is accepting is perceived by those she ministers to as a servant. The leader who trusts and is trustworthy is appreciate for that humble service... and so on. I think I prefer that way of looking at it, as I don't tend to be the most linear of people! 
My favorite chapter was the one on understanding, because I feel like God has so opened my eyes over the course of this term, giving me a very different and deep appreciation for this culture that still seems so confusing to me. I love ladies' Bible study at the church because they almost always see and interpret some part of whatever passage we are studying together differently than me because of our different cultural perspectives. So I'm reading through the chapter thinking, "Yes! That just happened last month." One of my favorite stories in the book occurred when the author and his family traveled to Kenya. They had educated their son in the culturally proper way to greet a Maasai elder and the older man's response was to spit on the boy's head three times. While offended, the family wisely kept their peace until they could ask someone more knowledgeable - who informed them that the spitting custom was actually a Maasai blessing. "The Maasai believe that when it rains on their arid land, God is spitting -- God is blessing them. This has a parallel in Scripture, which talks about two kinds of spitting. One was to shame a person by spitting in his or her face (Num 12:14; Deut 25:9; Is 50:6; Mt 26;67). The other kind of spitting was used to bless another person. Different Greek words were used or "spit" meant to shame or bless. Blessing is clearly in mind when Jesus used his spittle in healing people (Mk 7:33; 8:23; cf. Jn 9:6). Our new understanding put everything in perspective."

It is so easy to perceive the world from an egocentric (my way is best), ethnocentric (our group/culture/nation's way is best). Yet all people are created in God's image and all cultures develop from those created in God's image; thus we will see reflections of Him in others, in other cultures and societies. It is even possible that perhaps, in some areas, another or another's culture will better reveal Him to us than our own.

That's a meaty idea I'm going to have to chew on for awhile, because that has huge implications for ministry, as I seek to love and serve others - be it here in Niger or elsewhere in this world.

And in case you hadn't already figure it out, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in servant based ministry... and what he says doesn't only apply to cross-cultural situations.

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