Wednesday, 30 April 2014

HOT or COLD?

Scenario #1:  I am just gonna quickly run outside and give the neighbour lady some cinnamon buns I had made.  'Quickly' requires the standard greeting, the standard common pleasantries about her day, etc. We continue to chat,  my husband comes out, greets her, and joins the conversation...we continue to chat. Her husband arrives, greetings are given all around, the conversation continues.  The 'quick' little event began at 8 p.m. and we finally said good night at about 10:30!


Scenario #2:  I am gonna quickly run next door to another neighbour's house to ask a question about something... be right back! I ring the door bell, we greet, and she invites me in. She offers me a beverage, which I decline (quick errand), I enter the kitchen, where others are gathered, I greet each one and ask how they are doing. Finally, after all the common courtesy conversations are finished, I get around to my question. Everyone participates in the discussion. We arrive at an answer, I say I must run. Lunch is offered. No, really, I have to go. Good byes are given to all and we head to the door. Another last good bye, effusive thanks expressed, and I head home.

Scenario #3: We are walking down a street within our 'coto' on our way to our house.  We talk as we walk.  A man is exiting a house, I look, greet and continue on. Then I pause, to ask if he happens to be the spouse to so and so, whom I had met. Yes, he is, greetings are exchanged, names are given, and conversation begins in the street. After some time my friend, the man's wife, comes out. Greetings, kissing, hugging ... more conversation. She invites us in for a beverage.  We enter her home, drinks are poured and the conversation continues. Virtual strangers to Ernie, I had met the women a few times. This little greeting in the street turned into a 2 hour conversation with a lunch offer thrown in!

Why are these scenarios significant? Because they contrast our cultures so well. I had always understood this in the most basic of ways, from having lived in Latin America, but only recently did the actual light bulb moment happen for me.

I am reading a book called "Foreign to Familiar" by Sarah A. Lanier. She 'lit' the bulb for me. She divides the world into 2 groups: cold cultures and hot cultures. I come from a cold one, but live in a warm one (the division is not based on climate, or temperatures, per se). Here is the 'light bulb' quote: 

"All hot-climate communication has one goal: to promote a 'feel good' atmosphere, a friendly environment."  In cold-cultures 'accurate communication is valued'.

So, at times one thinks they are 'lying' when they are not - they are guarding the relationship at all costs. You knock at their door and ask if they are busy - they never are, even if they were just heading out. They will invite you in, offer you a beverage and chat, all while relaxed. When you invite them somewhere they will always agree to go, even if they KNOW they can not.

We can learn from them. We at times need to be much more careful to 'guard the relationship' and relax on the accuracy. "Just the facts man!" can be hurtful or rude at times. A great biblical directive, that seeks to strike a balance - 'speak the truth in love'. 




Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Where is your 'church'....?

     So, we joined the MB's for a sunrise service on Easter Sunday (at 7 a.m.), then off to join John & Connie Reimer's cell group for breakfast at 10 a.m. (a farewell for John & Connie, who were off to Australia to see family later that day), then finally we joined Dallas & Tara, and a couple from their cell group, as they worshiped in the park - some choruses, communion, and food. A full day. Which of these was 'church'? Were they all 'church'? No bulletins were handed out, we sang at 2 of the 3 events, and only one actually had a devotional per se. But there was fellowship, there was prayer, there was a sense of unity and purpose....

     When you 'google' church under 'images', you get tons of beautiful pictures of buildings. But what is church?

     The above image also pops up.  What word sticks out to you?  What image comes up in your mind when someone tells you that you should go to church?  Is it a correct image, or is it too tightly tied to a building or a specific tradition? Can you 'do church' or worship outside of these parameters? 

     We are here in Guadalajara as church planters.  Planting churches in the past has often meant getting enough people to warrant buying a property and building "a church".  Now we are using a different model which has no building, per se. We want our people to clearly understand that they are the church, and individually and corporately, we represent Christ and live missionally. This is meant to be daily, not just Sunday. How does this resonate with you? To be honest, our own experience has been primarily the traditional model. How about you? New wine skins can bring new life to the church! 



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

BELONGING

Everyone wants to belong.  No one wants to be left out.  We long for community.  This is normal, this is how God designed us - not to be islands, but to be in community.

I remember returning to Canada in 2000 with two little boys - Mike was 9 and Chris was 7.  They did not feel like they belonged.  They were in reality little Mexicans and Canadian culture was uncomfortable at first.  I myself was struggling to accept my own culture; with a deep sense of wanting to fit in and belong.  Well, way back then the only way I could think of to combat that painful feeling, of not belonging, was to put them in hockey.  Immediately they began to feel like 'Canadians'; that they belonged.  Joining a team can do that rather quickly.  Some of the kids are still their friends today, some 13 years later (not to mention the added community given to the parents).

Here we are in Mexico where this is magnified.  Not because we struggle to belong, although we do acknowledge that God given design, but because Mexican culture is built that way.  This culture seems to be about having groups. Our neighbours have gone to great lengths to help us find a 'group', a place where we can belong.  One neighbour lady invited me to her 'group' for an evening.  They told me they first met when their children were in first grade, and have met once a month since then; their children are graduating this year!  Talk about longevity as a group.  

We have been introduced to different groups and offered an 'in'.  I am now part of the "Chicas Coto" group.  This group includes a bunch of ladies from my coto who get together almost monthly for someone's birthday.  We have a 'WhatsApp' group on our phones where we keep in contact and send daily encouragements to the rest of the group.  I have been warmly included and made to feel a part of this group.

The picture at the top is Diane's membership card for a fitness club that we chose (intentionally) to join, so that we could work at becoming a part of that large, middle class group. We are blessed daily by interactions and the beginning of friendships here.

To what group/s do you belong?  Are you inclusive in your group?  Are you concerned about those who are struggling to fit in?  Do you take note of those who are without a 'community'?  God designed us to not live alone, as islands, but built us with this desire for relationship.  If you feel alone, and without a community, where you feel you belong, I suggest that you start your own group.  It could be a Bible Study, a care group, a Mom's group, a sports group. You could join a gym, a sports team, a book club, or you could even join a group of volunteers, etc. There are umpteen ways to find and be community.   









Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"Cross-cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility" - Duane Elmer

     
     We would like to recommend a great book for ANYONE that wants to be intentional about reaching out to those around you. Here are some thoughts from Elmer's book: 
     Serving must be sensitive to the cultural landscape while remaining true to the scriptures. Your first priority is to serve God and those around you. We serve people by entering into a relationship of love and mutual commitment. We have to be willing to adjust to the local cultural patterns (or we digress into a ‘civilizing agenda’). We could more effectively minister the gospel if we didn’t think we were superior!
     
     Whether you are working as a missionary in a completely different culture, or just working with people in a different sub-culture (i.e. a senior or middle-aged person working at a youth drop-in centre), or maybe you are upper middle class (and connecting with the poor), or maybe you are relating to a group of immigrants that have moved into your area, these principles still hold true and apply. IF you want to be a fruitful servant, reaching the world around you, this book will help you to think thru what it means to reach out to others that are different than you - in what ever way that difference expresses itself!   

     After reading this book I, Diane, felt convicted and challenged about my role as a missionary.  Not only while living abroad but even while living in Canada.  Why?  Because Elmer points out some of our North American arrogance and how things might be viewed by those we are trying to reach.  Do I come to others with the towel of servitude or the crown of arrogance?  I know I could relate to the author as he pointed out areas where he had failed.  Ernie and I know we have made mistakes and this book challenged us to look at our attitudes, check our judgement calls on the culture, and basically open ourselves to wanting to be continually learning from our host country.  This applies to everyone, as the world is getting smaller, and you no longer need to travel to meet the world - it is right outside your front door.  We encourage you to read the book and be challenged.  Warning: You might feel convicted and uncomfortable as you read.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Seven Sons!
     My most sincere apologies for the tardiness of today's post but as you can see from the above picture I have a few distractions!  Right now we are helping to host Dallas & Tara's home church youth group - the Kleefeld EMC.  We got the blessing of 7 guys! What fun.
     So we covet your prayers as we seek to show these kids our ministries and help them to experience Mexican culture in a positive way.  Pray also for the 'Convivio' we are hosting, together with them, on Saturday night.  Each missionary couple will invite their friends and contacts to a cultural evening; to share our Canadian culture and show the group the Mexican one.  We have live music (with one of the young ladies from John & Connie's cell group singing), there will be Canadian  and Mexican prizes, great food, and just a wonderful time of interacting with one another.  Pray God's hand on this event.

     P.S. I am loving having these boys over as several of them know our sons. 2 are good friends with our boys.  Ian (standing behind me) and Lyndol (far side in bright blue shirt) make it almost feel like we have Mike and Chris here.

Update:

     'Project Fit' has been renamed for a very important reason: the objective.  We originally called it 'Project Fit' - thinking we were going to the gym, it made sense.  But we feel it communicated the wrong idea.  We are not joining to a gym to get fit, although that could be a side benefit.  We are joining a gym to connect with people, to get into and join their social circles (a big part of life here in Mexico).  So, to avoid misinterpretation, we will rename the project to fit with the objective:

Project Connect

     Things have changed with this project on a few fronts.  When we initially presented this project we had gone to one gym, investigated it, and put forth the project.  Since that time we found another gym, and were able to compare prices.  Then, by God's design, my neighbour lady invited me to join her at HER gym one morning!  I went, and after one morning of her explaining why they went there, and all the ins and outs, I felt a nudge in this direction.  If our goal is to meet people and connect, why not join a gym where we already knew someone and had an 'in'.  So, as a step of faith, and recognizing that some had already committed to join with us in this project, we signed up!  We are now 'socios' (members).  The price is less, they gave us a one year trial membership (thus evading some fees), and this fits into our goal, which was to give this a 'try' for a year; AND, we already have friends there.  God leads is amazing ways.  

     So, a big thanks to those who have decided to help us reach out in this way; we covet your prayers as we seek to be faithful in sharing the greatest story ever told.

     IF you are one that would really like to be involved in supporting this kind of outreach there is still room, either for a small monthly contribution, or a onetime gift. Contact us (erniekoop17@gmail.com or dianekoop4@gmail.com or contact the Evangelical Mennonite Conference office in Steinbach.