Wednesday, 30 April 2014


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'. 


  1. Wow! this makes so much sense! I took Ernie's course on 'Missions' here in Copeland back in February and, my wife, Connie & I have been taking the 'Perspectives' course over the last several months (#15/finale this Tuesday). We have learned so much about reaching people where they are. Relationships take time... lots of time! Something the average North American claims he/she never has enough of. Really?! It depends on what is important to us...
    Thank you for your faithfulness to God's call on your lives! Visiting your blog, getting a glimpse of what's happening is a great inspiration!
    Pete Loewen, Kansas

    1. Hi Pete. Good to hear from you! Thanks for the words of encouragement. Yes, we continue to work at figuring things out :-) We know that God has called all of his children to be salt and light, and learning to do that (and to do it well, consistently, and intentionally) is a process. God's blessings on you as you continue to serve there in Copeland. Please greet the rest of the class for me! - Ernie Koop