Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Cross-cultural contact

After yesterday’s post about my friend who had died, I had a chance to reflect on some of the finer moments in our relationship. He definitely helped me a lot in positive cross-cultural experiences, something for which I am extremely thankful.
On a lighter note today, I want to share something which happened when I wanted to expose a number of “White, Afrikaans-speaking” Christians from South Africa to the Swazi culture. This happened quite a few years ago, but if I remember correctly we were twelve in all who took the road through Swaziland, visiting a number of branches of our church in various regions. This group consisted, amongst others of an elderly couple, two single woman, a younger couple whom I knew had struggled with God about this visit and then a few others.
Before we left I warned the group that I was planning to give them a very positive experience of Swaziland but that I was also going to give them maximum exposure to the local people. I informed the younger couple that I was planning to house them with a wonderful Swazi couple. (Just to give you an idea about the Swazi couple: The man is the personal chauffeur for the British High Commissioner in Swaziland and his wife is the director for SOS Villages in Swaziland – both people with loving, open hearts.) A day or two before we left, this young lady phoned me and told me that she and her husband had thought about staying with the Swazi couple. They felt that it would be more comfortable for the older couple to stay in a house and then they would be willing to sleep on the floor in a church. (How unselfish can one get!) Of course I knew that this was not the true reason for them deciding not to stay with the Swazi people, but I left it at that. Actually, I already had a plan B in mind, knowing that I would do them no favour to “let them off the hook.”
We left on the following Saturday and drove through a large part of the country. At Matsanjeni we were met by the congregation who welcomed them with wonderful singing. Just before dark we reached Manzini and went to the house of one of our pastors. I told the young couple and one of the single ladies to unpack their stuff as they were going to remain behind. The pastor was not even there at that point, although his young children were present. I took them in, introduced them to the children and told them to wait for the pastor to arrive and then we left for Mbabane to the house where my friend who had died yesterday, used to stay.
I’ll fill in the details of our stay in Mbabane tomorrow, but the following morning, Sunday, we returned to Manzini to attend church. As we stopped at the house where I had left the three the previous evening, the woman who had phoned me rushed out of the house. For a moment I thought that she was going to slap me! But instead she came up to me and with tears in her eyes put her arms around me she hugged me and thanked me “for one of the most wonderful experiences ever” in her life. More than a year later she found the courage to share with me what had happened. We were involved in a 24-hour prayer watch and it happened that she and I were both slotted for a prayer session at midnight. We did pray, but that night she filled me in one the detail which I had never known before.
That evening when I left them in Manzini they honestly thought that I was playing some kind of practical joke on them. As they sat in the house she said over and over again to her husband that she knew that I was going to come back and fetch them and then we would all laugh at their expense. But as time went on, they started realising that I was not intending to return. Eventually the pastor returned and prepared food for them (his wife was not present at that time.) Then he took them to their bedrooms and the couple was housed in a large room with a lovely double bed (I know, I’ve often slept in that bed). And then the strangest thing happened. The woman, realising that they had been “tricked” went to have a shower. She told me that night, as we were praying together, that she got into the shower. The shower railing and wall were being used by the pastor’s young daughter (probably about five at that time) to hang her underwear to dry. And this woman said to me, as she stood in that shower, with “panties” all around her head, something broke inside her! She, who had decided that she would not stay in a house with Black people, suddenly discovered a love for them that she had never known before. She came out of that shower, cleansed not only of the dirt of the day, but cleansed also of a lot of prejudice that she had had in her life. It was amazing to see how God changed her life around through that one experience.
Well, we had a good laugh about this. She was so ashamed for what she had done. But what a great testimony she had afterwards.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008 - Posted by | Building relations, Church, Comfort Zone, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, Culture Shock, Hospitality, Humour, Mission, Prayer, Short-term outreaches, Swaziland, Theology

1 Comment »

  1. […] Christians to Black, Siswati-speaking Christians. If you missed out on the first part, read it here first. After leaving Manzini with three seriously confused people in a house without a pastor, we […]

    Pingback by Cross-cultural contact (2) « Mission Issues | Thursday, January 24, 2008 | Reply


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