Thursday, July 16, 2009

3 Cups of Coffee

It was going to be another ordinary weekend. Discipleship. Gym. Karaoke. Jamming. I couldn't sign up for Operation Encounter because the spaces were filled. Then, at camp, someone fell sick. And I got a phone call. "We have an extra space. You interested?"

I'm glad I went. It wasn't just another evangelistic event. We learned about the heart and soul of culture. There are many different ways to see the world. That's why we have many different cultures. If you visit an Arab friend, he gives you 3 cups of coffee. The first represents peace between you and him. The second represents friendship; the reason he invited you into his home in the first place. The third represents the sword; his willingness to die for you. Profound!

During dinner I asked someone if he would give me three cups of coffee. He said he would give me two and a half cups. Why two and a half cups? Maybe because the half cup was a sword like the one used by Peter Pan. Or a Keris. Anyway, if someone asked me if I would give them 3 cups of coffee, I would say no. Because I'm not Arab =)

According to James W. Sire, "Everyone has a worldview". What does a typical worldview look like? At OE, we learned it looks like an onion. The onion has 3 layers. The first is called 'cultural behaviour'. It is "Manners, conduct; a way of behaving" according to the Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary.

Let's look at cultural behaviour of the Agta people in the Philippines. A little boy is caught stealing a missionary's pen. The boy's father scolds him and beats him. Like what most parents would do. But there's more. Dad picks up a machete and chops down his house. Then he leaves the village with his family. They are gone for three months. Then they return and rebuild their house. That's how the Agta people punish stealing. If it was the Middle East the boy's hand would just be chopped off.

our cultural behaviour is influenced by our cultural values, defined as what is considered good and honourable in a culture. In many traditional cultures, the 3 greatest things of value are survival, community and identity. men go out to hunt or plant food to feed their families while women take care of children. everyone participates in group activities such as harvest festivals and initiation ceremonies when boys become men. And there is a connection to the land because the people farm and hunt on it for food.

On the other hand, the three most important things in western culture are mobility, convenience and privacy. We buy a car because we can drive around to anywhere. We depend on our mobile phones to call people any time we need them. we build tall fences and make sure the neighbour's house doesn't have windows overlooking our backyard.

At the core of our worldview is cultural beliefs. it is our beliefs that drive our values. a belief is defined as what is held to be true or real, with or without evidence.

Some cultures practice negative values. In Irian Jaya, Indonesia, there is a tribe that practices betrayal. They think it's honourable to backstab your friend. Don Richardson, a missionary to the tribe was telling them about Jesus and Judas. When they heard about Jesus, they thought he was a good person. When they heard about Judas, they thought he was a hero because he betrayed Jesus for good money! Don struggled to tell them why Judas was wrong. Then he realized that this tribe made a peace agreement with another tribe, by giving up one of their people to marry another person in that other tribe. The first son or daughter born from that couple was called the 'peace child'. If someone killed the peace child, the two tribes would become very angry. So Don Richardson described Jesus as a peace child; He came to make peace with God and man. Judas killed the peace child. Immediately, their perception of Judas went from hero to zero!

OE rocked. So did the people and organization that ran it! Wycliff Bible Translators is all about making the Word accessible to every tribe and tongue, in their own native language. Their passion to reach out and willingness to teach us how is exemplary. Three cups of coffee for them =)