Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Taste of "Culture Shock"

our bloc apartment building

Today I find myself struggling to find the encouragement to study Romanian and to pursue relationships with those whom God has called me to work.  I speak a different language, grew up in a different culture, and have lived a far different life from Romanians and Roma.  Although I have been critical of American culture in the past, I now see very clearly how much I am an American and how much I miss my own culture.  It is difficult to struggle to find words in conversation, but more difficult for me is not understanding others.  Lots of people talk so fast that their words blend together making it extremely difficult for me to understand.  After two or three times of asking someone to repeat themselves it becomes embarrassing to ask again.  When a lack of communication takes place it is hard to feel truly connected to people. 

I have never been an amazing speaker by any means, but until I starting trying to preach in Romanian I had never had people in a church snickering at me because of language mistakes.  The more time I spend with Roma and Romanians the more different I realize I am.  The interesting thing is the harder I try to become more fluent in the language and spend time with nationals the more different I feel.  As I become more fluent in the language I get put in more difficult language situations that stretch me.  As I pursue more friendships I get put into more completely foreign situations to me. 

Trying to learn a new culture and integrate into it, to use an illustration from the move Shrek, is like an onion.  There are layers after layers of discomfort.  You get through one layer only to find that you are experiencing the shock of the culture on a deeper level now. 

There is great excitement and joy in being a missionary.  Living in a different country, learning a new language and eating different food are all exciting.  Yet all of them wear on you after a while.  Once the excitement wears off all the fun things become uncomfortable things.  Because of language and culture barriers it becomes easy to never really feel connected in relationships with nationals.  It is like there is an invisible wall between you and them that keeps you from truly understanding each other.  Many a experienced missionary told me before I moved here to guard my heart to not become embittered against nationals.  The path from seeing their culture as different to BAD can be subtle but quick.  I am grateful for this advice because I fear without it I would have gone own that path already.

So this is where I find myself today.  Feeling different.  Feeling uncomfortably stretched.  Missing the comfort of America.  Missing friends.  Missing home.  But, praise God that we have a better home waiting for us with the Lord and we can be confident that our obedience to Him will not be for vain.

Hebrews 13:14
For this world is not our permanent home; 
we are looking forward to a home yet to come.