Day Three: Cross Cultural Adaptation
Like the other lists in this series, this one is not comprehensive. Volumes have been written on cross-cultural adaptation and I am under no illusions to adequately cover all facets. I do believe the list below will cover some of the basics, and is an honest and practical springboard for intercession on behalf of missionaries. One volume that I used heavily as a source for this article was The Psychology of Missionary Adjustment by Marge Jones.
How to Pray for the Cross Cultural Adaptation of Missionaries:
1. Initial Adjustment – for new missionaries, or veteran missionaries relocating.
After the honeymoon period comes what author Marge Jones calls The Rupture, in four phases: denial, anger, sadness, resolution. The missionary typically comes from having experienced safety, support, comfort, the known, and love; on the field they may now find themselves facing danger, self-reliance, inconvenience, the unknown, and hostility.
- Pray that they find creative ways to counteract any negative actions and that their calling and passion for the Gospel burn fervently.
2. Communication – both verbal and kinesic (body language and gestures, which may be more than 50% of communication!)
Missionaries may have been teachers, pastors, or professors prior to their appointment. Most have degrees, some with graduate and post-graduate degrees. Yet when they first arrive to the mission field, they can’t even stand up in church and share a simple testimony. “They have lost an ingredient that gave them status and security (Marge Jones).” Language learning varies based on age, personality, or ability. For couples, there may be feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and pressure if the spouse shows greater capacity in language learning. Further, body language and gestures are different in each culture and can cause embarrassment or offense due to ignorance.
- Pray that God’s grace enable the missionary to learn both verbal and kinesic communication, and that the missionary exhibits both a sense of humor and one of humility.
3. Culture Shock – “Culture shock is discovering that all the cultural patterns we have learned are now meaningless.” Paul Hiebert
This is where the missionary struggles to fit in, grieves losses, wonders about their identity, faces different values and roles, feels completely helpless, and experiences rejections on varying levels. Local customs and common actions (like paying a bill, or shopping for school supplies) can be so different they produce anxiety and stress.
- Pray for the missionary’s ability to see the good in the cultural differences, versus focusing only on the negatives. Ask the Holy Spirit to bathe them in peace and patience, and to send others their way who understand, empathize, and offer encouragement.
4. Daily Life – There are aspects to daily life in a host culture that the missionary faces, regardless of being newcomers or veterans, that they may never adapt to. These often include:
Civil unrest (protests, lawlessness, violence)
The poor and the suffering
Legal procedures for documents (visas, birth certificates, etc.)
Dealing with children’s education
Dishonest law enforcement
- Pray for protection over the missionary during times of civil unrest, or when encountering dishonest public servants. Ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance in the area of their child’s education, and for favor with officials when obtaining legal documents. Pray also for physical healing, and for discernment and prudence as they see and interact with the poor and the suffering.
Dear Lord, today I ask for a fresh reminder of the missionary call for ________________________. May their passion for proclaiming the Gospel not wane. When facing negative emotions and actions, I pray for creative ways to counteract those. Help _________________________________ to communicate the mystery of the Gospel clearly, in the language of the hearer, as You aide them in verbal and body language learning. _____________ also need your help to show humility and to learn to laugh at their language blunders. In their cultural struggles, give them the ability to focus on the good versus only the negative. Bathe them in peace, and send them others who can encourage them and build them up. In all areas of their everyday life I pray for protection, wisdom, guidance, favor, peace, discernment, and health. Thank you Lord, for indeed You who called _______________ are faithful to complete what you have begun in their life and ministry. In Christ’s name, amen.
Seven Ways in Seven Days – How to Pray Practically for Missionaries Series:
Day 1 Missionary Marriage
Day 2 MKs
Day 4 Their Personal Life
Day 5: Their Ministry
Day 6: Relationships/Conflicts