Tag Archives: cultural sensitivity

Planning to go on an international missions trip? Listen first!


Despite the 15 inches of snow we got last week, I was still able to travel to Lynchburg, VA to film a training session (part of a DVD training series by the AACC) with Dr. Josh Straub. [HT to my neighbor who lent me his snowblower so I could finish the driveway before leaving and also to Amtrak that got me there when the airlines couldn’t].

Josh and I met in Rwanda on our exploratory efforts in Rwanda and has been leading the way in our grant preparations for the 3-5 year pilot study we wish to do (anyone have 2 mill lying around?]

The essence of our training followed this outline. I’ll give a couple of examples but since the AACC wants to sell it I won’t give the whole of it away…

  1. Common mistakes made by well-meaning helpers
    1. Naive mistakes
      1. thinking any help is better than none; or that because you desire to go…you should
      2. Failing to listen to locals as to felt needs and solutions
    2. Planning mistakes
      1. Failing to plan for sustainability
      2. Failing to explore the impact of your help (does it make the helpees more helpless? Unintended consequences?
    3. Prejudicial mistakes
      1. Assuming the locals are the only needy ones; failing to have a humble learning stance
  2. Characteristics of a culturally competent helper
    1. Ability to listen well, test hypotheses, etc.
    2. humble
    3. able to walk in the shoes of another
    4. able to develop culture specific info before and during the trip
    5. Not one to be running from problem past (abuse, faith issues, etc.
  3. Considering a plan of actions
    1. Developing a learning plan. Read from multiple perspectives about the people and area you plan to serve; Use google alerts for current developments
      1. Consider history of being helped (prior attempts). For example, if you are serving people who suffered under colonial rule, how will you be perceived?
      2. Listen for existing strengths, local leadership, signs of health
    2. Go, listen some more….long enough to hear honest reflections; debrief (we had some really good questions here!)
    3. Develop obtainable goals and objectives with consideration of sustainability and hand-off to local leadership
    4. Consider privacy and confidentiality issues of those whose stories you plan to use for further fundraising
  4. Concluding thoughts
    1. One of the things I said at the end was the repetition of some thoughts by Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil on John 4. Notice that Jesus’ cross cultural trip to Samaria included his becoming vulnerable to a Samaritan woman (asking her for a drink), asking good questions, avoiding getting caught up in a political debate, and ultimately ending up with the woman being empowered to bring her fellow villagers to Jesus. You know you have done well when you seen the people you help becoming empowered to lead their own people.

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