Cultured Relationship Building

Yesterday I heard a really interesting illustration about the differences in the way that cultures invest in a relationship.

The speaker works with a number of different cultures and has observed differences in the way they handle relationships. He works with a number of East Africans and they value sharing space. So even if you are busy, they may just come and sit in your office for 20-30 minutes, you might not really say all that much but you’ve shared space and that is important for them in building the relationship. He also works with Turks and other Middle Easterners and they value conversation.  They will come and want to have a cup of tea and talk. You don’t necessarily need to “do” anything just spend time talking together. He also works with Westerners, Europeans and Americans, and when they come to see him it is always with an agenda. They want to do something, and have something to show for the time together.

When I took time to stop and think about it – I fully resonate with this. I feel awkward just going and sitting with someone and not doing something together. It does not seem meaningful to me and I find myself wanting to find someway to occupy myself and so pull out a gadget or find some other way to fill the time. Even just talking – if it doesn’t have a purpose – loses its enjoyment before too long. I want to deal with the issue or decide something and then move on.

This is not to say that the Western view is completely wrong. There is certainly great value in efficiency and minimizing “wasted time” in certain contexts. Yet, there are also other contexts where the ability to be still and just do nothing is of great value both for personal and relational growth.


Fall “Book Hop” Giveaway!

Just wanted to share this: K. Liz Barker is giving away 3 copies of the book One Day as a Talibe (Kids in Culture).

One Day as a Talibe

It is a great, short read to introduce kids to one aspect of what it is like growing up in another culture.

To enter to win a copy of the book visit her blog here:  Book Hop!.

One God One Message by P.D. Bramsen←

One God One Message

by P.D. Bramsen

I really benefited from reading this book. Even though it took me about 2 1/2 years to finish it, I really did enjoy this book. I first picked it up when I was in St. Louis, Senegal two summers ago. The author lived and worked in St.Louis for a number of years but now has returned to the United States. It was fun for me to be able to imagine some of the scenarios described in this book having seen it firsthand. I began reading a copy that a friend had and really enjoyed the first few chapters I got through. Then I left and it wasn’t till about 6 months later that I happened to attend a conference and the author was also there. So I was able to get a copy of the book for myself. However, over the year and a half since then it wasn’t until about the last month that I picked it back up to finish it.

One God One Message is one part Christian apologetics, one part Biblical theology, and one part story-telling. The author writes from a vast experience of living and working as a Christian in majority Muslim countries and the many conversations he had there. He also has had extensive interaction with people from around the world through various web-based ministries. This background gives him a lot of insight into the common questions and objections that people have to the Bible.

The bulk of the book is an unhurried journey through the Bible from beginning to end. I’ve become more and more convinced that this is so important to understand – and be able to articulate – as a Christian. The overall narrative of the Bible is what gives background to the propositions that we too often articulate. The narrative also provides correctives to a whole host of abuses of “Christianity” throughout history and in the present. Though this exposition of the Bible is largely aimed at non-Christians it was really beneficial for myself to walk through the story of the Bible again.

Before jumping into the story the author devotes a significant section to objections and background information about the Bible. He does a very good job of connecting many important strands and weaving them together to tell the whole story.

For anyone who wants to know more about the Bible and what it is – not what “Christianity” as a formalized religion is – and what it says about man and his relationship to God this book is highly recommended.

If you want to know more about the author some of his other resources visit his website:

Product Description

A DOWN-TO-EARTH MIX OF APOLOGETICS & STORYTELLING FROM THE WORLD’S BEST SELLER. Interspersed with contrastive e-mails from Muslims around the world, this captivating journey through the Bible permits truth seekers to overcome countless obstacles and encounter the one true God and His amazing plan. Third edition (November 2008) includes a thought-provoking Discussion Guide. Here is how one American reader described his experience: ONE GOD ONE MESSAGE answers tough questions. In some mysterious way, I had a sense of drawing closer to the Lord as I read. There have been a few books I have read in which I had this sense. The pages convey the true and deeper heart of God. This was not just a book about facts. I have read many of those. This book reaches to the deeper part of our souls for God to touch. DISCOVER THE MYSTERY. TAKE THE JOURNEY.

Cultural Observations↑

My wife and I had an interesting conversation this morning. She has begun her Master’s program in Applied Linguistics. As a core part of her studies she is studying culture and how linguistics relates to the topic. They began this week with just sharing some of their observations about their own culture and experiences within culture.

St. Louis, Senegal

One of the students gave the idea that it is important to not use stereotypes. Yet, in a sense you can’t do anything else when you are studying culture. The point in studying is to make those assumptions more accurate. You can focus in and nuance your observations.Yet, in the end, you are making generalizations about the group you are observing. You are making observations about their beliefs and values and the actions and attitudes that result from those beliefs and the factors that contribute or shape those beliefs and actions. It happens on an individual level but it is more often a corporate study to make sense of how groups work together and what commonalities they share.