No culture is more important to understand than that of
the heart God is drawing to Himself.

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      The small faded flag was stuck into a cracked vase that sat on her desk.  If it had been there before, I hadn't noticed.  But I stopped by her office on my way home and wished her a great holiday, one of the many we had off for reasons I didn't know.
That's when she told me about the night her mother had clutched her arm with one hand and a bag of family valuables with the other as they stumbled into the dark, not knowing if the mortars would spare their street.  The national holiday marked the day of her memories. The vase was one of the few things they had retrieved from the rubble when they'd returned home.

A flag, a vase, a holiday.  They were cultural fixtures to me, but part of her life. I hadn't lived their story, but she had. If culture is made up of symbols, then it's best explained by those who have lived their meaning, and whose memories are woven into what they represent.  The person whose heart I want to reach holds the best, first-hand account of the culture I want to understand. 
This issue of CALLED is the first of two that are dedicated to a discussion of cultural intelligence--or the ability to understand another person's world.  It's more than embracing the obvious, more than noticing  the differences. It's listening to the stories that have made the person and understanding their heart.  

We don't relate to a culture, but to a person.
We don't challenge a faith system, we speak to a heart.
We don't save the lost, we introduce our Savior.



The skeptical, the searching, the silent

          Every person's context is different and, under the Holy Spirit's leading, each witness we give needs to be different as well.  A MENA tentmaker shares some of the opportunities she's had to share, even as she watches the Holy Spirit leading in different ways.

God opened the door for me to have many spiritual conversations with two sisters I befriended soon after arriving in my host country. One day they called their grandmother, an imam, to get information to refute my claims about Christianity and Islam. Instead, she backed up almost everything I had shared about the Bible. The girls were incredulous that I had provided sound answers, because they understood I was a new believer myself.  They had grown up in Islam and had never read the Qur'an. 
When we talked about studying the Qur'an and the Bible together, they declared they would only study the Bible I used because they felt I had the original, true text.       MORE



          When you first step into another culture, your senses usually are taken with the unfamiliar--the food, music, dress, language, mannerisms, and even the different weather.  If someone asks you if you "like the culture," that's probably what you'll describe.  But those are just tangible markers of a worldview passed down, inherited values, customs treasured from one generation to the next.  That's because the meaning of a culture is rooted in the past. Beyond the obvious are old, dated stories that carry messages of identity and adaptation, struggles and victories.  

Culture--the social system, customs, faith, language, art, economy, and government--hangs on the scaffolding of history. All the elements that create what you see grows out of a long and rich story you need to hear.  Take time to listen.  

A good book on the history of a region is always an important foundation for understanding the people. But not all history is written in books. Family yarns, childhood memories, faith journeys, and even local humor tell stories too.  Your request, "Tell me more," is an invitation to hear, an offer to listen  Photos on the shelf in your friend's home, the story of the building they live in, what they sing about, why they celebrate, how they spend their free time, what they hope for and what they fear--all of it has a history.  Few turn down the chance to tell their stories and share their heritage.  

If you ask, you will hear.  And when you know their story, you'll more easily see their heart and how God is prepared to meet their greatest need. 

Everyone you meet
has something to teach you.

An Arabic Proverb


          We stood on the steps of his home talking about the recent bombing downtown.  I didn’t notice his tears at first—an unusual display of personal fear for an educated, middle-aged man in his culture.  A calloused finger reached behind his glasses as his voice cracked; his country was in crisis.  As a newcomer, I really didn’t know what context to give the news commentators or how to read between the lines of a news article.  
But he did.  And the unmistakable context he gave the evening’s newscast was his vivid boyhood memories of "the war."   
That's what took him directly to the afternoon 30 years ago when he  miscalculated the trajectory of an incoming mortar.  MORE



Every association of life
  calls for the exercise
    of self-control, forbearance,
      and sympathy.

We differ so widely
  in disposition, habits, education,
    that our ways
      of looking at things vary.

We judge differently.

Our understanding of truth,
  our ideas in regard
    to the conduct of life,
      are not in all respects the same.

There are no two whose experience
  is alike
    in every particular.


Ellen White in Ministry of Healing p. 483



          Your non-Christian friends may be years away from having the curiosity or courage to ask what the Bible says.  But Scripture in your heart and expressed in your life can still carry the Word that everyone needs the most--a real-life encounter with God's love. This quarter, His Word, My Witness relates to three real-life heart cries that need to hear a Word of hope from a God who cares:  

9    POWERFUL LOVE.  Scripture passages about God's majesty and power carry familiar word pictures to the Muslim believer, but the strongest biblical pictures of God's limitless power also hold the reassurance of His infinite love.  MORE

10   THE JUDGE ON MY SIDE.  Scripture reveals a good and fair Judge waiting to rule in favor of any who accept His defense.  For hearts weighed down with the unknowns and fears of the Day of Judgment, there is quiet relief.  MORE

11   FINALLY AT PEACE.  The thought is unfamiliar in religious, even Christian, circles. But Scripture promises that some day evil will have no place in our universe.  For anyone who aches with the pain of war and violence, the prospect is called hope.   MORE


          It’s a long journey between the first impression of God's call to mission and the moment you wearily collapse on "your" bed surrounded by a strange, new world. God works patiently as He accompanies us through the red tape and graciously moves our decisions towards His plan. Maddy, a new MENA tentmaker, is close enough to the process to remember what it has taken, and to assure others that God will make a way…when it is His will.

MENA TOTAL EMPLOYMENT:  First of all, welcome to MENA!  We know everything around you is new and you're deep into an adventure.  But, frankly,  it’s remarkable to watch how easily the details seem to have fallen into place for you to be here!  Many tentmaking assignments can take years in the making.  How did it happen so quickly for you?

MADDY:  Well, even though I saw God working very fast at points, it actually began nearly  three years ago.  I took a study tour to the Middle East over the Christmas holidays just for the adventure of it! During the tour, to my surprise, I felt the strong impression that God was calling me to serve here.  Of course, we rarely know the details of God’s plans!  But it was a distinct impression.  I knew it was the beginning of something He wanted to do in my life. 

TE:  Did you do anything with your “distinct impression?”

MADDY:  Not really.  I graduated and accepted my first teaching job; I even signed a two-year contract.  But fast-forward 18 months.   MORE


For an overview of the role of culture and the Adventist tentmaker's mission, visit the resources available on MENA's Total Employment website,

Beyond Barriers:  Adventist Professionals With A Mission discusses the elements of culture, a biblical basis for culture, and a Christian attitude towards culture in Lesson Seven: Understanding Culture.
CALLED Third Quarter 2017
Copyright © 2017 MENA Total Employment, All rights reserved.

“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate My righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you, . . . and you will be a light to guide the nations.
Isaiah 42:6 NLT


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MENA Total Employment · Middle East North Africa Union · Ferdous Street, Sabtieh · Beirut 1107 · Lebanon

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