Monday, June 6, 2011

A training ground for missionaries

South Florida.

It's located in the United States, and is the peninsula on the East coast.  What you may not know if you don't live here or visited for an extended amount of time is, most people speak another language as their first language. 

South Florida has become home to thousands of South American and Island folks.  Island folks meaning Haitian, Jamaican, and other nearby islanders. 

Because of the influx of other cultures, there are several areas that have become in a sense their own pockets of culture from those specific areas.  An example would be what is called Little Havana.  You may feel like you are in another country while never setting foot outside the USA.  Another example of a culture within a culture is Chinatown in San Francisco.

What is fascinating, at least to me, about these areas is all I can think of is, "Wow!  This makes a great training ground for missionaries!"  They can experience culture shock, different languages, different foods, different driving, different ways of understanding "personal space", and a whole batch of other things I couldn't even begin to explain.  Some things just have to be experienced.

And that's the beauty of it.  SO many potential missionaries get to the mission field and have a very hard time adjusting to another culture.  By immersing them into these areas, they find out for themselves if they will "make it or break it". 

All the classroom training or head knowledge one can have/take is nothing compared to real-life situations.  Probably many romanticize or heroize (and yes, that is a word) the idea of missions.  Their heart starts in the right spot, but living it is beyond their comfort or ability.

We decided to visit Sawgrass Mills Mall today.  It is one of the largest malls in South Florida and we used to visit it often when we lived here before.  As we approached it, Joshua says, "I remember this mall.  It's awesome!!"

We park, and make our way inside, unsuspecting what we are about to encounter.

I thought I was transported (Star Trek style) into a different country(s).  Not one word of English. 

Even the store folks were speaking in Spanish, or Portuguese, or other (couldn't quite make it out).  But mostly Spanish.  Even some video advertisements were in Spanish.

It was the weirdest thing.  I just kept staring and gawking.  I finally snapped out of it and started looking at the store names to see if they were in Spanish.  Nope, English.  Which made it even weirder, because it messed with my head. 

Needless to say, after some time getting used to it, and finally hearing a few people speak English, we let ourselves get immersed in this new change in an old, familiar place.  Bill and I sat down on a bench outside RainForest Cafe (awesome place btw and fun for kids) and did some ministry work using StarBucks free WiFi (across the way). 

Guess you could say we have learned to adjust to whatever we encounter, be it rednecks to Little Havana driving.  It's just what it is and bucking the system won't do you any good. 

So, if you are thinking about being a missionary for any length of time, I challenge you to find an area in your part of the country that has it's own culture inside a culture and see how you fare. (It could even be your teenagers room....)  If it grates you the wrong way, missions may not be your cup of cheese.  I mean, tea.  ;-)

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  Colossians 3:23-24

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