Cross cultural work begs the metaphor. Some have suggested that diversity is like a patchwork quilt. Others say it's more like a stew. Still others have claimed the mosaic. As with most comparisons, the similarities eventually leave us at loose ends, blend into mush, or crack in some way.
But I love that we strive to connect something visual and artistic with the joys and struggles of communicating across/around worldviews and cultural beliefs.
I also love when the work creates in us the possibility of something heretofore unimaginable.
One of my cohorts at work is, by appearance, the least likely cross-cultural guru one could conjure. She looks dowdy. She dresses economically (which means that long skirts with shirts tucked into her rounder than her bustline waistband are her preferred uniforms ... with good shoes or flip flops). Her haircut is one that she could get at a barber shop since it's so short. She doesn't look her age (older than me) nor does she look young. She's timeless in her appearance ... pretty much the same woman I saw the first day I came to work here over a decade ago.
I made the mistake of initially judging this book by its cover. DOH! What an idiot I am!
She has transformed herself in the time I've known her -- not once but over and over again. She doesn't have a degree, yet she can now stand before thousands (and has) and speak to them of orality and how to address cultures who don't think in outlines and arguments. She doesn't capture your attention when she walks into a room because she's shy enough that she's usually looking for a space in the back where she can blend in. But the moment you offer up the floor for questions, she has them.
She spent much of her early adulthood raising two children as a single then remarried mom voluteering at a church as a preschool teacher. Now she uses experiential learning better than any education professor I ever had. In fact, she may be better at it because she doesn't rely on theory but her own experiences and she doesn't bother with trying to convince you of anything. She trusts the experience to do her teaching for her.
Recently she spoke of a small group she's brought together around the Russian language (a locale she's adopted and now helps to develop evangelistic strategies for) and scripture. Only most of the group aren't believers. And she's cautioning the one who is to keep it in check and allow thought-provoking questions just hang. (Challenging I'm sure to the the former Pentecostal who might usually have jumped on opportunity to provide THE answer.) In this group, she's got a physicist who knows three languages, an aging Ukrainian, and an atheist . And she speaks of their journey with more joy and enthusiasm than I've ever seen come out of a revival speaker.
Her latest tale involved them talking about the animals affected by the fall. Using her best take on scientific lingo, she asked, "Since we've spent some time on the assumption that the creation and fall of man stories are not true, let's give some equal time to the assumption that they could be true. If so, what about the animals who -- without sin -- had to die to cover the nakedness of Adam?"
When your audience has just spent several discussion minutes laboring over the animal kingdom, that kind of question is going to stop them in their over-analyzing tracks!
She's come a long way from home living centers in Sunday morning classrooms with fake kitchens and baby dolls. And yet she hasn't. Because for her, it's always been about learning and still is.
I'm going to miss all this woman has to teach me. I can't wait to see who will fill her shoes (flip flops) in my life.