The following could be used for personal reflection or in a group setting. Perhaps with members of your short-term team.

A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.

A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fist seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down, and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments, the fish showed excitement but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.”

Don’t “live missions” like the monkey!

If you don’t want to be like the monkey as you engage in cross-cultural ministry consider the following steps to serving well. They make more sense when you start with the last step and work towards the first:

Step 6 – Serving – you cannot serve someone well if you don’t understand them.

Step 5 – Understanding – understanding comes when you are humble and willing to learn about, from and with them.

Step 4 – Learning – learning is fostered in an atmosphere of trust

Step 3 – Trust – to build trust others must know that you accept and value them as people

Step 2 – Acceptance – your acceptance is communicated by your welcome and willingness to engage in a relationship with them

Step 1 – Openness – openness requires your willingness to step out of your comfort zone with others from a different culture.

Questions for personal reflection or with your short term team:

  1. How can you practice “stepping out of your comfort zone” now so you’ll be prepared to “step out of your comfort zone” then?
  2. What can you learn now about ways to show honor and demonstrate value for those you desire to serve? Consider greetings, attire, cultural taboos to avoid, etc.
  3. How can you learn about them as you prepare to learn from from them and with them? Consider history, current events, biographies.

*The parable and steps of servanthood come from Duane Elmer’s book “Cross-Cultural Servanthood” (Chapter 3).