Common themes reduce cultural distance

Effective stories can result from simply spotting familiar themes in unfamiliar cultures. For a Seed Company-engaged project in Guatemala, Bible translators provided quick, personal stories about Scripture-related conversations with friends. Here’s one:

One day, Jakalteko translator Josefa was talking with a friend who had abandoned her faith. She told Josefa about adversities that happened in her time away from the Lord.

Josefa and her friend began reading Psalms and Proverbs together in the Jakalteko language. Finally, her friend reconciled with God, but she had great anguish because her children had become rebellious. More concerning, her husband was not a Christian. He drank a lot of alcohol and beat her.

Josefa prayed for her friend and shared her burdens. Eight months after becoming a Christian, her friend’s husband left the house and began drinking heavily. Later, he came to church weeping, saying he understood that he needed Christ. He accepted the Lord as his Savior. Their children are seeing a great change in their parents.

You can read more stories from the Guatemala Cluster here.

Short pieces like this work because they bridge cultural gaps and find common ground with the audience. Rebellious children and dysfunctional marriages are, sadly, universal human experiences. For Christians, so is the longing for a loved one to come to Christ. Just about any American reader could relate to Josefa and her friend. Find those kinds of universal themes, and how they interact with heart-language Scripture, and you’ve found impact stories.

Sure, there are times when it’s interesting to highlight cultural differences or even what we might call oddities. But remember, this isn’t National Geographic. Our audiences need to see that when we find common ground with people in other cultures — when we treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than “those poor people who need our help” — we honor them rather than exploit them.

That starts to look more like heaven.

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2 Responses to Common themes reduce cultural distance

  1. nikibarlow says:

    God has used “those poor people who need our help” to teach and minister to me in amazing ways. When building homes in Guatemala, I witnessed their great joy without material belongings. As Americans, we are so unappreciative of what we have and waste our time on unimportant things. As the snow falls at my house, I am reminded of all of those who did not wake up in a warm bed today.

  2. Paula Kordic says:

    Thank you, Jim, for this great reminder and for taking time to help us think through these issues.

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