Cross-Cultural Partnerships

Cross-Cultural PartnershipsUnprecedented numbers of Christian missions agencies, churches, organizations, and individuals are seeking to broaden and deepen their work through partnerships with non-Western nationals. Cross-cultural partnerships have many advantages but they can give rise to a perplexing number of challenges.  While definitely not a new trend, this emphasis on multicultural teamwork is a rapidly growing one, and there is sufficient history to demonstrate some of the challenges in these cross-cultural partnerships.  One of the greatest areas of conflict revolves around finances.  In this book, Mary Lederleitner, a cross-cultural consultant at Wycliffe, tackles some of the common issues regarding finances in partnerships.

Money is a key element of mission work.  Without funding, missions agencies would cease to exist.  The proper use of money (and the sometimes laborious accounting for that money) is essential in stewardship and compliance.  The author discusses many aspects involving money and how each of them are perceived in different cultures.  For instance, she addresses the differences that Western and non-Western partners have in relation to ideas about collectivism, lending, and hoarding.

The author speaks to some of the negative attitudes that Westerners can bring to partnership, such as negative attribution of motives, quick judgments, and paternalism.  She mentions how distance, lack of contact, and cultural nuances can cause us to assume the worst in the other person.  She presents proactive ways to change these attitudes

Accountability is key in handling ministry funds to prevent fraud, to ensure proper allocation of donor restricted funds, and to enable proper record keeping.  Too often, the financial reports from non-Western partners are inadequate or absent.  Additionally, the constant requests for reports from western colleagues can damage relationships as it undermines trust, which is key in any partnership.  The author gives examples of ways to contextualize accountability and fraud prevention to work together to ensure proper use of funds without damaging the relationship.

This book would be beneficial to missionaries, managers at multi-national missions organizations, financial staff supporting national partners, and church leaders or others seeking to fund the work of nationals.  Many readers with missions experience will resonate with the examples given as they think of their own similar experiences.  For a broader view of cross cultural issues, read Cross-Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer.

Cross-Cultural Partnerships by Mary T. Lederleitner

Cross-Cultural Training Books

cccelmer mcccclingenfelter swewolivermore Are you looking for a book to help you prepare for cross cultural service or to read together with your team?  Here are three great choices.  Cross Cultural Connections by Duane Elmer uses his now classic “Cultural Adjustment Map” and provide discussion questions at the end of each chapter.  Ministering Cross-Culturally by Sherwood Lingenfelter is a shorter read and provides an assessment to help you determine your differences in key areas.  Serving with Eyes Wide Open by David Livermore discusses Cultural Intelligence , or CQ, and  how short-term missions teams can better prepare for ministry.

Cross-Cultural Ministry Training

Do you train your short term missions trip participants for cross-cultural ministry?  You should, to help them understand the cultural difference they will encounter and how to deal with them.  It is key that they understand that their actions have the ability to either help or hinder the long term missionary efforts on the field they serve.  Often the difference comes back to cross-cultural preparedness.  Here are some resources to help you lead a basic one-hour class on preparing for cross-cultural ministry.

1 Corinthians 13 – A Guide to Culture

If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture, is not proud of his national superiority,

Does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek his own ways, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil about this culture;

Love bears all criticism about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.

Love never fails: but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change.

For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part.

But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was in America I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American; but when I left America I put way American things.

Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately: now I speak with a strange accent, but he will speak to the heart.

And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study, and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

Things to Learn in Your First Month on the Field

Now that you have what you need to survive, it’s time to buckle down and become a learner.  You need to meet people, ask questions, and write things down.  Here is a simple list to get you started.  This is taken from “Getting Acquainted with Your New Home” by Orville Jenkins.

Things to learn

  • How do I say hello?
  • How do I say goodbye?
  • How, what, and when do people eat?
  • How to behave as a guest in someone’s house?
  • How much space is personal space?
  • How late is late?
  • What is immodest?
  • What clothing is appropriate?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate relationships toward the opposite sex?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate gestures?
  • What are appropriate and inappropriate forms of physical contact?
  • What are the roles of family members?
  • What are the rites or special occasions during someone’s life?
  • What are the defining parts of the history?
  • What aspects of history or politics should not be discussed?
  • Who are the majors heroes or figures who have shaped the nation?
  • When are the holidays?
  • What is the structure of the government?
  • When are the elections?
  • What is the relationship between the national and local government?
  • What are the major political parties?
  • What are the titles for those in authority?
  • What is the legal process?
  • How should I respond towards the police?
  • What things would I need permission for?
  • What rights do I have?
  • What should I do if I am involved in a vehicle accident?
  • What should I do if my house is broken into?
  • What is the budget for an average family for one month?
  • What are the main industries?
  • What is the main source of news?
  • What magazines are widely read?
  • What are the major radio stations?
  • What are the marriage customs?
  • What are the burial customs?
  • What are the religious customs?
  • Where are the places of worship?
  • What are the folk beliefs?

Things To Do In Your First Week On the Field

Even though you are stilled jet lagged there are some things you will need to take care of right away when you arrive of the mission field.  Here is a list to get you started.  This is based on  “Getting Acquainted with Your New Home” by Orville Jenkins.

Get legal

  • How long can I stay in the country?
  • What documents should I carry with me?
  • What documents do I need to drive?
  • What taxes, fee, or duties will I need to pay?
  • What should I do in case of an accident or emergency?
  • What laws relate to hiring workers?
  • Register with the embassy

Get online

  • Get a mobile phone
  • Get an internet connection

Get money

  • How can I change dollars to local currency?
  • Is it recommended to use credit or debit cards?
  • Where is an ATM machine?
  • How will I receive my financial support?
  • What expenses may be reimbursed and what is the procedure?
  • Will I have a cash advance for work or medical treatment?

Get moved in

  • Where will I live?
  • Will I have house help, yard workers, or a guard?
  • Are there any crime or safety issues related to my residence?
  • How much are monthly utility costs?
  • What should I do if there are housing or utility problems?

Get around

  • Where should I shop?
  • How much should I expect to pay for common goods?  Should I bargain?

Get prepared

  • Where is the hospital or clinic?
  • Where is the pharmacy?
  • What doctors do you recommend?
  • Where is a safe place I can go if case of emergency?

Learning a Language

So, you’ve found a language helper, a computer language learning program, and carved out significant time to learn the language.  Now, where do you start?  How do you move beyond the textbook, software, or classroom, and get involved in the main event, meaning conversation and everyday life?  Here are some great resources from Orville Jenkins on language learning.

Language Learning Activities

Learning Activity Guides

Evaluating Language Learning

General Information

    Anatomy of Spoken Language

    Have you ever wondered how to get your mouth to make the sound you are attempting to learn in a new language.  The figures below show how you mouth and vocal tract produce sounds.  The touch, lips, teeth, control the air pass through the mouth to produce certain sounds.  The images below show the main parts of the mouth and where each vowel sound is produced.  See this article for more information about how sounds are produced.  See an audio IPA chart.

    This interactive diagram is from Phonetics: The Sounds of Spoken Language

    International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

    The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is standard method for expressing the range of sounds of that we use in the languages of the world.  This is a useful tool for linguists and language learners as it is the way to write every possible sound.  It often is helpful to see the “big picture” of all the sounds and how they relate to each other.  It can also help you understand how to get your mouth to make the desired sound in your new language.  If you learn the IPA, you will be able to write the proper pronunciation or every word in every language.

    Learn more about the IPA:

    FSI Language Courses Online and Free

    If you are learning a new language, you will want to check out the Foreign Service Institute’s (FSI) language materials.  They have been developed by the US government and are more than a little dated, but tried and true.  The are available at The following languages are currently available.