If there are two things I’m currently learning and re-learning right now- its cooking and campus ministry. I’ve always thought that because my mom has taught me to cook at the early age of 5 that I would never miss Filipino food because I know how to cook them, but going to another continent left me clueless as all the familiar things and ingredients I was used to being available is not easily found.
The same thing is to be said about doing cross-cultural campus ministry, you think you’ve trained and harnessed yourself in ministering to the youth of your nation and then all of a sudden God calls you to another continent, another culture, a totally different environment and now its step 1 all over again.Here’s some lesson’s I’ve learned 6 weeks in the beautiful nation of Kenya. May it be an encouragement to all cross-cultural campus missionary newbies:
Observe and enjoy the local food. Before I left the Philippines, I was talking with 2 veteran cross-cultural missionaries from Tibet and Nepal and I was asking them how do you learn the do’s and don’ts of nation as of course I don’t want to do anything offensive to the nation. They only have one answer: OBSERVE!!I found it so simplistic and yet one of the best advise I got. So 6 weeks in here right now I’ve learned that as much as we love a daily dose of rice, Kenyans also has a regular pattern of eating and its generally meat and a variety of carbohydrates to go with it-ugali, chapatti, noodles, mash potato/unripe banana and yes occasionally rice.
On the other end, Kenya as I’ve observed is quite a religious nation (much like the Philippines), families value attending church together on a Sunday, most of the students I’ve met recalls being in kid’s church wether its Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian or Moslem. A lot of the students are often part of the church where their parents are in and they are not ashamed to say it. Taking note of this value and culture really helped us to focus the discipleship on asking questions on the depth of their relationship with God (vs teaching per se) and probing on their perspective on church and discipleship.
Stick to the basic food you’ve cooked hundred of times. So I found out I can only eat Kenyan food so many times, but my Asian palette would still come out. So I’ve tried cooking adobo- it was fine but the soy sauce here was different. The sopas really went well -its perfect for the weather here! Bistek also was well loved as beef here is super cheap and their staple meat. The not so successful ones are chopsuey-I guess its too oriental for their palate and beef caldereta- I couldn’t find the right tomato sauce here as I found out their catchup=tomato sauce.
Likewise going to the campus consistently, prayer walks, doing 121 and small groups is smoothly effective. There are a little bit of difference in how you approach it but applying the principles of discipleship truly works- no need to invent a new one just customize a bit so that it will be received better by the culture you are in. An example of this is how we package our small groups, in the Philippines we call it Victory groups, for here we are calling it “Discovery groups”, I thinks its quite a novel idea coming into a culture that is very much saturated with great bible scholars and teachers, it encourages our students to really encounter God personally thru His word, it gives them an avenue to speak up and say their thoughts about the passage and not just listen to an expert teacher.
Share recipes and learn the local cuisine. So far I really loved their nama-choma which is basically grilling of meats, (south Africans calls it braai)I enjoy it with kachumbari (salsa). I also enjoy chapatti (much like a burrito wrapper) with beef stew, as well as samosa (like empanada) with milk tea.
I have yet to attend a local church here but I would seriously love to, I hear some of the church around the neighborhood and them praying and worshipping for hours is really something I would love to be imparted on. One of the student is inviting me to attend a keziah- an overnight worship and prayer meeting-Im super curious, I’ll share with you once I got a chance to do it.
Some of the challenges they faced here as shared (which is much the same globally as well) to me by the locals are “missional” thinking- the urgency of evangelism and even the vision to disciple other nations; the heart of discipleship and Lordship- the knowledge of do’s and don’ts is very strong and evident, but the challenge of finding someone to walk you through the journey is much more real; a church that focuses on young people is also not common. I think any disciple of an Every Nation church would seriously see all these challenges as perfect opportunities and reason to plant churches here.
Barely short of 2 months and this nation has been such a great teacher to me, but the grace to learn and unlearn, the joy to persevere and trust, the commitment to grow and mature that I can only attribute to the best Teacher of all- Jesus!