“If you don’t feel AWKWARD, you’re not changing or growing.”
This was one of many quotes that stood out to us from our time at the Center for Intercultural Training in North Carolina. The pre-field training sessions at CIT intentionally sought to stir up feelings of awkwardness in order to simulate a small taste of what it is like moving into a different culture.
One morning toward the end of our time at CIT, the classroom was set up with groups of tables and chairs around the classroom. Each table had a certain number of cards on it with instructions on how to play a 4-person Euchre or Rook-style card game. We settled into our groups and began play. After sometime, we were instructed that we could no longer talk and the winners would progress to the next table. Little did we know that each table had different rules!
When we enter into another culture, all of the rules and societal norms that we are used to change. The task of cultural adjustment will begin with getting off the plane with the language skills of a toddler attempting to learn how to be an adult all over again in a new place. Awkward.
Even though people like us who have served in youth ministry usually have a high tolerance for awkwardness, this out-of-placeness always compounds over time and creates cultural stress. In the midst of this awkwardness and stress, God will have ample opportunities to teach and transform us.
One of our facilitators, a former missionary himself, reflected on the “awkwardness” of the missionary endeavor… Missionaries in their first term are infants in their new language skills and barely know how to shop for groceries on their own… Yet this is the method God has chosen for his cross-cultural mission. Truly, “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
We’re now entering a new phase of awkwardness as we return to our home in Kentucky and patiently wait and serve remotely until the COVID-19 travel restrictions in Asia are lifted. At the very least, the pandemic has been a season of awkwardness for all of us. But whenever there are moments of awkwardness, uncertainty, or stress, there are opportunities for growth.
God continues to show us that we have this treasure in jars of clay and the power to accomplish his mission can only come from him and his timing.
Joe & Cori Beth Grom
We ask you pray with us concerning the following: