Sara lay in bed, her eyes glazed and staring up at the stucco ceiling. At the same time, her ears were being bombarded with the incessant sounds of fireworks exploding all around her. Occasional flashes of light from the explosions filled her room through the same window that allowed daylight and diesel fumes to enter her flat. “Do these people ever go to sleep?” she questioned as she forced her eyes closed. Sara had been told this night would be “exciting” by some of her expatriated friends: this level of excitement, though, she had not anticipated. She thought that some of the popping sounds she was hearing were semi-automatic rifle related. However, she certainly wasn’t going to get up and look out her window to find out!
It was Christmas eve, well actually, the wee hours of Christmas day. That is when, in many Central and South American countries, the Christmas celebration really happens. At midnight, fireworks announce the beginning of the holiday, followed by the opening of presents and a huge Christmas meal. Wine and other drinks flow freely, allowing what inhibitions there may have been for noise levels to melt away. Sara kept trying to convince herself that the axiom she had been told, “it’s not wrong, it’s just different,” was right. However, the longer she lay there, the more she was convinced that this difference was wrong!!
Eventually, the din subsided, and Sara felt her mind and body relaxing, sleep drifting over her like a warm blanket. Though not fully asleep, she saw herself at home in Michigan, and all was right with her world except for the loud knocking sound of a woodpecker against a nearby tree. The knocking became frustratingly louder and eventually roused her enough to realize that someone was at the door. She regretted leaving her visions of home behind but shook her head to clear out the dullness. She glanced at the clock. 2:30 a.m.! Who could this possibly be?
She hesitated with safety issues clouding her awakening mind but then heard Luz calling her name from outside the door. She got up, shouted for Luz to wait for a minute, and threw on some clothes.
She opened the door to a loud but genuine, “Feliz Navidad!” accompanied by the usual hug and kisses on each cheek. Luz was a friend from her volleyball club, one of the few local relationships that Sara had developed more deeply. Why on earth was she here in the middle of the night? Sara offered Luz some coffee, and the two settled into a conversation about the holiday. Luz filled in some of the gaps in Sara’s cultural understanding about this celebration with her animated descriptions of the rituals her family enjoyed every Christmas season. As Sara began to share about her love of Christmas, she noticed that Luz became pensive. She stopped Sara midsentence to comment, “Hablas about Jesύs como friend” in her best Spanglish.
Sara sat there, open-mouthed, for a second. Was this going to happen? It was why she was here. Without having to think about it, her mind and mouth jumped into the training from Evangelism Explosion she had received years ago. As a Catholic, Luz certainly understood who Jesus was and what he had done. Trusting in him alone for salvation or considering him a friend as well as savior were new thoughts. Sara was continually praying as she talked, all the previous tiredness and frustration a distant memory. By 4:30 a.m., there was a new member of the kingdom. God had given Sara an unexpected Christmas present.Excerpt from the book “Prepare for Impact,” by Jeff Boesel
Something is interesting about the phrase “prepare for impact.” It can be understood as equipping oneself to have a significant impact on something or someone. Still, it can also be getting ready to be impacted by those same things or people. Sara experiences both in the above story. While she may not have been prepared for the impact that different Christmas celebrations would have on her mind and body, she was ready to impact Luz by sharing her faith.
If we are to maximize our effectiveness, we need to be prepared to have the most significant kingdom impact on a people group as possible. However, we also want to prepare to be impacted by that culture so that we can truly appreciate it and thrive where we are placed by God.
What things are most important as we consider being ready for impact in both directions?
Since we are working to grow Jesus’ spiritual kingdom, our relationship with him is critical. What makes this area even more vital is that we live in the physical and are rarely aware of the unseen battle happening all around us. Wielding spiritual weapons like prayer and the Word of God requires practice and faith. A helpful tip: practice feeding yourself spiritually daily.
Workers who have the most significant impact are those who are thriving in their new location and culture. To thrive, we must be emotionally healthy, surrounded by supportive structures and healthful habits. A helpful tip: identify your current supporting structures (family, church, work, etc.) and consider how your life would be different without them. What steps would you take to replace them?
Like Sara, many are less than prepared for how a new culture will affect them. Most of us have traveled some and realize that other cultures are different. However, living in that new place starts to take a significant toll as one’s internal, home culture and the host culture collide. Some of this “culture shock” cannot be avoided, but its impact can be lessened if we anticipate it. A helpful tip: engage other cultures who live around you in your home country, making new friends, and trying new things.
If you feel that God is leading you to reach out to the different cultures around you or to be the light of Jesus in some foreign country, remember to take the time to prepare for impact! Contact us. We would be honored to help you think it through.