So I´ve been thinking more about quietness. Towards to the end of the book, Susan Cain talks about the ways in which introverts choose to interact in the extrovert world. All introverts closely observe the interactions that are going on around them, but they choose to engage with it in different ways. The concept is called self-monitoring. High self-monitors are those introverts who watch how people interact - and then basically copy it, or change their own behaviour, in order to fit in or whatever. On the other hand, low self-monitors don´t. Low self-monitors feel that to change the way they interact naturally, is deceptive or even unethical.
All of this made me think about adapting to a new culture as a missionary. So much of doing mission in a different culture is exactly what high self-monitors do -- observing the interactions around you, and adapting your own interactions to fit in. And it reminded me of an article I read a while back called 'Am I still Me?' by Dodds and Dodds. "Going across cultures requires a person to change his or her core self in significant, even profound, ways. Adjusting to and internalising the values and practices of a new culture requires that one reliquish aspects of the self shaped in the home culture. These changes may be welcomed, even fostered, or they may come at a high cost."
When I first read about self monitoring, I could easily recognise that I am generally a low self-monitor. It feels wrong to try to act like someone else in order to be accepted. I know that in mission, it´s not just about wanting to fit in, in some sort of insecure way, but is more about a sense of respect for others and sacrificing your own ways in order to honour others. But no matter how long I´m in another culture and how much I adapt to it, with all the effort that that requires, there´s still a bit of me that feels like I´m being false or dishonest in some way. It´s a wierd place to be - wanting to do all I can to adapt to another culture and honour the people in it, but also feeling like it´s not who I am. It makes me really appreciate those friends who know me well - both at ´home´ and here, people with whom I can be myself - even at the times when I´m not entirely sure who that is.
When I returned to Guatemala from the UK, I carried about a dozen books with me, most of which were borrowed or given from the bookshelves of friends and family who I visited. One book which I actually bought was 'Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World That Can´t Stop Talking' by Susan Cain. Those who know me, would easily recognise that I´m an introvert and it´s been really interesting reading this book. It talks about the general differences between introverts and extroverts. Not just the general opinion (ie introverts recharge their energies by being by themselves and social situations wear them out, whereas extroverts experience the opposite) but also a whole bunch of scientific / sociological research about how introverts and extroverts respond differently in different situations (public speaking for instance, or risk taking.) The book also says that society (USA - but I think it has a similar application in the UK - and Latin America for that matter), has been sold the 'extrovert ideal', the idea that to be an extrovert is the ideal in how we interact with each other. For that reason, children who love to sit by themselves and read books (or engage in another hobby), are seen as a bit weird and told to 'come out of themselves', rather than encouraged in their interests. In business or the world of work, there´s an assumption that introverts need to 'speak up' more often or 'sell themselves' better - all of which assumed the need to change to be more like extroverts. Even in creative roles, there´s an assumption that better ideas come from group brainstorming or interaction, when actually the evidence shows the opposite. The book calls for a more balanced approach and an appreciation for the skills and gifts that introverts bring to any role or work place - even if they won´t shout about it themselves.
A few days ago, at the end of a very busy week, a friend commented to me that 'You´re in a very social job for someone of your temperament'. In one way she´s right. I do get very tired by the social interaction that´s needed in my role. But there´s also lots of my role which is perfect for me as an introvert. I love to have deep and meaningful conversations with people on a one to one basis (a classic introvert trait, whereas extroverts prefer more superficial topics in group settings). In my job that often includes talking about self awareness and recognising who we really are - which are common themes when we´re living and working in a different culture - or about calling and God´s purposes for our lives - a key element in short term mission experiences - or about what we value in ourselves and others - again a key aspect of serving God in another country. I love all of these conversations and much more in my job.
But at the same time, I know that I need balance and times by myself in quiet. In the last few months, I know that the balance has been a bit wonky, and that I haven´t had enough times of quiet, when I can reflect and work through everythings that´s happening or when I can just rest in God. In another book, I´m reading, Richard Wurmbrand (a Romanian pastor imprisoned during the Communist regime during the 50´s and 60´s) talked about his experience in solitary confinement by saying "When the mouth is too much open, even to speak good, the soul loses its fire just as a room loses warmth through an open door. Slowly, I learned that on the tree of silence hangs the fruit of peace." I like that. I´m trying to reorganise a few things in my life, so that I can have more quiet.
Last week, I had a couple of visitors. William and Lukas are the 2 other members of the leadership team for Latin Link Central America, and they were visiting me here in Guatemala. We had some great times, catching up with all that´s going on in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Cuba - and did some planning for our annual conference that is coming up in February. I also had chance to introduce them to some of our key partners here in Guatemala and visit some of the Striders.
Whilst we were at home... this was a typical scene. As they live in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, they felt the cold here in my house in Guatemala. So we often had business meetings - with Lukas in his woolly hat, William still wearing his coat and drinking as much coffee as possible.!
Their visit also managed to coincide with one of our regular monthly prayer meetings in Guatemala. With the new Striders who have arrived, we were quite a big group - even with a couple of people away. It´s always good to meet as a team - to share experiences between those who have been around a while, those who have just arrived ... and a few who are in the process of preparing to leave Guatemala to serve elsewhere.
And as with all good teams, it does help, if you´re just a little bit crazy!
They were all freezing - but I made them do it!!!!
But anyway after a serious week of discussions and orientation training, and everyone meeting their mentors and visiting their spanish school, we had a fun day around Antigua, with some of the Striders and long term missionaries already here.
it´s been a while! For the last 3 and a half weeks I´ve been in the UK. The trip was to attend a week of meetings of the Latin Link Core Team. It was great to be together again and see how we have advanced with various tasks. As usual I came away with a fairly long to do list - but that it´s good. It was also great to be meeting alongside the Stride orientation and meet some of the Striders who´ll be arriving in the next few weeks. I really enjoyed doing a session about being single in mission.
Before and after the week of meetings, I managed to catch up with all my families and see lots of friends. It has felt very busy, but great. And in the occasional times when I got chance to just stop and appreciate the moment, I was thankful for lots of things that I love about England. Here´s a few. ....
> English cooked breakfast
> My nieces and nephews
> The countryside
> Being amongst tall people
> Ice cream vans
> Not being expected to talk to complete strangers on public transport
> Catching up with old friends
But now I´m back and here´s a few things that I appreciate about being here.
> Coming home to a welcome home banner from the Striders (with accompanying notes about what they have broken in my house in my absence!)
> Buying fruit from the market - where the stall holders know my name
> Going to the post office - and collecting letters for other people (striders again!)
> Being home
Latin Link is an international and interdenominational mission with a focus on Latin America. They aim to be a channel so that people can develop their God- given potential in the service of others, working alongside churches and partner organisations. Members of Latin Link serve in Latin America and in Europe, working with local Christians at their invitation. They have 5 main areas of commitment; outreach and evangelism, training and preparation, care and social action, publishing and resources, and business and ethics.
Latin Link runs 3 programms;
Step teams - undertake practical projects for 3 weeks to 6 months.
Stride - individual placements using your skills and talents for 6 months to 2 years.