Namikango Mission

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How do you find common ground in a foreign land?

Feb 4, 2014

by Becca Hayes

Westerners and Locals

I have heard it said that if a person has money and can live a comfortable way, why don’t they? Let me explain. Over here, the term “Westerners” or “Europeans” is used to identify people from a country of progressive wealth such as America and Europe. Sometimes Westerners come over here and try to live like Malawian villagers. I have heard it questioned why would someone choose to live without electricity, running water, varieties of food, and other conveniences when they don’t have to? The locals become suspicious of these people. They wonder why they are here and what their motive is.

I find it hard to assimilate these two cultures: the way I was brought up as an American is so different from the culture I am surrounded by in Malawi. Some of the conflict in my mind comes when I look at the prices here. One example could be a block of cheddar cheese. This would be considered an averaged-price grocery item in the States, but here, a pound of cheese would be about the same price as half a month’s worth of groceries for a small family that eats basic, inexpensive Malawian food.

This is a myth

Most Malawians don’t consider it a problem if we Westerners live like Westerners – some of them would like to. Most people of a 3rd-world country do not strive for wealth or for a lifestyle of convenience as Westerners do. It’s easy for us to look at a village and say, “If only we could bring all the conveniences we enjoy (electronics, fast food, many changes of clothes, etc.) to these good people, then they would be happy and life would be easier.” Actually, I believe this is a myth. Suddenly having these conveniences can often be more of a burden than a blessing.

Common Ground

So, comes the question - How do you find common ground with a culture completely different than your upbringing and how do you find comfort? The answer is found in our Savior. I can say with confidence that the truth of Jesus is the main tie between two completely different lifestyles. Jesus can be taught anywhere . . . Jesus can be given to anyone . . . Jesus can give comfort in a poverty-stricken village near my home or anywhere.