My name is Kevin Miller. I’m currently based in Edmonton Alberta working with Calvary Baptist Church while taking the immerse Masters of Divinity program. I’m preparing with my wife Micaela for long term missions to Pakistan.
- What are the cultural tensions and structures that work against an empowering orientation in your setting? What are the cultural values and priorities that can be leveraged towards empowering relationships?
I have two cultures to consider with this question. Canada, where I am now, and Pakistan, where I’m going. In Canada one of the biggest obstacles to overcome to empower is busyness. People are so focused on productivity and doing lots that it can be difficult to engage on a level where character insights and real trust can take place. Surface level friendship is easy to come by but deep and meaningful friendship takes much more work and pursuit. Canadians for the most part believe in the power of individuals and in helping their fellow man. So, if presented with a vision that can show how they can make a difference for the benefit of others they would readily look for how to empower others.
Evaluating Pakistani culture is more difficult for me as I still have not spent significant time there. From conversations with other missionaries and people who know the culture better there are a few cultural tensions/structures that could work against empowerment. One tension is that Pakistan has a hierarchical structure. People tend to evaluate how they should respond to you based on whether you are higher or lower status than them. There can be difficulties when people feel they have a role that they will not want to empower others out of a fear that the people they are empowering will take their role and status. Another tension is that there is fear and distrust between different cultural groups. Pakistan has many distinct cultures and some of these would be considered “lower class” there is also a significant amount of fear from Pakistani Christians of Muslim groups, so even if a Muslim converts they may not be trusted by some Christians unless they were to change all of their culture as well. Pakistan does however have a much more relational society where forming close relationships can come much easier so that you can build trust quickly in order to empower.
- Consider Lingenfelter’s chart on p. 48 (Table 3.2 Cultural and Kingdom Values in Partner Relations). What are your strengths and weaknesses that relate to empowering others?
I think my greatest strength is my ability to serve others. In the last CICA module I did on cross-cultural servanthood I realized that for the most part I practice service in a way which is accepting, open, and understanding. I think tied in with that I have an ability to deny self, to put others before my own desires and goals to see people flourish. The areas for the kingdom values that I struggle the most with are releasing control and trusting God for the ends. Although I believe on a mental level that God is in control and that the results are his responsibility practically I live as though the results are entirely dependent on my actions. In Chapter 10 on Responsible-to Leadership I realized that I was quite guilty of feeling responsible-for1. I tend to bear a great deal of stress and anxiety because I act as though I am responsible for the people which I am empowering rather than being responsible to them. I forget that the ends are in God’s hands rather than mine. I find it extremely difficult to practice emotional detachment in regards to my role and results2. This can lead to wanting to have more control over how others are growing in their understanding and empowerment rather than empowering and trusting the vision and call that God gives them.
1 Sherwood G. Lingenfelter, Leading Cross-Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), Kindle Edition, 130.
2 Ibid. 133.