My name’s Adam Pietrantonio. I currently live in Guelph ON, having recently been appointed as a career missionary to Japan back in October. I’m working part-time, and working through the Immerse program, where I volunteer with Power to Change Students at the University of Guelph engaging with international students (Japanese students too!).
- 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?
Because I am not yet on the field in Japan, I will respond with thoughts of what I think would take place, both from my studies as well as ministering to Japanese students on campus. In Japanese culture, leadership seems to be both patriarchal and age-dependent (the older person is the de-factor leader). So, while empowerment can be perceived to be taking place as an older man leads a younger woman, that may not be the case. Giving orders as the elder and accepting them as the younger; or having a group discussion and the older male’s view becomes the consensus view—this is in line with Japanese thinking. Cultural tensions will occur if and when a younger woman is empowering an older man in his faith. Both the patriarchy and age-dependency are being confronted. A cultural value that may be leveraged towards empowering relationships is the respect given to the elderly. While it may be expressed as a teacher-student relationship, where the student has no autonomy, the elderly person does have the opportunity to empower to leverage her authority to love, serve, and encourage a younger believer. This act both confronts the teacher-student dynamic and expresses biblical empowerment accurately.
- 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?
My weaknesses would be controlling the process and achieving ends. Even though I’m very self-aware that these are weaknesses, imagining myself on the field, in the thick of ministry, my default reactions would be to use my authority to take control so my expectations would be met. While awaiting change to take root and have its effect, I would become increasingly impatient and want to change that previous change.
My strength is to serve others. Although controlling the process and achieving my own ends are self-regarding rather than other-regarding, my intention would be to meet others where they’re at, listen to them, encourage their ideas, and lovingly ask questions that foster mutual insight. I listen well and actively, so fostering a safe space where they can be heard and responded to in excitement is particularly easy for me. It becomes increasingly frustrating when no “progress” is being made.
Lingenfelter expresses on pg.49 the ideal outcome of expressing kingdom values, while also expressing the difficulty in accepting and implementing such a reality: “Kingdom values, in contrast, employ the illogic of grace. When we follow God’s way, we focus on loving one another and extending grace to our brothers and sisters in contexts where we have disagreements and conflicts with them.” This is true, but the fact that grace is essentially illogic frustrates me. It is counter-cultural, in opposition to all of my desires. It makes no sense because the flesh wants to act differently. And that’s exactly why it’s the correct approach.