Articles Relating to:
Unreached People Groups
Enculturation/Immersion Into A Culture
A Missiological Perspective of Deaf Ministry
Nation - An Unreached People Group
Many missions organizations have begun with goals to reach a specific nation or a continent such as China, Africa, or Mexico. Some focus on the Muslim or Hindu populations or tribes of Unreached Peoples. But within each mission society that focuses on these groups very few consider the "hidden" Unreached People Group within those classifications - the Deaf. The majority of mission societies target only the hearing within that culture. Generally this is because 90% of the population is hearing. But, according to World Christian Encyclopedia, 10% of those target groups are Deaf or hard of hearing. This is a significant number of forgotten people.
Statistics tell us that the nation of Nepal has 17% of its people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
Some Statistics of Nations with Deaf AND Hard of Hearing:
India has 90+ million
China has 73+ Million
USA in excess of 25 million+
South Africa more than 3.5 million.
Less than 2% worldwide are not Christian. - EQUAL TO THE MUSLIMS OR HINDUS
Why is there no focus on them?
Problems With The Deaf UPG
The Deaf are a "hidden" or "unseen" or "unnoticed" minority. They can exist around you and never be noticed unless they sign. But when they are shopping or carrying a fruit basket on their head or washing their clothes in a river they go unnoticed. When invited to a crusade they may appear as indifferent unless the eye is trained to look for the Deaf.
Another difficulty is that the Deaf are spread all over the world, not in a distinct nation. But, if they were gathered together in one place they would comprise the 4th largest nation in the world. It has been estimated at between 300-500 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The World Federation estimates the Deaf at around 70 million throughout the world, exclusive of the Hard of Hearing.
Their language is visual and printed material makes little sense to the majority of Deaf. The use of graphics or video makes more sense. Normal means of evangelism used among hearing are not going to work to reach this Unreached People Group.
Interpreted services, can reach some Deaf but most lack basic background of Biblical stories assumed to be known by hearing. A lack of knowledge makes these kind of services of extremely limited value in reaching the Unreached Deaf.
Prayer support will cause the gates of hell to crumble, eyes blinded by Satan to be opened, and a harvest to take place among these unreached peoples.
Missionaries and Mission Advocates Needed
There are a new kind of missionaries emerging on the scene today. We need missionaries who are willing to spend the time and dedicate their life to reaching this unreached people group. They must be willing to learn their language and immerse themselves in the culture of the group they are wanting to reach. They must be willing to move into contact with the group as servants. They need to be willing to start at Ground Zero teaching the basics when the opportunity arises.
Additionally, Mission Advocates for this particular unreached people group is very necessary because they have, for ages, been an unseen and neglected people group. They may never travel to a foreign nation, learn to speak a different language, or preach to the masses of people.
God has been impressing on my heart the need for Advocates for the Deaf people group. Many are not aware that Deaf are an Unreached People Group (UPG). God is wanting to call attention to the Deaf as an Unreached People Group. But perhaps you may ask, "What is an Unreached People Group?"
It is a distinct group of individuals having no community of Christians able to evangelize its people without outside help. This is because the number of Christians is very small. They have a common language, experience and activities bind the together. Approximately 11,000 unreached people groups still need to be reached.
The Deaf, themselves, are an UPG. All UPG's as well as reached people groups have unreached Deaf in them. Yet, in all the UPG discussions, I have not run across any mention of reaching the Deaf.
Within every nation, language group, religious group (i.e.. Muslim, Hindu, etc.) there is a "Deaf nation." The Deaf Nation with its own culture and needs, can not be reached by normal means of evangelism. It is interesting that most mission organizations focus on the hearing world and do not have a strategy or focus on the Deaf within their target groups.
Dehumanizing of the Deaf
Often the Deaf World is dehumanized. In the past the Deaf were not allowed to own property, marry, become involved in voting, have schools that met their specific needs. They have often been forbidden to use their natural heart language. Many other situations could be mentioned. Some of these have only recently been changed here in the USA. More work still needs to be done on behalf of the Deaf here.
In other parts of the world many of these conditions still exist. As recently as 1997 I was in Denmark at the World Games for the Deaf talking with Deaf people, who, when they returned to their homeland would be subject to situations where they were deprived of schooling, use of their language of sign, inability to own property or not allowed to have a drivers license.
Pray and ask God what he would have you do to get involved in reaching this Unreached People Group! Ask him what can be done by you or peoples with whom you have contact, to reach out to this unreached people group and help "go into all the world to proclaim the gospel."
Enculturation/Immersion Into A Culture or How to Successfully Reach a People Group ( It is not authorized for distribution. Please do not distribute. Feel free to read, ponder and submit any critique to our email.)
This article relates directly to hearing people interacting and working with those of the Deaf Culture. While it draws from and relates to working in other cultures, it is primarily focused on how one who is hearing becomes a missionary to the Deaf Community. It should be noted that there is no intent to approach the subject negatively but rather to point out the disparity between the cultures and thus emphasize the need for sensitivity on the part of the missionary.
For those who are not missionaries or intending to become missionaries, but have Deaf people in their families or come in contact with Deaf in their work or other relationships, this can provide valuable insight to the needs of the Deaf and some responsibilities of the hearing community, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
It should first be mentioned that if a person wants to be immersed into the Deaf culture, one of the fastest and best ways is to find a Deaf person as a mentor, a teacher, a guide. Spend as much time with them as possible, attend Deaf events of any kind. Sit in the market place and talk or just listen. Learn by observation. Fellowship with the Deaf at every opportunity afforded. Ask questions of your mentor, find how they think, what is important to them and their fellow Deaf people. Find out how they feel about sound, lipreading, signing, hearing people, parents, siblings, closed captioning, light and darkness, pictures, color, arrangement of items, movies, sports, all of life. Then compare this to how others of the Deaf community feel. Remember, it may take some time for them to be open enough to trust you.
Watch as they discuss among themselves, their hurts, their experiences - watch the heads as they nod in affirmation and agreement - watch! Find the common experiences and expressions. Listen, listen, listen. Ask questions without making them a research project. How do we do this? Have a sincere interest in them as a person. Create a place of refuge as they express their feelings both positive and negative. Sometimes they may just be discovering their feelings. The Deaf have not always had the opportunity to evaluate their feelings and understand them. Be humble. Some of the things they tell you may go directly against some of your values and perspectives. Mouth closed and listen.
It is important to be able to evaluate and understand the differences in the value systems between the Deaf and hearing cultures. If this is understood, then the transition into the culture is much easier. It is understanding the why behind the values. A simple one is how the hearing value words, tone and great oratory. To the Deaf person, the words can be confusing and complicated. To the Deaf person signs, body language and facial expression are of the greatest importance. To the hearing person the facial expression and body language may be offensive and seem unrefined. To the Deaf person the lack of expression on the face of the hearing speaker may seem monotonous and boring.
The Deaf generally value well lit places, the hearing value ambiance (the mood created by a particular arrangement of the environment and lighting (often low lights) sometimes called "atmosphere"). The Deaf prefer the beat in the music, the hearing may prefer the delicate sound of the wind instruments. The Deaf enjoy long welcomes and long goodbyes but the hearing are brief in both. The Deaf bond more automatically with other Deaf. Within the hearing world a person requires time and trust to be built before bonding occurs. When talking to a hearing person it is fine to look away but when talking to Deaf person it is rude to break eye contact. The list goes on and on.
When a hearing person demonstrates a preference for hearing values over conflicting Deaf values, this often offends the Deaf. This will be particularly true if the hearing person is supposed to be a worker with the Deaf people. This happens all to often with many hearing people who are not interested in the "missions concept." Yes, the Deaf understand that a person is hearing and has grown up with hearing culture and values, but for the person who says, "I am called to Deaf Ministry," this is not acceptable. Neither should it be acceptable. Paul says, "I become all things to all men...To the Jew I became a Jew to the . . ." and so on. If we love the Deaf and want to reach them for Christ, we are willing to surrender our hearing value system in exchange for theirs.
It seems that all too often people say, "I am called," but retain their own cultural preferences/values when working around the Deaf. (See below for steps to cultural immersion) When there is inconsistency between ones words and ones actions in cultural sensitivity or when a conflict arises between Deaf and hearing values and the worker stands with the hearing cultural values, it weakens their effectiveness in the Deaf Culture.
This gives rise to the Deaf saying, "hearing say and never do." Their lives have evidenced many broken promises by hearing people or times when hearing people have taken advantage of them. Do Deaf do that to other Deaf people? Yes, but it does not carry the same weight or negativity as when the hearing person does the same thing. As a result of this kind of behavior there is a cultural aloofness toward hearing people.
To embrace the values of the Deaf Community is to become "attitudinally Deaf." Attitudinal Deafness is or should be the goal of those who are called to be missionaries among the Deaf Community. A hearing person who is attitudinally Deaf will find greater acceptance within the Deaf Community than a person who has a hearing loss but is only deaf physically, not in attitude. Without attitudinal Deafness a person will be limited in what he/she will be able to accomplish. The point is: are you really willing to die to yourself? Are you really willing to give up your rights? The Deaf have little choice because they have little power over the hearing people/culture. Who will make the first step? Who is the most spiritual? It is not WWJD, but WDJD - What Did Jesus Do? (See the article: Who is In and Who is Out.)
While there are varying levels of deafness and attitudinal Deafness in the culture, the target group, the core group will only be reached by those who have adopted attitudinal Deafness. This core group comprises the segment of the culture that directs changes and influences the balance of the community. (See other articles on Deaf Community.)
The language is one of the most central, if not the central components of the Deaf Culture. In a newspaper some time ago there was an article about a South Pacific island. This island had been taken over by another nation. The tribal language of the people was being replace by the language of the occupying nation. One of the people from the island made the statement, "When you take away my language you take away my culture."
Culture is directly associated with ones own language. We are enriched by the various cultural perspectives in the world. When a missionary enters a nation or people group, it is not to be with the idea of changing their culture. The goal is to leave the culture in tact. This shows true respect for the people themselves. When Wycliffe Bible Translators go to a tribe to bring them the gospel, it is to bring it to them in their own language. In doing so, they draw from the rich treasures of their language and culture.
When people hear the gospel in their own language it is much clearer than hearing it in another language - even if they have a second language. It is more easily received because it is more clearly understood. It is more "comfortable" for the listener. It is more fit to their way of life. Someone has said, "To love the language is to love the people." Without the respect and love for the language we do not demonstrate a true respect or love for the people who use that language. When we try to change it or insert a new "code" we are not demonstrating respect for that culture.
This does not mean that the Deaf will not appreciate honest efforts and tolerate some misuse by those seeking to learn the language. But if we intend to build bonds of trust, unity, and relationships, we must seek to respect and learn the language. We must put forth the effort to learn the language as a demonstration of our sincerity and love.
(Note: ASL is not to be learned because it is cute, beautiful, is a wonderful way to add to our worship experience or to sign "hearing to hearing." The Deaf see the reason for hearing people to learn sign language as a means of having relationships. If a person learns to sign but does not use it to communicate with the Deaf, it is known as "raping the language." It can also be said that it is a way of raping the culture and the people themselves. This does not honor God or the people. Not long ago I sat in a group of people where the hearing people signed. They signed because a Deaf person was present. They signed and they communicated among themselves. But no effort was made to include the Deaf person. This should not happen.)
When we experience a calling to a people group there is also a call to embrace the people of that culture. Embracing the people is to accept them as they are. This is more than toleration, it includes a full embracing them as they are. It is not to embrace them "If..." We must be willing to accept them if they never change or accept our message. Jesus died for the world while they were still enemies. He love us before we loved Him. If we only are willing to love them if they meet our conditions or expectations, we are not really loving them.
Loving the people is required to be effective in reaching their hearts. If one really loves the people it will be evident in the way we relate to them. It has been said by many that, people "don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." To convince a person about your love for them it must be demonstrated. Commitment to their culture (not "sometimes I am in sometimes I am out") and a sense of their suffering is important to demonstrate your love.
To tell a person "I love you" and then to show little or no sensitivity to their situation is not a way to convince them. To defend ones own rights to ones own culture is not a way to demonstrate a commitment to the people we are called to serve. To say, "I have my rights, too" does not demonstrate our love and commitment. If Jesus had done this He would never have gone to the cross. He went when He was suffering unjustly.
Do we really love the people? Have we made them our own family? Have we made them our people. We will not be identified as "their family," their "people," until we are willing to do that. Is it any wonder that few hearing people ever make it into the heart of the Deaf community? To "love them" is not when it is convenient for us. We must be committed to love them when it is inconvenient, when it is not popular, when it is difficult, when it is hard, when things are not beautiful.
Jesus loved the people they knew it and felt it. He did not compromise but He was sensitive. Many misunderstood Him when He told the adulterous woman, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." He loved them as they were and gave them the opportunity to hear the truth, grow and change. It is the love from God that changes His people. His love is unconditional. If we are to reach a people group we must be willing to love them as they are and where they are at in their walk through life. While in Bible college one of my professors told our class, "God calls us as we are, but not to stay as we are." Jesus came accepting people as they are but His love changed them. We must be willing to love them until they change or until they reject us and we are crucified with Christ.
What is love? The best definition I have ever heard is this: "Love is willing and choosing (means doing/acting out that love) the highest good for God, others and yourself." Does it sound familiar? Does it sound Biblical?
Look at Luke 10:25-29: 25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" 27 And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS (to the same degree/in the same way) YOURSELF." 28 And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Are Deaf people neighbors? Do you have Deaf people in your family? How should they be treated? If you were Deaf how would you want people to act and treat you? Are you doing the same to them. Take some time to think about it. Meditate on it. Give it lots of time! That is your challenge! Would you want people to treat you like you treat the Deaf "neighbors" or even family members? Do you want the same communication level as you give them? The same relationship level? The same interaction? The same language level? The same involvement? What would your life be like if almost all people treated you like you treat the Deaf "neighbors"/family members? They do not have to be family members, they are still your neighbors in the Biblical sense!
Now ponder/think about what Jesus says about people who "say" but do not "do." "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me...." Matt 25:44-45 I encourage you to read the context.
The Deaf hunger and thirst for relationships. Many Deaf have been rejected and denied good, lasting relationships. They have been hurt with unfulfilled promises of meaningful relationships during their life from their natural family, "well-meaning" people and even ministries. As a result, many will be a bit reserved, untrusting, and sometimes angry or standoffish (resistant). But are you willing to be there for them to work through this and show that you are different? Showing them that you are there for them unconditionally?
Your words and commitment will be tested. They have seen too many hearing people who have been like gophers. They pop up for a while then disappear, then another pops up for a while then disappears. Pop up, disappear, pop up, disappear, pop up, disappear, pop up, disappear... They are tired of false friends, false promises, false hopes. Are these words too strong? The Deaf do not think so. Just ask them.
As a result they often have to redefine the word "family." Who is their mother, their brother, their sister? The bonds become stronger within the Deaf community than among their own natural family because of the intense neglect, lack of communication and lack of validated love as defined by the Gospel, within that natural family. When the choice comes to choosing to go to a family gathering or to socialize with a few Deaf friends they will often chose the Deaf because they feel a bond, an acceptance, a part of the Deaf "family" more than their natural family.
Will you make a difference? Will you dare to be different? Will you make the necessary changes in your life with the Deaf you know or who are in your family? It may mean leaving the comfort of socializing with the hearing when Deaf are present. Are you willing to consistently do it to the least of these, Jesus' brothers and sisters? You are responsible, before the Lord, for the knowledge you have.
Matthew 25:40 "The King will answer and
say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these
brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
Stage 1. Infatuation - No problems seen.
Stage 2. Disillusionment - Only see the problems.
Stage 3. Normalizing - recognize that some things are good some things are not so good and must learn to accept it.
Stage 4. Acceptance - People in the culture accept me. I enjoy these relationships.
Stage 5. Enculturated - removing the coat of my first culture and have put on the new as my own, I do not plan to go back.
I heard about a sign class and decided I always wanted to learn to sign. It is so beautiful and expressive. I have seen sign performed as part of worship in a church. So I start attending the classes. It a bit more difficult than I thought, but decide I will finish the course. Later I find I am starting to learn it fairly well. I meet some people and can speak a little bit in their language. "Communicate alright me." They are so appreciative of my efforts. They are so nice and seem so warm toward me. They accept me in spite of my blunders in use of the language. They appreciate that I am trying to learn to communicate with them. I find out that they have a "Deaf Culture." I should be studying that as well!
I have discovered this is an unreached people group, with over 300 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the world. I begin to study their culture and am excited and fascinated with their language. I learn of the errors that others have made in lack of sensitivity to the culture. As I study the language and find where others have made mistakes, but promise myself not to get caught off guard or fall into the same errors.
Later, I decide that this is the people group I feel I am to minister to, they are so needy. I want to be a "helper." My heart of compassion is touched because I see their need. These people really need to have someone show them the way. (Paternalism/Patronizing)
I announce to close friends and later to the congregation that I am called to minister to this unreached people group. They see my desire and interest. They call them to the front and pray over me. Later they decide to support me and help me get training. After a time of study, challenging to be sure, I am ready to apply what I have learned with "real people."
I see the people welcome me and my role. They recognize that I am here to help them. I will teach them what I know.
Stage 2. Disillusionment (written in first person)
During the past few months I have been working with the people. My language skills are not what I thought they were. My receptive skills seem to be sadly lacking. The people talk to me but I see the signs and they are without meaning. I feel the people are just not as nice as I had first thought. The feeling isn't lasting like I thought it would.
Some of the people seem to not want my help. They tell me I am mothering them. They act like they want to do things their way, as if they resent my help in some ways. I don't understand. . . Why did God call me to these people? Sometimes it seems they act as if they are listening but then go do things the way they have always done it.
I learned that some of those that I really like are actually not converted. They are nice enough on the outside, but would I believe that some of them are living together without being married? Another, though married, has a child to an unmarried woman in another town. They come to hear the preaching but their lives are not changing. Some of them acted offended because I wiggle my foot during church services - it is just a nervous habit. These people are no different than the people I grew up with. They are "same same."
I find that when I am trying my best sometimes I see them laughing at the way I say or do things. They seem to be correcting me a lot, too. Other times I feel they are avoiding me because I sign so slow or am unclear. They seem to enjoy talking with others more than me or talking with other Deaf people. When I go with Deaf people to an event they just take off and leave me to go talk with other Deaf. It seems that because I am hearing they really don't want to be around me when there are other Deaf present. I see their expression change when I try to talk with them. It seems they are just putting up with my signing.
Sometimes they just have a blank look on their face like they just do not understand what I am saying but they will nod like they do understand. I wish they would be honest! After all, I am trying my best.
The people have more problems than I ever thought. They don't understand some of the things I knew when I was growing up. When I am trying to explain something I find that they look away and don't pay close attention to me when I am trying to help them. There are problems with divorce, the children are not well watched over, their standards are lacking, they don't know how to relate to others politely, they are so blunt and sometimes noisy at the wrong times. Many of them are on welfare and need to get a job.
There are so many opinions about the Deaf and their group. Some think they should learn to speak and only use oral methods. Others think they should only learn English. Still others think it will be impossible for them to learn much because they are almost mentally handicapped. One opinion is that they should be mainstreamed and not go to residential schools. Someone else say they should learn ASL (or other native sign language) as a first language then learn another language as a second language. The Deaf seem to resent that hearing people are telling them how to live their lives. I just came here to help them. So why all the fuss?
Stage 3. Normalizing (written in first person)
After three years in working with the Deaf I realize that my own culture has a strong hold on me. I have been struggling to give it up and lay it down for the people and for the Lord. I am starting to settle in. I am recognizing that the Deaf when they are with the hearing have on set of characteristics, but when they are in their own environment they have a different set of characteristics. I am learning to see the differences.
I understand now why it is important for me to learn their culture, not to change it but to accept it and start living it. I need to respect their culture and not think mine is the better culture. I remember now that Don Richardson in one of his video tapes said that 90% of a culture is redeemable, so I can accept it. It is not a right or wrong, it is just different than mine. Maybe I need to take it on and make it my own culture. I am starting to see things from their perspective now. It is interesting how my views can change when I try seeing it from the people group's view. I realize now that if I am called to work with them that I need to understand their culture and why it is the way it is.
Later. I am starting to adjust to my calling. I am realizing more and more that I need to be willing to surrender to my rights to do things my way. I am learning to accept that in their culture I must be willing to do things their way. I need to respect their values, their preferences, and their ways. I should not be holding on to my own concepts of how things "ought" to be done. This is difficult and I face it almost daily. I am glad that I now realize what is needed. Now I see that I am becoming less judgmental of the way they live, think and act. I am learning to be more open and sharing my self, my feelings, my emotions with the Deaf. Not just a shallow response, but an openness to let them see me as I am.
One of my Deaf friends explained to me that they do not want me to always do thing for them to "help" them. They would rather be taught how to do something so after they learn that they can do it on their own. They want to be able to be confident in their abilities and have a sense of dignity about who they are and what they can do. They don't want to have a "mother" with them all their lives. So I am now setting my mind to be an "enabler" not a helper.
I am pressing in to learn to sign more accurately and associating with the Deaf regularly. I find my receptive skills are improving but reading spelling is still a trial at times. I am starting to lead Bible studies from time to time and that is a challenge. I try to find how to make the scriptures fit the culture as best I can.
I realize that as I get to know the people I am called to I realize they are just like me. They are a people with a bent toward sin, they have different personalities like the hearing people. They come in differing degrees of hearing loss and have different preferences.
I preached today without an interpreter. I had always felt a little guilty using an interpreter when I spoke in public. Speaking on my own is so much better.
I think I can objectively see both the strengths and weaknesses of my own culture and this one. I think I am ready to make a contribution to both. I am really glad I havent given up!
Stage 4. Acceptance**
Stage Four indicates that one has changed his or her psychological residence. One now believes he belongs to the society in which he lives. He or she has succeeded in building deep and lasting friendships. In this stage, one does not tolerate criticism of the local system lightly. In fact, one has chosen to become part of the local system: "These are now my friends. We have been through a lot together."
By now he or she enjoys it. This stage also means joining the battle of life with local people and making their problems my problems. "When they hurt, I'll hurt." Those in Stage Four become impatient with a system that allows Stage Two perspectives to exist indefinitely. They covet for all their co-workers the healthy relationships that have been developed in their Stage Four relationship with local people.
Language is now second nature. Deep meanings of terms and concepts are attractive. Proverbs in the local language are a fascination, not an insurmountable challenge. A creative use of language is starting to occur.
The way people do things in the Deaf World is worthy of investigation. One comes to the realization that local people do not need to change so much as outsiders need to learn from them.
In Stage Four, practices which reflect cultural insensitivity are difficult to tolerate. There is real danger here for the person in Stage Four. Unless he or she learns to handle it, an unhealthy reaction to cultural insensitivity can develop. It takes special grace when this stage is reached.
Stage Four is the genuine-satisfaction stage, not the "off-the-deep-end" stage, as some may judge it to be. In Stage Four, one has adopted the new culture but has not rejected the old.
Unfortunately, Stage Four people (as with some in Stage Three) can have an unsettling influence on those struggling to survive Stage Two. If a Stage Two person encounters a well-adjusted person in Stage Four, it may cause a negative reaction ranging from envy to denial: "I wish I could relate to those Deaf people like she does." " I wish I could sign like that and be able to read like he does." "That person doesn't really enjoy not using their voice." Or one may experience resentment that the Stage Four person is fraternizing with "the enemy" -- "How can he or she enjoy being with people who do what these people do?" "How can he or she spend so much time with the Deaf and neglect us?"
The Stage Four person must exercise care so that the nerves of others aren't frayed unnecessarily. Sometimes that is very hard to avoid. In fact, sometimes no matter what a Stage Four person does, it can be a source of irritation for a discouraged person in Stage Two. In this case, the Stage Four person must cultivate spiritual graces and let understanding abound. That's not always easy.
Stage 5. Enculturated/Immersed PAH!**
Stage Five, in times past, was referred to as a missionary "going native". In actual fact, it is the stage we expect all immigrants to reach when coming to North America or Europe, for example. But among some missionaries, this stage is often perceived as a negative experience. It may involve a strong reaction to one's former culture.
It may involve marrying a person of the culture where one is sent to be a missionary. It is normally the no-turning-back stage. It may or may not include a conscious rejection of the former culture. For some it can be the wholesome experience to which millions of well-adjusted immigrants can testify. On the other hand, it may end in disillusionment as a person realizes that even in this stage the missionary cannot get away from one of lifes biggest problems - living with one's self. If that is one's problem, this stage is not the solution.
Sometimes a person in Stage Five lives through the negative part of the experience and then pulls back to a more normal adjustment. In that case, a Stage Five person finds that the rejection of the former culture is not necessary in order to find one's own wholesome identity. In this respect, it can be a maturing experience as one reckons with the loss of his or her previous cultural identity and takes on a new one.
One very positive sides it this stage is that some single missionaries have married a person of the culture they serve. That can speed along the process of cultural adjustment because one is forced to relate to new family members in socially appropriate ways. It is like getting "inside" help to make the adjustment. This can help to open doors in the society normally closed to outsiders. A Deaf pastor noted that among the most successful ministries among the Deaf is when one spouse is Hearing and the other Deaf. In this case the Hearing must hold to and honor the Deaf culture to be effective. Also, a North American mission executive recently observed that among American missionaries working in Western Europe some of the most successful are those involved in cross-cultural marriages. Cross-cultural marriages are often characterized by stress for many other reasons than being cross-cultural.
There is sometimes a very high price to pay for total acceptance of Stage Five. Take, for example, the person who chooses to marry someone from the new society. While that person, perhaps a missionary, may have the ability to cross the cultural gap, other family members may not. Much depends on how wide the gap really is. Obviously not all future problems can be anticipated, and sometimes the stakes get very high.
** Stage Four and Five primarily written by Glenn Schwartz from "Stages of Missionary Development: A Study in Cultural Adjustment" with some adaptation for Deaf Ministry. Used with permission.
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