Jacob is a missionary serving with his wife in Spain. The specific culture in Spain in which they serve is not presented in order to protect the privacy of the people they serve.
The Languages of Culture: Time
Listen to Jacob’s story and learn how the timing of the daily lives of his new neighbors influenced his ability to understand – and be understood – among the people of Spain.
We were in South America working and we were working in a very established ministry that we enjoyed. We were working with leadership and often we were trying to make relationships with the people that lived nearby. But we realized that we were very limited. We weren’t sure why we didn’t have as much success in making good relationships around us. It wasn’t until we did training that it became more apparent that we had really separated ourselves from the people even though we lived right on the same block as them — even though we went to the same stores as them. We didn’t realize how separate our lives actually were.
And so we did the training and then went over to another part of the world in another language. We went to Spain and spoke Spanish. As we arrived in Spain, we already had this training.
We had the same timing with parents going up to their school to drop their kids off or to pick them up. We started making friends just on the basis that we had the same pattern, the same routine.
They were used to seeing us. And so all of those things were in our favor because although we looked different than other people, we actually did the same things they did.
And so, one day, we were coming down the hill from the elementary school and we saw a small institute where there was languages being taught for the local village kids. And we got to know the owner of that institute who taught children after school, English and French, and they really took to our family. Our kids went to school together. They just fit, and everything worked out really well. Over that one-year time, we noticed that we were becoming closer to this family. And even after we moved out of that part of Spain and went to another, we still stayed in touch with the family.
I think the most amazing part of that is that there was a caring relationship that started with this family that continued. And so even though we moved to another part of Spain, they actually came out and visited us, and then we went back and visited them. It was so amazing that over these last eight years, they’ve actually come even over to the U.S. to visit us while we’re on home assignment and took their vacation. They took a day out of their vacation, saying “Hey we’re in the area, do you mind if we stop by? And just spend part of the day together?”
And it reminded me that the best thing that we did in this training is that we tried to really synchronize our lives with the local people to the best that we could.
Just living exactly where they live, walking to school like they do, and our kids having the same school as their children. And we were accepted into the village much better just by simply trying to be as much as possible like them. To be more believable because we were easier to have access to. And it seemed like this past time when they came by, they were still looking for the difference. Why are we so different than them? And it’s not the cultural difference, but because of the peace that we have because the hope we have — and each time that they’ve visited us, or we’ve visited them, we’ve had an opportunity to share our faith in a way that makes sense.
And this time that we just met with them, I was able to share the freedom that grace gives because they looked at the U.S. and they said, “This is such an amazing place. This is such a beautiful area of the world. We had no idea. We were believing the news media saying that it was violent and difficult and militarized. And it’s beautiful that people in America are lovely people. They are so friendly!”
And we were able to talk to them about how really Protestant Christianity took hold in America, and how we were able to take that love with the people of America to their country. And it’s just really been an amazing relationship with this one particular family.
I just think synchronizing our lives with the temporal, just knowing the times, and being there obviously trying to communicate with them. Just the fact that we were timing our lives to synchronize with them.
He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:9–10 NIV