Annie and Jim are missionaries serving in Ensenada, Mexico.

The Languages of Culture: Touch

LISTEN TO ANNIE AND JIM’S STORY AND HEAR how the people in their new community viewed touch, and how it helped them understand – and be understood – among the people of Mexico.


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Annie and Jim’s Story

After having spent more than 15 years as church planters in California, we knew God was calling us to serve and work in Mexico and Latin America. And wanting to be as prepared as possible, we took a two-week course with CultureBound and learned about the languages of culture.

Instantly as we moved to Mexico and started working in a Latin American culture, we began to see how these different languages of culture, these different cultural interactions, were going to shape our relationships and ministry.

We had started going to language school and our Spanish wasn’t amazing, but it was developing. We were learning that in order to have friends you needed to be able to speak the language, but that was a challenge. We found we were isolating ourselves a little bit in our house, not really sure how to interact yet with our neighbors.

One day we were just taking a walk in the afternoon and our neighbor Carmen just yelled out in Spanish and said, “Hey, do you guys want to eat?” That was one of the phrases that we really understood well in Spanish. We just looked at each other and said, “I guess we’ll just have to leave our comfort zone.”

You know, in the US, you tend to isolate yourselves in your houses and being neighborly just doesn’t happen often. But here in Latin America, being with each other, having a real ministry of presence . . . it’s just what they do here.

So, we went over immediately to have a beautiful lunch at Carmen’s house. Sitting in their backyard, we had Carne Asada and we did the best we could at learning to speak with them.

What’s amazing is we hadn’t met these people yet, but the first thing we noticed was they kissed us and they touched us. The body language was very open and friendly and we immediately relaxed.

It was a real learning experience for us because we realized that even if you’re meeting someone for the very first time in this culture — especially if you’re open and willing to touch and hug and kiss — you’re almost automatically going to become friends or at least very friendly.

As our relationship continued to progress with our friends and our family, they really taught us the language of culture, of body language, and touch.

It’s a wonderful reality that nothing here begins until every person is greeted, every person is touched, every person is hugged, kissed and welcomed into your home.

Part of that body language is also the openness to receive people. Whether it be into your home or into your space, you need to be willing to invite people in.

Even during our neighborhood Bible study, you couldn’t even think about starting on time because every person that walks in you take time to greet, hug and kiss. Everyone goes around the room and greets every person. We’ve really enjoyed learning that touch opens the doors for us to teach.

Over the next few months as we continued to develop relationship with our neighbors and our friends, God was doing really neat things in their lives and several of them came into a relationship with Christ in those months.

“But He took her by the hand and said, My child, get up.” Luke 8:53 – 54

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