You know you’re a third culture kid when you recognize landscape pictures on BBC and people on National Geographic. This was my husband’s conclusion after watching the world news recently. They showed a picture of a log, and before the caption appeared, he already knew the location. Astonishing, huh?
And what about a “three-culture lady?” I grew up in the Cameroonian culture. I married into the American culture and now I live in the Gabonese culture. This Sunday is a very interesting day for me. My American culture is watching the Super Bowl while my Cameroonian culture is playing the African cup of the soccer final in my Gabonese country.
I’ve found myself speaking French to the cashier in Wal-Mart or mistakenly showing my American documents when I am at Gabon customs. Or I have found myself speaking the Gabonese dialect in Cameroon. Let’s not talk about how confused (or should I say “embarrassed”) I am each time I realize my mistakes!
Recently I attended training for partnership as a part of my Wycliffe membership. For the first time, I saw that being a third-culture kid or a three-culture lady can be a strength! As missionaries, our first call is to show grace. Without grace, we cannot serve in another culture. We have to be willing to leave our culture and embrace someone else’s culture in order to win him to Christ. And I think we learn to show grace after being through many situations where grace has been shown to us. We have made so many mistakes and embarrassed ourselves so many times while we are trying to navigate in a new culture that we realize it’s only by grace that we can make it.
Henri was blind. He could not speak either. In his village, deep in the jungle, he was considered “forgotten of the gods” since being blind is considered a curse there. Plus, Henri had some mental retardation. Our medical team went to minister in his village. And in spite of the beliefs of the people and his filthy clothes, we showed grace to Henri. He was reluctant to interact with us. We were strangers to him and he was unaccustomed to being shown any grace or compassion. He finally let us convince him to come to our Bongolo Eye Clinic where we were able to perform cataract surgery and Henri could see again!
Everything changed for him! His whole attitude changed. He still could not speak but we saw Henri smile for the first time. And when he went back to his village, the whole village gathered around him and wanted to make sure he was really seeing again. Henri was the living testimony of grace that can save and heal!
It takes a team of people who have been navigating through many cultures, who are willing to accept ridicule in order to help the “forgotten of the gods.” We have chosen to live like the ultimate third-culture kid: the King who left His heavenly culture to come and live with us on our earthly culture. Only by grace, it’s only by grace!
Beach & soccer picture by BBC