In preparation for Guatemala I have been given a laundry list of things to do by the mission group. Some things, like health insurance and vaccination updates, were a given. One thing I didn't expect was this Intercultural Effectiveness Scale report.
When I first logged into the required module, I felt like I was in college again: just trying to get through all the required coursework with enough understanding to get a passing grade. Half way through the program (it took several hours to complete) I realized I was getting a lot more from the presentation than I thought I would. It also helped me to know what the organization's expectations are for me.
Not to go into too much detail, but they highlighted the importance of approaching this mission as a partnership and not a charity. Too many people go into a poorer environment with the idea that they have the answer and can fix everything, everything being what they perceive as the problem. The module makes it clear that while we may have things to offer, this is only helpful if it meets the needs within the culture. Without an understanding of those we are going to serve, we can't best know their needs or help them in a way that is effective and long-lasting. On the flip side, these same people we serve also give to us. It's a mutual sharing.
After the module I figured I had taken from the program what I needed and was done. A week later a test was emailed to me and I spent another half hour or so filling out questions that felt more like a psychology professor's thesis research project than anything else. I rushed through it, reading the questions but not wanting to spend much time or energy on it. Within a day, results were emailed to me and I glanced through a 24 page packet with a lot of verbiage and not much meaning. Putting it aside, I didn't look at it again until last night when I listened in on a group discussion with other missionaries also scheduled to start in January.
Surprisingly, I scored high in all areas: those related to my ability to continuously learn about myself and others; those related to my ability to roll with the punches, accept change and overcome hardship...I even scored high in "Global Mindset" meaning I am open and interested in how others live in their cultures.
The only area I scored low in (and I mean pretty low: 2/6) was Relationship Interest. This area is tied into not only seeking but also maintaining friendships. It focuses on learning a new language in order to connect with new cultures.
Honestly, at first I was surprised because I am excited to make new friends and I have lots of friends (praise God!)...but I think my low score comes more from my lacsidaisical attitude toward maintaining friendships and also my very real fear that I won't be able to speak Spanish.
The report told me my tendencies typically are:
1. To spend time learning about other countries.
2. To develop relationships out of necessity beyond those offered by chance, and to maintain a core set of close friends.
3. To often think about going to places outside their own country.
Instead, someone who has a high relationship interest's goal should be:
1. To want to travel and meet local people when in foreign places.
2. To make an effort to learn a foreign language.
3. To be influenced by people more than things.
Guess I'll have to work on the shyness factor this year. And the whole fear of rejection thing that goes hand in hand with that. I know these are overcome-able and that I have overcome them on occasion in the past. Just the beginning of some self-growth I guess. Not that this trip is in anyway meant for that purpose but I doubt God would allow me such an amazing life-experience without a little bit, right? Only two months left to go!