Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cultural Conflict

"One final question. Will Brother C. give half of his support to Pastor B. because he doesn't have any support?" This question was fired off angrily by the treasurer of the group.
"I couldn't begin to say. I can't speak for him, " Mike answered.
"Yes you can. You are his chief and you can force him to do so. It's only right."

At moments like this you suddenly realize that there is wide chasm in understanding. Two groups have completely different sets of ground rules, and communication as you know it is not going to happen.

The scene was a surprise meeting called between the board of Kausay and us to discuss 7 questions. Most of them had to do with Mike's assistant.

After Mike's heart attack, Believer's Bridge (the new name of our mission board, in case you missed that.) picked up a national missionary to be his assistant. When they had been in Peru the year before, they had met Cayo Cardenas and had been asked by Kausay to consider supporting him. They had prayerfully considered this and decided to put him on as a missionary of Believers Bridge. He has been a great help in getting things coordinated for Thompson Bible Conferences and translating materials into Quechua for the Institutes in the country. He is a hard worker, has a seminary degree, is a good teacher, and speaks Quechua.

What could be the problem?

The problem is that Kausay is a mixture of cultures, American, Spanish Peruvian, German, and Quechua Peruvian. And in the eyes of the Quechua Peruvians it was all wrong. It was wrong to pick one person out of the group--the whole group should have been supported. Since the time of the Inca Empire (and maybe before) their rule has been "share and share alike." Today that concept rules only in the native communities, the group that we are working with in the countryside here. In that society the individual has very little rights or importance--what is important is the community.

To make things more difficult, they didn't say this when the missionary was announced as hired. Instead they suggested a higher salary than they believed he should have, figuring that they would compel him to give up the rest, as is customary in the communities. They do not view this as dishonest.

As God would have it, Believers Bridge has not raised that much support for him, so he is receiving a few hundred dollars a month at the present. Still, this contingent thinks that he should give up half his salary. And if the situation were reversed, they would think that the other man should give up half of his.

Even though the "share and share alike" group is the minority, they are very vocal. This problem isn't going away. And clearly this is an attack of Satan just when everything is getting ready to really happen. We ourselves have been thrown into the "different and bad" phase of culture shock at the moment--and right when we don't need this distraction!

Please pray for a peaceful solution, or at least just peace, forgiveness, and a workaround for the problem. We know God has all power to stomp out the fires of cultural conflict. Pray for everyone to focus on the real work of ministry.