Issues of Culture and Stress

What are the aspects of your culture that you should embrace and which should you protest and redeem?

How about the culture you are about to enter? Should you embrace all things in this new culture?

Are there parts of this culture that are simply different, neither expressly good nor bad?

How do we interpret the practices of others? Are they normal, natural and good or abnormal, unnatural and bad?

These are just some of the questions we have been grappling with in the past few weeks at the mission preparation training we are participating in at Palmer Lake, Colorado. This is a program CRWM asked us to complete before leaving for Haiti.  Currently we are 2 weeks through this three week program.  The program is designed to help us develop the practical skills and attitudes that will successfully take us through the challenging and rewarding process of being interwoven with another culture.  We are spending time looking at the Spiritual, Personal, Lifestyle, Interpersonal, Cultural and Endurance (SPLICE) implications and aspects of moving from one culture to another. It has been good to spend time with a group of people who are all going through a similar time in their lives; preparing for ministry overseas.

Classroom Time

Our course instructors have been challenging us to think about our attitudes and assumptions as we enter a new culture.

The last few days we have been learning about conflict and stress and how to recognize in ourselves not only the types of things that cause us stress but also the symptoms that we individually exhibit.  Did you know that overseas workers typically experience 3 to 5 times more stress than the average inner city police office while on duty?  Crazy!

Earlier this week we participated in a simulation which helped to ‘bring home’ some of our discussions. The setting: we were at a training center in an undisclosed country when we learn that 150 rebels are about to storm the compound and we need to go into hiding.  Over the course of the next hour we were all crammed into a box where we remained for the duration of the exercise.  At first we had to first make decisions about which 5, then which 3 people would be rescued.  But before the few could be evacuated, the rebels discovered our hiding place and began hauling us out 2 at a time to be “executed”.  Special effects including smoke and the sounds of our colleagues being shot added to the experience.

The exercise was designed to help us look into ourselves and reflect on our feelings and reactions under stress but also opened the door more widely for us to consider what protocols and procedures we will need to put into place to help minimize our risks while in Haiti.

While we are enjoying the training and interactions with the other participants we are also glad the weekend is here giving us a chance to unwind and spend some family time together enjoying some of what Colorado has to offer.

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