We've all seen it before, the person fulfilling a role that they aren't sure how to fulfill and completely unwilling or unable to ask for help. It's painful to watch.
In the dizzying speed of the world, it’s easy to pretend we know how to do everything. Depending on your culture, asking for help may appear weak or like you can’t "cope" with the job you’ve been given. We hear it a lot, “It’ll be fine!” “How hard can it be?” “Just fake it till you make it!”
While this mindset may be doable in a culture you are familiar with, it won't serve you in a culture you don't know. A good rule of thumb, when serving in a new culture, is never fake it till you make it.
So, if you aren't going to fake it till you make it, how do you operate well in a new culture? We're so glad you asked!
Step one, find a local.
If you are serving in a new culture, perhaps with a short-term missions team, this would be your contact or someone working with your contact. Ask for a cultural briefing and be willing to lay down your culture for the sake of the work they are doing. Remember, you are there for a set amount of time; they are there indefinitely. Everything you do while you are there should reflect positively on your ministry host. By laying down your culture and picking up the local one, you will honor the people of the country you are in and not leave "fires" for your contact to extinguish upon your departure.
Step two, build a relationship.
Without relationship, anything you do is just an empty shell. Take your host to coffee, offer to clean the toilets, humble yourself for the sake of the ministry. When a short-term ministry team takes the time to minister to the long-term missionaries the impact is astounding!
Step three, ask a lot of questions.
If you aren't sure about something, don't assume. You know what they say about assuming... It makes an ass of you and me. This is never truer than in a foreign country. Assumptions come across as arrogance, and, when serving, that's the last thing you want to be seen as. So, ask the question! Trust us, there will be someone there to answer.
All of these things come down to a matter of the heart. Take time to prepare with prayer, fasting, and wise counsel before you choose to serve in another country.
We hope these tips help you to be helpful, not harmful.