Most of you may not know this, but before I started Third Culture Thriving, I created a Rwanda-based brand called The Rwanda Influence that highlights new brands/restos/events/etc and curates resources for people living in or moving to the country. This was my creative and, honestly, missional outlet for a long time, and it helped me remember (and even talk about!) all of the wonderful things about my host country. It was a gift to be able to curate this brand, and continues to be a really special thing to me.
Part of the nature of running a brand like this is that I come in contact with a lot of “fresh arrivals”…people who are new to the continent, new to the field, new to Kigali, and all of the enthusiasm and naivetée they bring. When they experience something and call it “simplicity” or “contentment in all circumstances” and “eager to be in front of the camera” when I call it hardship and and disenfranchisement and oppression and putting on a happy face for the white person who might give them some money or food. Yep-do you hear me? Because I hear me. I am JADED.
You know the moments. When you feel like “they’ll learn”. Or they won’t be so happy about this when they have my experience. Or the “that’s cute” feeling you get when they do certain things or say certain things. Or when you’re sure you know the truth behind that situation, that statement, that photo. They don’t know yet.
These feelings inside us- they are rooted in the truth of our own experiences. But also- they aren’t helpful or Christlike. With the exception of behaviors that are damaging or disrespectful of the local culture and people, the way to handle this in practicality is usually to keep our mouths shut. Which just bottles up all of our jadedness inside of us.
So when we feel these (inevitable) feelings of jadedness, what do we do?
Remember when you first arrived? Think back to something embarrassing or just really naive you said, did, or POSTED during your first few months or years. I have one specific story I always keep in my back pocket when I start feeling righteous about culture, and I won’t tell it fully unless we are in person, but it definitely involves poop being somewhere it shouldn’t have been. Which, trust me, is infinitely more mortifying than thinking some street kids want to be friends when they (probably) just want to ogle at the white person and get some small change. Stay humble. You were once the newcomer, and others rolled their eyes at your ignorance.
Lord knows, you needed it when you arrived. Jetlagged? Total Newbies?
No amount of vision trip or pre-field training can give us a perfect landing experience. You almost definitely committed some faux-pas, or confidently pronounced a word completely incorrectly, or, well, did any number of things confidently and looked pretty silly. You have been forgiven so much, and likely spared the humiliation, or at least laughs in good spirits, that could’ve followed. Also don’t make me drag Jesus into this, okay? Remember the grace you’ve been shown in your weakest, most sinful moments and seek to extend that same no-questions-asked, all-encompassing grace to those we are questioning or annoyed with.
3 LET IT CHANGE YOU
Is it possible that maybe this situation / statement / post that we are eyeballing MIGHT be true? Or that we might be guilty of a pessimistic reading when it isn’t necessarily called for? I think, often when we find ourselves in the thick of our jadedness, we could use a dose of optimism and trust. How could your heart change? What do you need to pray through? Where do you obviously have some bitterness that you need to work through, towards these new people OR towards the people of your host culture? What do you need to bring to the feet of Christ and repent of? Friend, where does your mind need to be renewed?
4 HAVE A CHILDLIKE FAITH
SO much of the naivete of the new arrival can be redeemed by simply viewing it as having a childlike faith. If I’m honest, I wish I still had that mindset: it was trauma and really ugly situations that taught me I was wrong about the things I was so confident in when I arrived. It would be nice to go back sometimes, if I’m honest. It all seemed simple back then. Right?
And here, Christ commands us to have a childlike faith. To lean into the naivety and assume the good, the pure, the easy, and the preferred are the truth. Perhaps it would be good for us to consider how we could soften our hearts and blend our experience with this attitude of optimism and trust.
PRAY FOR THEM
Friends, get on your KNEES for these new folks. They are in such a hard, hard season. They will get broken. They will be homesick. They will have their naivety taken away by who knows what terrible situation. Pray God’s strength and peace over them. Pray for their safety. For the health of their minds and hearts, and if applicable, for their marriages and their families. Pray that Christ would be close to them when they feel lost and weak. That they would know him as the good Shepherd, who goes after them in the storm. Who loves them to the ends of the earth and wants good things for them, even in the most desolate of (literal and figurative) deserts.
Friends, it’s likely that the longer we are in country, the more frequently we have moments when we recognize our own jadedness. Let us be quick to bring those thoughts and feelings to Christ, and to sit with them until he reveals the truth behind them. What should be redeemed? What do we ned to repent of? Where do we need to seek forgiveness and growth? And how can we cultivate a more childlike faith in our lives in our host country?
I’m praying for you as you sort through all of this, friends. May Christ be close to you and illuminate the path forward, and remind you often of the grace you’ve been shown. May he give you ample opportunity to show that grace to others. And may we al work together to see the Kingdom come, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.