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Beauty of Diversity

One of the things I love about the church plant is it's diversity. One of my passions in life is cultivating cultural diversity in organizations. I'm thinking seriously about doing a PhD in cross-cultural dynamics and helping facilitate greater understanding amongst different cultural groups. The church plant is going to provide some excellent experience.

We have just started a Portuguese ministry in the church. There is a large Brazilian population in Richmond and we even have a Brazilian church. However, a group of Brazilians have been a part of FWESDA for years and decided to really reach out to the community. They started a ESL class on Tuesday nights, have Bible Studies on Friday Nights, and now have begun having a sermon in Portuguese. Basically, we are all together in the service until after the children's story, then they split for their own sermon. It's been working pretty well so far and we'll have to see what the future holds. After church this last week, Shari and I ate with a large group of them and had a great time.

That evening, we went to a farewell party for a Filipino woman who is heading back to the Philippines. We enjoyed some pancit and then karaoke. The people literally had a whole room dedicated to Karaoke. It was a lot of fun.

So, I'm loving it all but also seeing the challenge. There is little interaction between the cultural groups outside of church. Everyone is friendly with each other and get along well but when it comes to socialization, the different cultural groups split and stick together. Yet, I'm finding that the common ground is the kids. They all get along well and enjoy Sabbath School together and really is the common bond uniting the groups. However, we must do more to get the adults together in more meaningful ways. Any suggestions?


j said…
What is pancit?
Mr. KIMP said…
Living in Thailand has helped to open my eyes to the same point that you make here. It has been really fun being part of a community of Canadians, Indians (India, not America), Bengalis, Thais, Australians, Filippinos, and even a person from Ghana. It adds a certain richness that we don't often get in predominantly white, middle-class, North American churches.

I'm also intrigued by your closing question concerning how to get adults together in meaningful ways. That's a great question for every congregation to ponder.

I'm helping to plan a potluck-style picnic for all the teachers and staff of my school as one small step in this direction. I'd also be interested to hear other ideas.
David Hamstra said…
People from different cultures are often willing to get together and enjoy one another's food, but the real cultural exchange only happens when another culture challenges your concept of what is normal and good. Then we are forced to admit that my culture doesn't have it all, and that I need to learn something from the other.

This happened to me when I worked with the youth of a Spanish church in Australia. I found out that clock time and Chilean time are two different things. There were many angry confrontations before I learned the value of not starting until everyone is present. I had to give up my western individualism and (for lack of a better word) clockism to learn about the importance of community.

In my mind, the only way for these cultural exchanges to take place is for the people to have a common goal to towards which they work together.
trevan said…
Pancit is a traditional Filipino dish that consists of rice noodles and vegetables. It's really good.
Selin Mariadhas said…
Why is it important for the adults to socialize together outside of church? I've found that although a lot can be learned through diversity, 90% of an immigrant's week (at least in my life and the life of other 1st generation Indians I know) is spent in a diverse environment. We're "forced" into diversity by the sheer fact that we now live in a country/culture different from our own (of course, we chose to move here, so we're not really forced). We can barely get enough time with people of our same culture to stay connected to our roots and pass the culture onto our children.

Of course, it's easy for the kids to integrate well... they grew up here and are part of American culture. Parents have a hard time passing down their culture to their children, which is why getting together with other people of their own culture is important. As adults, we go to a diverse workplace and come home and watch American TV and go to a diverse church... the only time we have with our culture is Sabbath afternoons and evenings.

I'm not saying don't try to get people together and make friends and learn from each other's culture... I'm just saying to be sensitive to our need to stay connected to our roots.

When a bunch of Tamil people are together, we get to talk in Tamil and make Tamil jokes and watch Tamil movies... all of which keeps the culture alive. If we have our non-Tamil friends there with us, we give that up for talking in English and telling American jokes and watching American movies, because even if our non-Tamil friends are not American, English is what binds us together. Again, just be sensitive to our needs and make sure you're clear about your objective (is it to help people learn about each other's culture or is it to get a diverse group of people together or is it something else... does the activity you're planning accomplish these goals)?
trevan said…

Point well taken. I have no problem with trying to keep culture alive and the need to stick together. However, in my situation I get the sense that a lot of the church members here actually do mostly work with their friends from church who are of the same culture. Many of the Brazilians work together in landscaping and contract work. Most of the Filipino women work in the same hospital together.

So, I hope that we can accomplish both goals of keeping culture alive while also learning to embrace each other in deeper ways.

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