Poverty is more than Material Poverty

poverty-is-more-than-material-povertyAnother definition that is crucial to our mission is about poverty. Poverty is more than material poverty. God intended humans to have healthy and active relationships with Him, ourselves, others, and the rest of creation. Unfortunately when the fall happened in the garden of Eden, all four of these foundational relationships were broken. This is the root of poverty. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in When Helping Hurts explain,

“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.”

This implies that every human on the planet experiences some form of poverty (broken relationships). Material poverty is just one manifestation of the broken relationships that people experience in a fallen world.

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Rebuild the Ancient Ruins

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As For the Love of Missions explored our future, we took the time to reflect on our beliefs, defining some of the key terms we use. Generational Cycles of Poverty are the false thinking, destructive patterns of behavior, and damaging societal influences that keep generations of families trapped in similar situations. Generational cycles of poverty are often specific to a family line but also can be reinforced by the culture. 

Isaiah 61:1-4 is the foundational scripture of For the Love of Missions. In it you can see the vision of transformed generational cycles of poverty. The beautiful picture of transformed cycles of poverty is that those who were brokenhearted, captive, in mourning, and in despair are healed by Jesus so that they can rebuild the ancient ruins and renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

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A New Path with the Same Mission

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Over the last year, For the Love of Missions has been steadily working to a new strategy in Guatemala. God made it clear we no longer were to operate the jewelry business, and He took us into a time of refining. Throughout the process, For the Love of Missions remained committed to our mission of Transforming Generational Cycles of Poverty to Ignite Hope and Value in the name of Jesus. Thank you for your patience as God worked in us. In the coming weeks, we will share our journey and the new projects God has led us to in community and economic development in Guatemala. We are excited to have you join us.

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Cross-Cultural Engagement: Flexible vs. Linear view of Time

Flexible vs. Linear View of Time

According to GlobeSmart, “Guatemalans have a flexible view of time; relationships may be prioritized over schedules and deadlines. For example, it may be considered rude to cut short a meeting or conversation even if it means being late to the next appointment.”[1] Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (2012) in When Helping Hurts furthers this view of time by describing time as viewed as “a somewhat unlimited resource. There is always more time…Tasks typically take a backseat to forming and deepening relationships.”[2] This flexible view of time confirms the importance placed on relationships in collectivist cultures. While it can be a source of frustration for those who operate in a linear view of time, it should serve as an early warning sign that the core values of the culture are different. On the other hand, the United States views time very differently, and many see time usage as an opportunity for efficiency. Corbett and Fikkert (2012) write that time is seen as “a limited and valuable resource. Time can be lost or saved. Good stewardship of time means getting the most out of every minute.”[3] It is important to note this difference, as there can be underlying assumptions of work ethic and efficiency applied to either culture based on their view of time, when in actuality the view of time is indicative of a culture’s view of relationships and the value of community rather than their work standards. Working across differing views of time requires flexibility and fluidity of schedule and task list in favor of deepening relationships.

[1] GlobeSmart. http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Core Values and Implications for Business.”

[2] Corbett, Steve and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012, 153.

[3] Corbett and Fikkert. When Helping Hurts, 152-153.

Cross- Cultural Engagement: Indirect vs Direct Communication

Direct vs. Indirect Communication

In high context culture, great care is taken to communicate with attention to feelings so communication can be indirect or implicit. In a low context culture, communication is more concerned with ensuring information is completely exchanged, with less value placed on feelings. Plueddemann (2009) addresses this connection and applies it to the foundational value placed on relationships. High-context cultures, like Guatemala, place a premium on harmonious relationships. The group is more valued than the individual, and cooperation is preferred over competition. Quality time is treasured more than accomplishing a quantitative task. Change is often resisted. On the other hand, people in low-context cultures, like the United States, tend to think in concepts, principles, abstractions and theories. Their thinking transcends the present situation and is not embedded in the immediate context. Communication is not subtle, but direct. It is mostly verbal or written. Accomplishing precise goals is more important than building relationships.[1]

The direct communication of the United States is described by GlobeSmart, “People in the U.S. generally believe that being concise, precise, and to the point are signs of being a good communicator. They generally prefer to come to the main point quickly and do not talk around a subject.”[2] People from the United States are comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives and expect others to do the same. The Guatemalan culture’s value of relationships contributes to an indirect style of communication. This indirect style of communication is described by GlobeSmart as “one that is slow and circular and does not cause people to ‘lose face’.”[3] Guatemalans believe it is important in dealing with issues in a way that does not publicly embarrass or bring shame on anyone. For this reason, Guatemalans may avoid saying no to protect the relationship and save face for those involved. In fact, they may actually give a maybe or affirmative answer, when the answer truly is no. The implications of both context and communication styles in cross-cultural interaction call for awareness in all communications of the manner and words being expressed and calls for the use of indirect questions where feedback is needed.

[1] Plueddeman. Leading Across Cultures, kindle 732-735.

[2] GlobeSmart. . http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Communication Styles”

[3] GlobeSmart. http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Communication Styles”

[4] Elmer. Cross-Cultural Conflict, 67

Cross- Cultural Engagement: High Context vs. Low Context Communication

High vs. Low Context

Context, while a crucial building block of every culture, is an aspect of culture and communication that is below the surface so much so that those in the culture may not be consciously aware of the subtleties at work. James Plueddemann (2009) in Leading Across Cultures, states “probably the most fundamental difference between people and cultures is the degree of sensitivity to what is happening around them- their context. Some cultures encourage people to tune in closely to innuendoes of meaning occurring all around them… Other cultures predispose people to be divorced from their physical context.”[1] Guatemala is a high context culture, and the United States is a low context culture. GlobeSmart provides an explanation of contrast, Guatemalans communicate with an assumption of shared understanding amongst those in the culture and the United States communicates with a low context, because of the lack of shared understanding that results from the diverse, changing, and geographically mobile population.[2] Context is directly tied to whether a culture used a direct or indirect communication style and if not recognized can lead to cross-cultural misunderstandings.

[1] Plueddemann. Leading Across Cultures: Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church. Madison, WI: IVP Academic, 2009, kindle 716-718.

[2] GlobeSmart, http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Communication Styles”

Cross-Cultural Engagement: High vs. Low Power Distance in Leadership

 

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In every society, certain people have more power, status or influence than others, and each society creates its own cultural values to deal with this issue of power distance. Plueddemann describes power distance, “in high-power distance cultures both leaders and followers assume that the leader has more authority, respect and status symbols. The leader has the right to make unilateral decisions that will be obeyed without question… Leaders in low-power-distance cultures prefer a consultative participative or democratic decision-making style. Power is delegated to team members or to subcommittees.”[1]

The United State is a low-power distance culture. In addition to the widespread belief in the United States that every person should be treated with the same level of respect regardless of race, gender, economic class, and education, according to GlobeSmart, “U.S. Americans typically have a deep-seated distrust of hierarchy.”[2]

While Guatemala is a high-power distance culture, and there is an established and accepted hierarchy to the social structure. GlobeSmart describes the hierarchy in Guatemala as one in which “there is great respect for age, experience, rank and status. Decisions tend to come from the top down. The traditional leadership style in both families and business has been autocratic.”[3] Latino leadership, as discussed earlier, validates the acceptance of a high power distance. Leaders have proven their character, their commitment to the community through results and relationships which indicates they can be trusted in the high power distance role.

North Americans need to be aware of the very different status of leadership in each culture. If care is not taken, damage can be done to the existing community leader and the long term relationship.

[1] Plueddemann. Leading Across Cultures, kindle 910-915.

[2] GlobeSmart. http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Core Values and Implications for Business”

[3] GlobeSmart. http://www.aperianglobal.com/web/globesmart/, “Core Values and Implications for Business”

 

Cross Cultural Engagement: Leadership in Latino Cultures

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As a result of the value placed on relationships, leadership develops differently in collectivist cultures compared to individualist cultures. In Latino cultures, building trust and growing in leadership happens over a long period of time. Leaders must prove themselves, by their words matching their actions. Contrary to individualistic cultures like the United States where leadership can be based on a catchy idea or charismatic delivery, leadership in Latino cultures is built on “personalismo”, “conciencia”, and “destino”.

Juana Bordas explains that respect is given to a Latino leader because of personalismo, which is based on “his character, the manner in which he lives, how he treats others, and the contribution he makes to the family and community. A leader’s credibility depends on having a reputation that he cares about others and treats everyone equally.”[1] Personalismo is something that is built over time through relationships and results.

While conciencia can be defined as consciousness or self-awareness, it is more than an understanding of self. “For Latinos, it includes integrating one’s cultural identity and knowing one’s roots and family heritage.”[2] The community is at the core of who you are. The individual is defined by his relationships with others.

Finally, destino is one’s life journey, his purpose or special calling, which is embraced and provides a clearer sense of direction. The concept of destino shows one of the foundational differences between individualist and collectivist cultures as each has a very different answer to the question, “how much control do I have over my life?” Bordas explains the difference, “The independent focus says, to a very great extent, I control my life, chose my experiences, and shape my destiny. I am the captain of my ship. Self-identity, self-determination, and self-interest are keystones in I cultures. Individuals believe freedom and personal choice forge one’s destiny or future…On the other hand, people from collectivist We cultures believe some things happen to them and accept that a life power and external influences affect their lives…. Latinos see life as an interchange between individual efforts and the experiences, gifts, surprises, and lessons it brings. I may be the captain of my own ship – but the sea of life determines much of my course.”[3]

Again, neither way is right or wrong, but it is important to understand leadership develops differently in different cultures.

 

[1] Bordas. Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 969.

[2] Bordas, Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 1093.

[3] Bordas, Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 1261-1273.

Cross- Cultural Engagement: Collectivist or Individualistic

me vs weIf you travel to another country, you quickly notice things that are different. Often I hear people say the differences are weird or strange, but really the differences are cultural. Culture is not right or wrong it is just different. We are born into a culture and raised to not recognize the influence it has on us and we take that understanding into all that we do. When we interact with others from our own culture, usually things go smoothly. However, when we interact with people in another culture, those cultural differences really stand out. For the Love of Missions is focused on Guatemala and there are a number of cultural differences that must be accepted (not changed) as we interact.

The first and foundational difference between the United States and Guatemala is the value placed on relationships. Duane Elmer (1993) highlights this distinction in his book Cross-Cultural Conflict, “the majority of people in the world value relationships above most other values. So building relationships of trust takes top priority. Nothing of significance is likely to happen if there is little trust.”[1] Guatemala is a collectivist culture or a We culture built on relationships. It can be difficult to understand the depth of what and how it creates a foundational way of living. Juana Bordas (2013) in The Power of Latino Leadership explains, “We cultures have been on earth for a very long time. Tightly woven, stable and integrated. We cultures center on group welfare, interdependency, and cooperation… individual identity flows from the collective. People work for group success before personal gain or credit.”[2] This collective mindset is contrary to that of individualist cultures, like the United States which is built on the values of competition and rugged individualism.[3]

This difference between “We” and “Me” is an easy difference to acknowledge, but much more complicated to understand in application. At the very core of a person’s being, how they were raised, what their culture reinforced, how people acted around them has created an identification with either a collectivist culture, like Guatemala, or an individualist culture, like the United States. Bordas (2012) lists several characteristics of We cultures, that are helpful in coming to understand the key differences: We cultures have a strong sense of belonging; We cultures share everything; We cultures work together so everyone benefits; We cultures center on people; We cultures are inclusive; We cultures put benefitting the whole before the individual; in We cultures the I exists only in relationships to others, not as a separate entity.[4]

We could debate right or wrong and positive or negative, but I think awareness is actually more helpful. The foundation of collectivist or individualist culture affects all aspects of a society including: leadership, time, and communication style. If we walk into cross-cultural interactions without knowledge of these differences, we very likely will find ourselves in conflicts that we don’t understand. In the coming weeks, I will share more about each of these key points of needed awareness.

[1] Elmer, Duane. Cross-Cultural Conflict: Building Relationships for Effective Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993, 178-179.

[2] Bordas, Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership: Culture, Inclusion, and Contribution. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2013, kindle 1514.

[3] Bordas, Juana. Salsa, Soul and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Ages. San Franciso, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2012, 23.

[4] Bordas. Salsa, Soul and Spirit, 46-48.

A Turning Point for Guatemala?

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On Thursday September 3, 2015,  the president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, resigned from office in the midst of fraud and corruption allegations. His vice president, Roxanna Baldetti, resigned from office in May and is currently in jail for her involvement in the scandal. They have been accused of fraud and receiving millions of dollars in bribe money.

Unfortunately, corruption at the highest levels of government in Guatemala is not rare. What is unique right now is the widespread peaceful protests that demonstrated to the country and the world that there are a growing number of Guatemalans who desire justice and are willing to fight for it. There is an awakening among young Guatemalans to be involved in the process. Through social media, they organized for a cause greater than themselves and have seen the results they desired with the president’s resignation.

In addition to the historic event of a presidential resignation, the national election is Sunday, September 6. Even though there are 17 candidates running for president, I have often heard that there are no good choices. Whoever is elected is entering into a new political environment in Guatemala. In the past, due to the 4 year term limit of the Guatemalan president, often he would take advantage of that time to “steal” as much as he can. However, with the new energy and attention that has awakened, it is not likely the new president will be able to get away with much.

For the Love of Missions has seen there is a lack of trust in authority, especially for those living in marginalized situations like the garbage dump. There is skepticism toward those who are supposed to be helping but so often are just looking out for themselves. And who can blame them! It really is no wonder we, as an organization, encounter so many challenges rooted in this lack of trust. Maybe, just maybe, this is a turning point for Guatemala. I join so many in praying for this election and new awareness to bring hope and healing.