Greg has been reading “Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience,” heavily recommended to us as missionary recruits to France. It’s something that I need to sit down and read as well. It covers topics like conversation, families, friendships and even telephone calls. Whether we want to admit it or not, the French are very different than Americans and not just in the language that we speak. There will be many cultural gaffes (though hopefully none detrimental) in our future as well as language problems. It's crucial for us to both accept this as a reality and be sensitive to the people around us. We've noticed that the French tend to be gracious and patient when we are courteous and polite guests.
The stereotype is that French people are rude; the French are, in fact, more reserved than Americans and generally don’t greet strangers on the street. (They in turn find Americans to be loud, nosey and weird.) They are slow to form new friendships because friendship for them is a serious investment in another person. They generally do not come to new churches in droves because first they must determine if it’s worth it, if it will provide something lasting, if it is more than a fad. The French must see the value in something before they will embrace it. If we stopped at that initial stereotype, we would never see the reality behind it. Part of forming relationships is setting aside prejudice and stereotypes and honestly getting to know an individual. We are called to love people, but it might be difficult to love someone who we've made negative assumptions about. We are called to make disciples, but that means we must earn the respect of our listeners. So much of ministry hinges on both our personal walk with God AND our attitude. It’s the old adage of “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Greg and I are excited to go work alongside the French people. The people we met last year who are leading ministries there are doing amazing things and their enthusiasm is contagious. Knowing that they want us to come work with them is even more motivation for us to go for it!
We are currently in the process of raising support and have quite a way to go. If you are interested in knowing more about our goals or how you can help, please email us at email@example.com. We would love to talk to you, your church, your friends and anyone who might be curious about what we’re doing! Our goal is to start school there in September. Can you help us get there?