After being in Saint Vincent for seven years, I’ve acclimated myself to the way of life here, and actually PREFER IT to living in the States.
But there is one way I cling to my American background…….
I work from an American view of time.
“American time” simply refers to being on time for pretty much everything. In fact, I usually go by the “if your not ten minutes early your late rule.” This is very different from “island time.”
Vincentians are not as time focused in their culture. This isn’t a bad thing because it helps them develop stronger relationships with one another (lots of time is spent with friends). However it can cause frustration for someone used to working on “American time.”
They even have a saying called “just now” usually used when telling someone when they will come (“I’m coming just now”). The first time someone said that to me here, I expected them to come almost immediately, but it was a few hours before they arrived! This really confused me till a friend explained “just now” did not mean immediately. It meant “I will come when I can.”
Usually this doesn’t really bother me too much, but I got kind of annoyed last week. A friend was supposed to come over for lunch so I could give him a meal, and we could study Scripture together. Around 11:00 I saw my friend, and asked if he was ready for lunch. He told me yes and I encouraged him to come as soon as possible. Sadly he come over an hour late, and didn’t have time to do a Bible study.
I was definitely not a happy camper!
It wasn’t till the next day I realized the problem was my Fault! I had approached someone working on “Island time” as if they were working by “American time.”
The better way to do things would have been to say “whenever you have some time, come by for some food and a Bible study.” This would be frustrating in a sense because I’d have to put my plans (and schedule) on hold for him, but embracing their way of doing things will strengthen my ministry.
One of the most dangerous things a missionary can do is try to fix a culture.
There will always be things that we believe America does so much better, and sometimes it may BE BETTER! But wise missionaries understand for every way America is better than the mission field, there are five or six ways it ISN’T BETTER!
And we understand the goal of missions isn’t to transform your culture…..but transform your hearts.