Recent Posts from the Mumena Team

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cultural Insights: Respect & Hospitality

Last post, I explained a very evil tradition: The Flying Coffin. This time, I will explain a wonderful cultural value: Showing Respect and Hospitality.

Some traditions show the very image of God shining in a people group. The way the Kaonde people show respect and hospitality to each other is amazing.

Respect is key to all relationships among the Kaonde. They always greet others with a warm greeting. Even strangers great each other with a quick acknowledgement. Failing to acknowledge somebody immediately causes that person to ask, "Why is he mad at me? What have I done to offend him?"

We missionaries often fail to show proper respect. In our culture, it is not very important anymore. We are too busy to greet every person we encounter throughout the day, even if we do know them. Unless we have something to say, we often don't say anything at all. Instead we quickly go to our office, our car, our private place, to do our own thing.

Living among the Kaonde community, I have learned how to sincerely greet and acknowledge others. Also, I have learned what real hospitality is like. Here if a visitor comes to the house, the household stops what they are doing. They say welcome (and mean it) and quickly get a seat for the guest. After he or she is seated, they then give all attention and start a conversation. It is even slightly offensive to ask, "Can I help you?" or "Do you need anything?" because it seems like the guest is unwanted or being rushed. Getting straight to business is equivalent to saying, "You are not important to me, I just want to know what you can offer me."

Obviously, we have made many mistakes while we live here. I have rushed by people without noticing they are there. Later, they have said to me, "Why didn't you greet me?" I apologize and tell them I am still learning how to give respect since we foreigners are not very good at that. They are very gracious and do not take it personally. When that happens, it is a quick reminder that I am not focusing on what is important.

God has made us a family of his children. The relationships we have are far more important than any busy-ness. Obviously, there are times to rush (like in a medical emergency). However, every day life is not supposed to go by in such a rush that we don't have time to show that we actually care about others around us.

Next time you go to work, school, or even in a restaurant, take time to say hi to those you encounter. This is a great lesson we westerners can learn from the "3rd world" who put priority on personal relationships. We may have most of the money, technology, and food, but if we forget to develop relationships, we are very poor indeed. It won't take much time to greet others warmly, but it will make a huge impact on our life.

I am thankful to learn some good life lessons from the Kaonde even as I try to teach them God's word.
- Rick Love

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