Posted by: janpierce | October 9, 2008

What’s the Difference?

Our friend from Delhi, Rodrick Gilbert, just spent a week with us. He is a remarkable man in part because he is able to cross cultural lines with (seemingly) very little effort. I have visited the place in north India where he grew up. His father was an auto mechanic and he and his family of six children grew up in something like an open garage in conditions that we would think unbearable. He is now well-educated and is a successful church planter, but he still knows how to live with next to nothing. Though he is comfortable with American lifestyle, he doesn’t strive to gain all the things we have. He understands that while many Americans have much in the way of material wealth, they are “bankrupt” without God. He is gentle in accepting us as we are.

By contrast, it is very difficult for me to make the adjustments back and forth between cultures. I keep experiencing the shock of witnessing a world totally different from the one I knew. And to think that their poverty is more the norm than my comfortable American lifestyle exposes the fact that my world view has been so tiny and so incomplete. Traveling back and forth between cultures makes the differences stand out even more. Once again I see the deplorable housing conditions,  the unbelievable health conditions, the broken infrastructure, etc. The longer I am there the more normal it all seems. Then, bam! I’m back in the states and can’t believe that I spent $20 or $30 for one meal when that amount of money could feed a family in India for a month.

What is God saying to me in these back and forth circumstances? What does it mean to be a good steward day by day no matter where I find myself? The key is in being singleminded about serving God wherever I am. I’ll be useless if I spend all my time berating myself for living in a rich culture. I’ll be useless also if I don’t know that there are millions hungry and in need. So now that I do know, I have the responsibility to live increasingly in response to the needs. True religion is to feed the widows and orphans, yet the poor will always be with us. I won’t solve the world’s problems, but I can be Jesus to those He points me to. I think the reason Rodrick moves between cultures with ease is that he absolutely knows his mission and his purpose in life. It takes a certain kind of serene courage to keep moving forward and not to get bogged down in “culture crevasses.”

As we prepare for our next trip to India, God is faithfully showing us people we need to connect with and new directions our ministry needs to take. I want to grow in being content in every circumstance whether here or there, rich or poor.



  1. Great questions and reflections…I think this is an issue I deal with as well. Guilt over my nationality or my material possessions isn’t helpful. And even though I married a Latin from a relatively poor background, we’ll never be on the same level as other Latin missionaries…and yet we’re not really American either. I think you are right about the key being to serve God on a daily basis and so fulfill His purposes for my life in that way…

  2. WOTH and Coffeegirl give those who find themselves “in between” and “neither” a place to share their experiences with others who understand. God bless you as you serve Him. Jan

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