Barry Van Steenburg recently shared this wisdom on Facebook: “If you want to keep your favorite pocket-knife, don't forget that it's in your backpack.” 

We hear you, Barry. I’ve donated too many pocket-knives to the TSA in the past few years! I get so used to carrying it that I don’t think about it until it’s too late.

A friend of mine who serves with OM and travels frequently lost his pocket-knife a while back. Six months later, airport security found it for him hidden in the bottom of his backpack. So, he lost it again.

The moral of the story, of course, is to check your backpack (and pockets) when getting ready to travel to make sure you don’t accidentally take something with you that could cause you problems along the way or when you get there.

David Livermore, guru of cultural intelligence, confessed that when the pandemic hit he discovered that “I’m more American than I thought!”[1] In short, he explained that he realized anew that in times of crisis our hidden cultural values and biases get revealed – to us and to others. This, even though he’s made a career out of teaching others how to work effectively across cultures.

Lately I have become conscious of areas of cultural blindness that have remained hidden in my backpack for over three decades of cross-cultural ministry.

For example, I’ve become painfully aware that my understanding of sustainable ministry (the goal of phase 4) is shaped by individualistic values of independence and self-sufficiency. It has shaped how I have interacted with national church leaders and sought to coach and encourage their growth to maturity. I have been blind to alternative ways of assessing sustainability within a society which values interdependence and relational connections as the foundation of sustainability.

Barry and I know better. We’ve been taught. Yet we find ourselves slipping back into our comfortable patterns of life that are bound to cause us problems when they are discovered. We both need to remember to check our backpacks before heading out.

So check your backpack. What cultural values or biases are hidden there that you need to leave home?

[1] https://davidlivermore.com/2020/05/26/coronavirus-insight-im-more-american-than-i-thought/

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