God's Word for today

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Cultural differences (1)

I'm surprised that this is my first post about some of the cultural differences that I have discovered during my (admittedly short) ministry journey this far. However, I've numbered this one as I have no doubt that this will not be my last word on this subject.

Last week I started baptism orientation classes with a number of my congregants, and one of the ladies had her baby with her. No problem with this - I am after all a father myself, and this tot was a really cute and lively young chap. Anyway, the child was quite happy to amuse himself quietly, and as I was continuing with the class, I barely noticed that he had become a little niggly and Mom had slipped back about three rows.

But I soon discovered, to some alarm, just WHY this little chap was becoming a bit discontented. No, Neville, it WASN'T because of my droning voice - it was because Junior was hungry. And it was just the most natural thing for Mom to undo her blouse and pop out the breast so the little one could have a drink from Milky Lane.

I have to confess that it took a stoic effort on my part not to stare and to appear nonchalant as I continued with the class. It's just not the kind of thing I'm accustomed to. I'm not for one minute saying that it was wrong, and the lady did after all move to the back of the class and try to be discreet. It's just, well, different - by my own experience, that is.

As I was leaving the class (by this time Mom had "packed up", thank God), I also noticed that a number of the young men walking around the area did not have shirts on. (the girls were, thankfully, covered). Once again, nothing inherently wrong with this, and Uitenhage IS after all an unbelievably hot place in February, but in my own culture we only bare our upper bodies at the beach (and even then, I tend to keep my T-shirt on, although that has more to do with me being out of shape than any cultural propriety on my part).

Neither of these two episodes were in any way indecent - at least, I don't believe that they were intended to be - it's just me as a square peg trying desperately hard to fit myself into a round hole.

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