4 Essentials to Living and Serving in a Different Culture

Talo Vergara began his full-time missionary service in Bolivia in February 2006. He is currently on loan to Movida, an organization focused on encouraging and empowering the youth of Latin America to serve the Lord in missions.  He is currently serving in Ecuador promoting and preparing for a conference scheduled to take place in 2016.

Talo4I am sitting in what has recently become my new office as two weeks ago I moved to live and work in a new country. Quito, Ecuador is my new home, and it is the fourth country I have lived in since God moved me from my own country of Uruguay in 1999.

Every time I move I experience a mixture of anxiety and excitement. I get anxious for the unknown and the uncertainties of living in a new culture, with new values, different in many ways from what I am used to. I get excited because every time I move from one place to another, God has confirmed my move; He has made certain to me the reason to go.

As I look back, I can see God’s incredible hand of provision and guidance in my life. I have lived in the U.S.A. from 1999-2005, in Bolivia from 2006-2011, and in Argentina from 2011-2013. In every circumstance, God has provided everything I needed. He has granted me excellent adventures everywhere I have gone. He has guided my path and granted me His grace to achieve the goals I had in each country. I have no greater joy than to be in the place God wants me to be and to fulfill the purpose God has for my life.

The keys to succesTalo1s when moving to a new country, experiencing various and weird things like foods, accents, values, types of weather, and animals has a lot to do with a few things: attitude, humility, passion and thankfulness.

Attitude might be the most important aspect when it comes to living in a new country. Almost every new experience that is foreign to us produces some type of natural rejection, and we tend to compare it to what we know and are comfortable with. Because humans have a tendency to reject change, our attitudes could quickly become negative towards what we are experiencing in the new country. The first lunch I had in Ecuador reminded me of this reality. They always eat soup prior to the main lunch and 95 percent of the time it has rice in it. However, the shocking thing to me was when they served me the soup that day, they put popcorn in it. Yeah! Popcorn in the soup! And the lady by me also put ketchup and mustard in it! After my initial and natural negative reaction, I thought, oh well, everything will be mixed inside me anyways, so I might as well try it. I did, and now I am another popcorn soup eater! I strongly believe that a positive attitude is essential to adjusting quickly to a new country and to be able to be accepted by the nationals in a much better way.

Humility is also very important since we, wherever we are from, are not better than anybody else, but have been wired differently. Higher education, better welfare or retirement plan, bigger bank accounts do not make us more knowledgeable than the nationals. In fact, we are the foreigners, we have the disadvantage because we don’t know the environment, we don’t know the culture, or the background…hence we should appreciate the reasons the nationals have for their way of thinking and acting. We should humbly learn from them and appreciate their ways. We come to a new country to learn from them and obviously work alongside and be a helper.

Talo3Passion for God is the gasoline that should run our hearts when we might grow tired of the changes, adjustments and maybe even loneliness and negative feelings that could arise at times. Passion is essential for a missionary to survive the hard times. Many times when I felt down in the United States as I would look out of my window to the cloudy, snowy, extremely long and cold winter of Michigan I kept reminding myself of the reason I was there. The passion to serve God, to share Him with others, and to teach the word of God kept me going towards the goal of graduation from Grace Bible College after five years.

Last but not least is to be thankful! I strongly believe that serving in a new country is an incredible privilege. We ought to be forever thankful for the unworthy opportunity to serve God, to share His Word, and teach others about our marvelous Lord. On top of that, we travel, we visit other countries, we experience many adventures and we learn many new things that enrich our lives.

Talo2Another wonderful experience that we ought to be thankful for is that of adopting new nations and new cultures and that enriches our lives, as we have to become less nationalistic and more heavenly citizens. I believe that when we live and serve in other countries with a positive attitude, the humility to learn from others, the passion to serve God and fulfill His calling for our lives and we are thankful for all the opportunities He has given us we will live an exciting life as we pursue God’s calling in the country He calls us to serve.

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