Epaphras, a prisoner with me for Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you. And also Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, workers together with me, send greetings.
We read a book awhile back called Foreign to Familiar, Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold Climate Cultures, that was incredibly helpful in trying to understand just some of the cultural differences between Africa and America. The number one, albeit obvious, difference being we are a northern hemisphere culture and they are a southern. They are communal, we are individualistic. It’s a fascinating read because it’s incredibly true, worldwide, at least the countries we’ve had the good fortune to visit.
One of the things we experience here in Africa is that no matter where or what is going on, it’s going to involve a lot of people. If I walk up to someone on the street and ask directions, pretty soon there’s going to be about 10 people all around us, some listening, some staring at the mzungu, other’s giving their opinion of the best route for me to get where I’m going. If there’s a funeral, it doesn’t matter who you are, there’s going to be at least 100 people in attendance. If it’s Christmas, the ENTIRE family is going to be there no matter how far away you live or how broke you are. There’s a certain norm that’s not only expected, but practiced. My business is your business, because you are family and with it comes responsibilities, financial and emotional. There’s strength, there’s allegiance and loyalty, no matter what.
For us, we are individualistic. We call it respect…for each other and each other’s property. We call it responsibility. It’s my responsibility to care for myself and my family, not my extended family’s responsibility and certainly not my neighbors. Pride prevents us from telling anyone if we are broke and need help and it also inspires us to “stand on our own two feet,” and do something…anything to improve the situation. We are self-starters, we dream dreams and make them happen, we align ourselves to like-minded people and move in circles doing what we like and inviting others to join us, no matter who you are.
I can’t tell you for sure if it’s cultural or not, but one thing for sure I can tell you. Everywhere we go…Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, or Congo…ALWAYS the Believers tell us, “Please greet those people back at home and tell them we love them.” They feel close to you because in their minds, you are one of them. You are family and as such, not a stranger. You belong to the same tribe as they do and therefore, even though they have never met you, there’s a certain blood tie that no matter who you are or where you live or what you have done or haven’t done…you are one of them and they are one of you. So, from Africa to America, “the workers together with me, send greetings (and our love).”