Growing up in Haiti as a child, I heard my fair share of visitors from the United States shuffle off a plane and on to a platform and preach their hearts out about the good news of Jesus Christ. There is a limitation here, same as if you attended a friend’s family reunion and tried to counsel two of your friend’s feuding uncles and barter some peace between them. Jumping in like that, you’d have to make some broad assumptions and likely wouldn’t understand the context or complexities of the longstanding disagreement. Likewise, many visiting preachers I listened to growing up, while pure hearted and passionate, were offering answers to questions my Haitian friends simply weren’t asking.
Each Christian community is tempted to equate the Gospel with its own culture, and Christians from the USA are not exempt, myself included. While I don’t have all the answers, let alone the right questions, I am comforted to know that the Gospel is divine revelation, not human speculation. Since the Gospel belongs to no one culture, I am confident it can be adequately expressed in all cultures. While I find great joy and peace knowing that the guilt for my sin has been dealt with once and for all in the person and work of Christ and I no longer have to fear condemnation, these ideas don’t seem to even be on the radar of most of my friends here in rural Haiti, even the ones that profess Christ as Savior. Are those key components of the Gospel? Yes, I believe they are. I believe they should be on their radar and it fascinates and terrifies me that they are not. Then, I consider how my cultural presuppositions have likely shaped my understanding of the Gospel. I wonder if there are aspects of the Gospel and its power that are not on my radar and ought to be. I wonder whether some of the internal struggles I’ve experienced and the Gospel has resolved don’t register in the minds and hearts of some Haitians I know because the external pressures they feel from daily survival doesn’t allow the time and space to reflect internally.
One challenge of being a cross-cultural missionary is attempting to challenge some of the indigenous population’s cultural assumptions and put them through the strainer of Biblical truth. An even more challenging part of a cross-cultural missionary’s work is pressing one’s own cultural presuppositions through the filter of Scripture. Sometimes we assume our cultural presuppositions are as true as Scripture. It is very painful when we realize they are not.
Absolutely, I believe there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved except the name of Jesus. Absolutely, I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. But even that word sin, is understood very differently by myself and those I share life with in Haiti. Like I said earlier, I am just starting this journey. I don’t have many answers because I am still learning the questions. Most of my adult like will be spent learning the questions that my Haitians friends are truly asking, unlearning some of the answers I assumed were true, and mutually growing in our understanding of God, the perfection of His Son’s character, and the completeness of His Son’s work. It will likely be a bumpy ride, full of thrills and spills, highs and lows, gains and pains. It won’t be easy or pretty, but it will be important. It will be worth it.