August 20, 2017

Ministry in Kyiv

The heart of the internship is learning to minister Godís grace to people of another culture and language. Cross-cultural ministry skills take years to develop and there is no single ďrightĒ way to bridge the cultural and linguistic barrier. Though an intern does not have the same responsibilities as a career cross-cultural minister, here are a few tips that we hope will make your work in Kyiv God-honoring.

— Ukraine is a developing nation and most people are quite poor, especially compared to middle class Americans. Many people can afford to eat meat only once or twice a month. Never forget this massive economic gap. Even buying a McDonalds value meal (about $3) would be a luxury to many. Donít assume the students you minister to and with can afford the same pleasures you do (like riding a taxi van which costs $0.30 as opposed to the metro which costs only $0.10). You will have to struggle with how to share your wealth (even though you donít consider yourself wealthy) while at the same time respecting their human dignity. Because of the sometimes latent poverty in Ukraine, you may see numerous beggars, especially old women and severely handicapped people. You may also see people digging through garbage. Itís important to prepare yourself for how you will respond emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

— Most interns will spend almost all their time with English-speaking persons. Even though many can speak well, not everyone can. Learn how to speak English so that people can understand you better. Speak distinctly and express words clearly. Spending a summer on a Letís Start Talking mission can help with this skill or volunteer to tutor an immigrant learning English. Avoid American expressions and cultural references that have little meaning here (e.g. American football, baseball, many US TV shows, some movies, Southern culture, American politics). Instead, find out what they know aboutómovies, music, sports, etc.óand learn about it so that you can engage in meaningful conversation. Also, Ukrainians are generally apolitical. Not only are they bored by US politics, Ukraineís own political climate is bogged down in corruption and ďhopelessĒ in the attitude most take.

— Ukrainians are generally not as loud as North Americans, stand much closer to one another in personal conversations, and value personal relationships much more than rules or contracts. In other words, just because you have a degree or were someone special in America doesnít count for much here. What matters here is how you treat people and show personal concern. If you visit for a short time and say that you will email someone, Ukrainians wait for that email and expect that you will continue that relationship. It comes quite as a shock when many Americans donít follow-up on their offers to correspond.

— Ukrainians are generally much more direct than Americans. Americans tend to circle around a difficult issue before getting to the difficult part. Ukrainians usually start with the problem. This straightforwardness is sometimes hard for Americans to handle; Americansí circling is frustrating to Ukrainians.

— When you greet someone, men almost always shake hands (never with a glove on) with all the other men present though a man should only shake hands with a woman if she offers first. Once you have said hello to someone on a single day, itís not necessary to say hi or hello when you see them again. Older people should always be greeted with the formal Russian greeting, never the familiar. If you visit a home, always take flowers and/or chocolates on your first visit. Always buy an odd number of flowers. Remove your shoes when entering a home. The host will provide house slippers you should wear. If you are eating a meal, always eat a little of what you are offered. If you donít like it, just donít clean your plate. Birthday parties or other special occasions usually involve several hours of eating so donít eat a lot at the beginning. By following these cultural norms, we honor the host culture and bring honor to God.

— When studying the Bible with someone, donít assume they know how to find verses in the Bible. Show them the table of contents and how the system works. Most Russian translations have a different book order in both the Old and the New Testament. The Psalms are also numbered differently. The most common Russian translationóthe Synodal version is almost 200 years old. People who have never read the Bible before in Russian may find it difficult to read. More modern New Testament translations are available but they are more expensive. Ask your ministry partner about how to acquire them. For more info, visit this link.

— Ukrainians in general know very little about the Bible. They are also quite suspicious of Protestants and consider us to be ďsects.Ē We must earn their respect and trust in order for them to hear the good news. Thus, most people do not become Christians very quickly. It usually takes 1 year or longer for a person to decide to be baptized. Quick decisions often donít last. Donít ever pressure anyone to believe or to be baptized. They later may resent this pressuring.

— Typically, Ukrainians are very secretive about dating and courtship. Unlike Americans, Ukrainians donít normally joke about dating relationships in any way. They take them quite seriously and donít appreciate other people discussing what they consider their very private affairs.

— One of the major but very subtle cultural differences between Ukrainians and North Americans is group vs. individual orientation. Americans mostly value their individualism. Every family member has their own car, often even their own bathroom. If an American needs or wants something, the normal response is to simply buy it. Ukrainians do not, however, for various reasons, think this way. Usually, one thinks ďCan I borrow that?Ē Ukrainians typically share their food or any other resources they have with their immediate family and circle of close friends. If a crowd is leaving to go somewhere, usually the group waits on everyone to get ready so the group can go together. Striking out alone is seen as something unusual. One telling sign of this group orientation is that in America, tables and chairs are most often bolted to the floor in fast food restaurants. In Ukraine, though, chairs are free to be moved to other tables so that a group can gather round the table. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, the need to have the group together is more important than the needs of the individuals. Groups are simply much more important than the individual.

— Birthdaysóno matter how old you are - are very important in Ukraine. Itís very important to congratulate your friends on their birthday. Often parties are held that last for many hours with games, food, and other fun. As an American, itís also important to let Ukrainians celebrate your birthday. By inviting someone to your birthday, you take an important step in building a relationship.

For more analysis of ministry and mission in the Slavic world, we encourage you to visit the website of the East-West Report http://www.samford.edu/groups/global/ewcmreport/.

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Web www.ueckyiv.org