|Patsy fits into a Quebec mural.|
My husband and I took a vacation to Quebec, a French-speaking Canadian province. It is the kind of place I mentioned in All Things to All Women "where people dress, act, look, think and eat differently than we do." Although I met briefly with missionaries there, I was not on a missions trip.
And yet, wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I try to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil, 1:27). This involves respecting the people around me and trying to remain neutral about practices that are not clearly sinful. I want to be in the world and not of the world. In case I was the only believer a non-Christian Canadian encountered that week, I wanted to stand out only for things that have eternal significance.
What was easy?
Certain cultural norms in Canada were not difficult adjustments, which echoed my ministry experience. In this case, I had mostly black clothes that were simple enough to help me blend in with the fashion-conscious French Canadians. In addition, my fascination with unique regional foods allowed me to enjoy authentic Québécois cuisine like wild game, sugar pie and Tim Horton maple donuts.
What was more challenging?
In both my ministry and Canadian experiences, I find that fitting into new locations requires a willingness to sacrifice. My rusty French was a problem in Canada. To help me improve, my husband thoughtfully got language CDs to listen to while we drove to Quebec. I was reluctant to practice in the car and even more reticent to use French in stores and hotels. Therefore, I was pretty much a French failure. On the other hand, my husband received a compliment on his fluency from a local resident.
Another difficult situation is dealing wisely with existing prejudices against heritage like North/South or city/country. I see that in churches. In Quebec, history museums and tour guides showed me that some French people resent the English. My ancestors were English. But, I suppressed the urge to ask, "Why?," because I didn't see the benefit in it.
Other faulty mindsets exist, as well. I saw some anti-Christian ideas depicted and expressed in deconstructionist and metaphysical art and attitudes in Canada. This is an example of an area where Christians should not try to fit in.
I was in Canada, but I wasn't of Canada. That meant that I could enter into the culture to a certain extent, but I couldn't call it my own. I saw a glimpse of that when we attended a Quebec vs. United States hockey game. I didn't feel disloyal by standing quietly for the Canadian national anthem, but the words were foreign to me. We were surrounded by people who seemed to live for hockey; we had a higher purpose. In a crowd of 20,000, my husband and I were in a minority who didn't cheer for Canada. Our eyes were on a better country.