Crucial Conversations

Another Post from Gordon (pictured at left with Liberian leaders) as he reflects on one of the most important (and sensitive!) issues when working cross-culturally…

One of the things we decided before we left for Liberia was that anything we get involved with in Liberia needs to be Liberian-led.  So one of the questions we needed to answer is how do we use our “American thinking” in a positive way to help Liberian-led efforts.  We had heard that Liberians don’t think like Americans, that they don’t problem solve like us and are not good planners for the future.  A couple of interactions we had in Liberia made me question this.

The first was during a group conversation with some leaders from the church we have worked with most – Monrovia United Christian Church.  They asked us why America, or “Little Heaven” as they call it, is so successful.  A very insightful question that kind of caught me off guard.  This is where you have to fight off your American arrogance, the feeling that as Americans we are just smarter than everyone else.  Between the three of us I think we offered many things that add up to a pretty good answer.  Hard work, never say quit, searching for all solutions to a problem, visionary leaders, a system that rewards success are all a part of who we are as Americans.  I think the question is a great one from church leaders in a country just 6 years after the end of a civil war.  They are looking forward to rebuilding themselves and their country in a positive way.

The second interaction was with a young man named James Moore.  James is the point person for the LACES program in Liberia.  Some or you may remember Seren Frost who came to Suncrest last year to discuss this program.  She loves soccer (“football” in Liberia…and the rest of the world!) and the people of Liberia.  She saw the Liberian kids love for soccer and decided to start a program to use soccer to introduce the kids to positive influences in their lives and ultimately to Jesus.  James is her leader in Liberia.  I told James that I had heard that Liberians are not good planners.  His answer was instant and said with conviction,  “Liberians are very good planners, we struggle in implementation.”  I followed up with the question, “Why do you struggle in implementation?”  This time James paused for a few seconds and then came back with a one word answer “Corruption”.    James is just one of the many strong, intelligent, driven, forward thinking people we met in Liberia.  Hopefully, a generation who will change the corrupt ways of the past.

If we work with James, the leaders of MUCC,  and people like them we will be able to mesh our American thinking into Liberian culture in a very positive way.

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~ by Greg Lee on September 4, 2010.

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