This week’s blog entries are by guest blogger, Jean-Luc Krieg, whom I met during my time in Mexico City earlier this summer. After you read this entry, see the reflection question I’ve put at the end to help us process the ideas and their implications for our own ministries.
In July 1973 I was born as a blue-eyed and blond-haired foreigner in a Baptist Missions Hospital in the high north of Cote d’Ivoire, West-Africa, delivered by an Anglo-American mission doctor and first held and washed by an Ivorian nurse. My own story is just a small piece in the global mosaic of my generation.
Quite unaware of the enormous socio-historical changes that were sweeping throughout the African continent, I grew up assuming that the world had begun just shortly before me. Only slowly did I begin to realize that there had been generations before me, and that many historical, political and spiritual circumstances had led to me being born in Cote d’Ivoire, the second child of a Swiss and a German, who had transplanted there two years earlier to engage in the work of theological education and strengthening local churches.
During my first years of life, my sisters and I were often the only white-skinned children in our town. I realized that we were somehow different, yet it didn’t bother me much, because in my extensive play with my friends, who were all black-skinned, that distinction didn’t matter.
Notwithstanding, due to our family’s greater economic flexibility compared to most of my friends, I sensed that we were “privileged” in some ways that most of them weren’t. We had a car, and traveled to far places, while most of them didn’t. Yet since we lived rather simply, I remember that I was horrified one time, when we visited an Anglo-American Baptist missionary family, whose house was luxuriously decorated with what I regarded as expensive furniture, rugs, and silverware. I later discussed with my parents and sisters how inappropriate I thought they lived in comparison to the people they ministered to.
Growing up in this international atmosphere most definitely left its mark on my life and identity. I was not just Swiss or German or Ivorian, but belonged to a greater international or multicultural unit. Indeed, two and more worlds lived in me. I had Swiss and German passports, but at heart didn’t feel just Swiss or just German. Neither was I just Ivorian, but knew that I had traits of Ivorian-ness in me. Only later would I come to know that sociologists called me a Third Culture Kid (TCK) or Third Culture Person (TCP) respectively. That is a person “who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years in a culture other than that of his parents, resulting in the integration [fusion] of elements from both the host culture and parental culture into a third culture.
Throughout this week on Bob’s blog here, I’ll be sharing some of my experiences of living and serving within a church that is truly struggling to come to terms with its inherently pluralistic faith; a faith that teaches that we can only be whole by welcoming and embracing “the other”, and making room in ourselves for those who are different, since we are created to reflect the triune God – the ultimate expression of community as it ought to be. A faith that holds that our common identities as Christians must be deeper than our class-, caste- or ethnic identities, since as Christians we are ultimately aliens and exiles (1 Peter 2:11), called to transcend if not make whole, the oftentimes biased cultural traits we carry; that foremost, we’re citizens of the in-breaking empire of God.
How has your cultural upbringing impacted your faith and the way you minister to others? How has it shaped your self-identity; have you allowed your faith to reshape your identity?