Monday, November 25, 2013

Culture, Support Raising, and "Making Requests" - Texas vs. Indonesia

We are support raising. In the US. In the evangelical church. In Texas. In a mega-church.

We have discovered that we are working in a very distinctive culture. Although support-raising has been a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race type of thing for us, we really saw momentum build when a friend coached us on support-raising in this culture. Since then several others have admonished us in a similar vein. Here, you have to be direct. You must call and ask directly for meetings to present your ministry and ask for support. You must meet with a clear, concise, business-like presentation and a strong and very direct "ask" for funding. You must follow up and ask directly for what that person's decision on the funding subject is. When we don't do these things we are perceived as lazy or lacking in passion, because in this culture if you are passionate about your work, you will be pushy on the subject.

Whew. That has been very overwhelming for me. Even after having multiple situations drill in the need for us to interact in this manner, I still sit in a support-raising meeting and internally cringe through the "ask". I cannot get used to it. It feels so pushy, impersonal, and inappropriate.

This month we have been doing a Second Language Acquisition course. As a part of the course we interviewed an Indonesian speaker and did external research on a "Speech Act" and how it functions in Indonesian language and culture, and we chose the Speech Act of "making requests". It was so interesting. I don't have access to the submitted assignment at the moment or I would quote it directly, but it is in direct contrast to what we've been told to do to request funding in Texas. In Indonesia, a face-saving culture, once a request is made there is a high, high burden on the listener to say yes. Our interviewee speculated and 95% of the time, the answer given in a peer-to-peer request will be "yes", even if they don't actually want to say yes or even if they don't mean yes. They may say yes and then give a reason that actually redirects, or a reason or fabrication that eventually indicates "no". Because requests are such a significant burden on the listener, the Indonesian culture is far less likely to make a request than we are here in the US. They weigh heavily the obligation they are about to put on the person they are speaking to, and they are much more likely to ask indirectly or as a suggestion rather than as a direct request.

Hello. That is me. I vaguely knew these things about Indonesia and I have been saying that I grew up in a culture where the Texas direct-ask isn't appropriate, but submitting this assignment at the same time as being admonished by some Texans about our need to be more direct... well... it couldn't have been more directly and starkly contrasted. Culture is important. Even though we've been here six years, we still struggle to communicate within this culture, which IS a foreign culture to us. We will struggle to communicate in Indonesia too, I'm sure.

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