by Duane Elmer
The twenty-first century has changed missions and ministry forever. We now live and minister in a global community, often through multiethnic teams. In such a multinational, interconnected world, relationships become central because they ultimately determine results.
InterVarsity Press, P. O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2002, 215 pages, $15.00.
—Reviewed by Tom Steffen, professor of InterCultural Studies and director of the D.Miss. program at the School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University, La Mirada, Calif.
The twenty-first century has changed missions and ministry forever. We now live and minister in a global community, often through multiethnic teams. In such a multinational, interconnected world, relationships become central because they ultimately determine results. Duane Elmer’s Cross-Cultural Connections is designed as an aid to help cross-cultural workers make genuine relationships with people of different cultures. Written for short- and long-termers working in the religious or secular fields at home and abroad, such as missionaries, educators, business people, medical workers, relief and development personnel and travelers, Elmer provides practical “concepts, principles and skills” that can help build authentic, cross-cultural connections.
Structurally, the book is laid out in five sections: Getting a Perspective, Dealing with the New and Different, Attitudes and Skills for Cultural Adjustment, Cultural Differences that Confuse and Returning Home. Each of the twenty-one chapters concludes with discussion questions, seven of which also include a section for reflection. Numerous graphics and tables help the reader grasp the text. The single appendix is intended to debrief a longer-term cross-cultural experience. Three pages of endnotes follow, providing the reader with other key sources for further research. He concludes with a Selected Bibliography.
When asked to review this book I wondered if any new ground or format would be covered or used, since so many books adequately address this topic. I found the necessary foundational basics of intercultural communications included, along with borrowed ideas from Lingenfelter, Mayers, Hiebert and others. So what is new, that enables us to build genuine relationships in a twenty-first century global community? I found the basics and the borrowed given fresh and constructive spins. The reentry chapter and appendix will help take the cross-cultural worker full circle.
Elmer’s desire to help people on the home front, as well as abroad, demonstrates what many have yet to grasp—missions is everywhere. He is well attuned to the global nature of the world, and the implications of building relationships in a post-modern world. In short, Elmer has taken the best of the past and made it relevant for the present. His decades of teaching and consulting in this area, not to mention the helpful personal faux pas stories peppered throughout the book, make this text a valuable tool for the present reality.
Cross-Cultural Connections will help you avoid becoming like the well-intentioned monkey that attempted to save the fish swimming upstream. Don’t miss the monkey and fish story. But then you’ll need to read the book to understand this unforgettable story about building genuine relationships in a cross-cultural context.
Check these titles:
Lane, Patty. 2002. Crossing Cultures: Making Friends in a Multicultural World. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVar-sity Press.
Lingenfelter, Sherwood G. and Marvin K. Mayers. 1986. Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.
Steffen, Tom A. 1999. Business as Usual in the Missions Enterprise? La Habra, Calif.: Center for Organizational & Ministry Development.
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